life in a tiny apartment.

October 30, 2013

Tip #83: Everything seems terrible at first glance.

Oh? You need a pep talk? Me too.


Here’s the thing about moving into a tiny apartment: On the day that you move in, you will open the door to your apartment with your shiny brass keys that almost stick in the door because they are freshly cut and just for you. You open the door and experience a sharp intake of breath and a sudden urge to boot your boxes to the curb.

“Looks like there’s only room enough for a mattress on the floor,” you will say. “Everything has to go.”

And then you will come to your senses, prodded gently, if you’re lucky, by a supportive partner. You will realize that 3/4 of your boxes contain kitchen junk. You will begin to unpack those boxes, carefully unwrapping everything from newspaper. You will curse yourself for using newspaper in the first place. You will put dishes into cabinets covered in black smudges because you need them to be put away and this is not the time to be testing the plumbing.

You will realize there is just one way that the furniture fits into the space. You will slide it into place. You will split up your bedroom set, you will shove one chair into the closet and your kitchen table to the curb. You will find a new kitchen table on some other curb. You will carry it home. You will make yourself a cup of tea and realize that you’re home.

Until that happens, the hunt will feel overwhelming.

We’re in it now, friends: desperately seeking a moderately less tiny apartment. We are toying with the idea of moving away from our idyllic neighborhood to be closer to family and work. We are scanning endless apartment listings and meeting with smug brokers who tell us that our price range is impossible. They remind us that we’re looking for an apartment in New York, as if that means that magically means we have money oozing from our ears. And suggest preposterous things like “maybe you could raise your budget and go out to dinner several fewer times each month.” Ah yes, we’ve been meaning to kick that Per Se habit.

But we’re holding on. Because one day soon, we’ll find another tiny apartment that’s just the right size for us. We’ll unpack our dishes and rearrange the furniture and everything will fall into place, just like it did before. Same goes for you.

Photo found here, of course.

Tiny Apartment Survival Tips 1-82. (And some practical advice if that’s what you’re after.)

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  • Reply Danielle E. Alvarez October 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Wishing the best of luck! Searching for another home is always a challenge, but especially in New York.

  • Reply olga October 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    best of luck, erin. we're moving to kensington in a little over a month – we realized we couldn't afford boerum hill/cobble hill anymore and found a place (we put a downpayment) in kensington that was going to give us just enough room to have guests, kids, home office. our books take up a lot of room and because i write cookbooks, i need a decent cookbook library at home for reference. Hope you find exactly what you're looking for. The rent in our neighborhood is just ridiculous – and those brokers are obnoxious.

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Congrats, Olga! How exciting! We've really debated going in the same direction, but James's commute to 116th is already pretty grueling, so we're hoping to find something closer!

  • Reply lisaathome October 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Good luck to you! Apartment hunting in Philadelphia is far less torturous (and less expensive, of course) but still so exhausting! Remember, though, how fun it will be to get settled in a new place and learn the ins and outs of the neighborhood and your new home.

  • Reply Amanda October 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    It will show up, your new apartment. One day, you will walk up some stairs and open a door and know that it is for you. Until then, courage, courage, courage.

  • Reply Anonymous October 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    We found a new apartment in Toronto this past spring after a very involved searched. Despite what everyone recommended, and despite the number of truly awful basement/above noisy bar apartments we visited, we stuck to our strict budget and found a little diamond in the rough. All it needed was some elbow grease and tlc, and it's now beautiful! Good things come to those who wait (and painfully, painfully, practice their patience)! Best of luck on your hunt. xx Clara

    • Reply Anonymous October 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Gah! I meant *search* and *practise*

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Clara!

  • Reply Caitlin Kenney October 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Good luck with your search Erin! My advice is to forget the brokers. In my experience, the absolute best way to find an apartment is through word of mouth. My boyfriend and I found our current place through a friend who lived in the same building. The apartment never even went on the market, so we didn't have to compete with the crazy NYC real estate frenzy. Maybe something will come of this post even…

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Yes, indeed! We had such good luck the first time around. Hoping for something similar to come through this time!

  • Reply laura October 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    best of luck! it can be quite a challenge!!!

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      thanks, friend!

  • Reply Emily October 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    From one tiny NYC apartment dweller to another (my husband and I live in 190 sq. ft.), good luck! Eventually, we have to move in the next year or so for all the reasons you mentioned and more.
    What neighborhoods are you considering? I *think* a bigger unit opened up in my East Village building and my landlord has always been fair w/price, etc. – would be happy to pass along info. (know how difficult the search can be!)

    • Reply Erin October 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Girl: that would be amazing! My sister is in the East Village, so we've been searching there! ([email protected]).

  • Reply Lauren October 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    So true! I will never forget opening the door to my first tiny apartment and thinking "What have I done?! Can I get my name off this lease somehow?!" Good luck in your hunt, looking forward to hearing about it!

  • Reply Debs October 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    It will happen. Have faith…

  • Reply Sandy Caribou October 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    This made me laugh! I just moved from a two-room studio to a "giant" by comparison apartment with a roommate, next to an adorable fried chicken joint in Logan Square. It amazes me the kind of will and perseverance New Yorkers have when it comes to holding out for the right apartment. I wish you the best of luck, and can't wait to see what you do with your next place.

    Your blog inspires me!

  • Reply Kathryn Farwell October 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    You perfectly summarized by last 3 weeks trying to find a new home in NYC. Try using Urban Compass, I had great luck with them. Super nice people and non-smug brokers FTW!

  • Reply Rebecca Alexis October 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    You will find one! Then you can be featured in "the Hunt", a part the real estate section in NYT! xo

  • Reply Janelle @ Two Cups Of Happy October 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    This post makes me appreciate the space we do have. As much as I grumble about our apartment – it's cozy. And that's something that can be hard to create. 🙂

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic October 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Wow, that's funny that that person advertising the apartment didn't straighten up the apartment first; I think you were the one who wrote that cleaning up the space can make it look bigger. That kitchen looks a lot like mine, though it's bigger.

  • Reply Anonymous October 31, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Oh, I will soo miss this sweet, cozy tiny apartment…I love small spaces and was immediately drawn to your blog when I saw your story on Yahoo news.

  • Reply Anonymous October 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Just left the Heights myself. Finding something comparable to that delightful neighborhood is difficult. Good luck, friend!

  • Reply CD October 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Good luck and stick with it. We've just moved to a perfect (for now) little flat in a dreamy location in London. The estate agents kept telling us to increase our budget because we'd never find what we're looking for and boy did we come close to accepting something miserable just because of the pressure. But, we stuck with it a little longer and then BOOM a perfect but small (bigger than our old place though) flat came available in a perfect location, newly renovated and just what I'd imagined. Wooden floors!!!!!!!

    Don't give in to pressure. Don't increase your rent and don't lower your expectations. A place will turn up just in time. Trust me.

  • Reply BostonGemmie November 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Did I just see a menu where the 9 course meal costs $295.00????!!! That is two car payments! YIKES! Looks like it could be delish but I would rather have wheels or a safe warm house to sleep in.

    Best of Luck but honestly, what would you do with all that space?!?!?! 🙂

  • Reply Heather November 3, 2013 at 1:40 am

    god, i love this series. i'm moving to new york in 2 months and if i can even fit a mattress into my future bedroom/living room/kitchen/office/bathroom, i'll be happy. thanks for the reality check. keep 'em coming!

  • Reply Anonymous November 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Good luck, and hang in there. I left NY last year, but five years ago when I was on the verge of homelessness (couldn't find ANYTHING even REMOTELY within my price range), I went on a whim to see what was listed as "an upper west side apartment." Given the price, I thought Harlem; imagine my surprise when the broker directed me to W. 85th, just off of CPW. Imagine my chagrin when I faced the four flights of stairs leading up; then imagine my delight when, at the top, was the perfect apartment. Small? Only moderately so. Adorable? Yes. Loft in which I could stand up AND put a bed and dresser AND walk around the bed and dresser? Yes. Trees out the window? Yes. Music school across the street so I could hear students practicing through the open windows? Yes. I was happy every morning just because I could wake up there. My point being: it can happen. Fingers crossed that you find a miracle like mine.

    Love your blog, by the way!

  • Reply rebecca November 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    oh girl. it will come and you will just know it. not that that helps one bit whatsoever as you patiently wait.

  • Reply lainie November 16, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Ugh, what awful comments from the smug agents! I had a mortgage broker TWICE suggest to me "is there anyone who might be willing to gift you the money" while I was seeking a mortgage without 20% down. As if someone clearly has tens of thousands of dollars in a box just waiting for me to ask for it!

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