life in a tiny apartment.

October 13, 2015

how to live with a husband in a tiny apartmentTip # 132: Love the one you’re with.

It’s come to my attention that some of you are curious about whether James also enjoys keeping his underwear in neat piles according to color. Or whether he too displays a zealot’s enthusiasm for ridding a home of already read magazines and never-read junk mail. There have even been murmurings questioning whether James possesses a similar sense of urgency about folding matching pillowcases into perfect rectangles or if a cot is really his idea of comfortable.

The real gist of the questions, I’m gathering, is how do you live in a tiny apartment with a husband?

To be clear: my answer is not husband-specific. Sharing your space with anyone at all presents challenges, questions of gender and marriage vows aside. I don’t know of a single person who passes all of their time with another human in the same space who doesn’t suffer the occasional irritation. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, overtime, compile a list of small irks: crumbs left on the kitchen counter after breakfast; a bathmat never retuned to the edge of the tub; piles of spare change left on the countertop. James and I are both, indeed, human, and sometimes we annoy the crap out of each other.

But pet peeves aside, in the larger project of living with the essentials only, James and I are on the same page. 

Apart from his semi-regular mentions of a fondness for sectional couches, James and I are both excited about living a relatively spare existence in a modestly sized space. In part, we have to be; there’s not a palatial apartment beckoning us to come and live rent-free. But I also think there’s something a little bit magical that happens once you pare down your belongings. It’s not so much a delight in having little as much as delight in not having anything extra. As a result, keeping things minimal stems not from a sense of obligation as much as happy compulsion. Purging unread books or unworn shirts or being careful about anything new that comes into the house becomes second-nature. And, indeed, allowing anything to pile up is what feels strange. For our part, we’ve decided that living in a space with room to move trumps living with a pull-out couch, that having all of our cookbooks fit on one shelf trumps buying another, and so on. In the back of our minds there’s the knowledge that packing up and moving to someplace new wouldn’t be a gargantuan task.

We’re not cut from identical cloth. James is not bothered by an afternoon’s detritus left on the kitchen table. I swear I can feel the mess before I even see it. I practice deep breathing. He practices picking up his change. And onward we march.

Finally, at the risk of sound flippant, or, worse, sappy—I would also say that the project of making a home together is significantly improved if you like your husband. Or wife. Or roommate. Or invisible friend. When you genuinely enjoy someone’s company, it’s easier to ignore a host of sins: even dishes returned to the wrong spot in the cabinet, even oatmeal left in the sink drain, even pee on the toilet seat.

For tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #131, head HERE.

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  • Reply Jin October 13, 2015 at 9:27 am

    yes, yes, YES! so true. also, those men’s shirts are beautiful and maybe you need to consider pointing us in their directions, too? 🙂 i have to admit that i enjoy shopping for the man in my life just as much as i enjoy shopping for myself.

  • Reply Katharine October 13, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I appreciate this post so much right now, as my husband and I are right in the middle of moving into a new apartment. I prefer everything put away and as much open space and clean lines as possible. He likes filling walls with furniture and displaying DVDs on shelves. So we’re compromising — he understands that clutter makes me feel anxious, and I understand that he’s going to leave his computer lying around and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    It definitely helps, though, that we spent several months this summer living with friends who are NOT tidy — lovely people, but they leave books and jackets and crumbs everywhere and you can’t find anything at all in their kitchen drawers. After having the opposite to compare them to, he appreciates my anti-clutter, clean-everything neuroses much more!

    • Reply Ana Alves July 11, 2018 at 4:40 am

      Love this. My husband always appreciates me more when I go on a trip. He has know realized that clean and tidy and everything in its place makes for a much nicer way of life.

  • Reply Meg J October 13, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Love this! 🙂

  • Reply Kari October 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks your for this. My husband and I are not on the same page. But I love him and like him, and that is what has kept us married for 22 years so far.

  • Reply Christine October 13, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    We’re newly retired & living together in a 2 bedroom condo. Sometimes I have this intense desire to live in another state or country for a short period of time & find myself pursuing rentals online. I’m mostly drawn to studio apartments… There is something cozy about small spaces w minimal furnishings. My husband & I appreciate (like & love) each other enough to consider downsizing more.

    Personally, I think traveling out of the US changed us. In many foreign countries furnishings, clothing and personal items are kept to a minimum. Cars & homes are smaller… Some families have multiple children sleeping in one bed. They shop daily (or every other day) & spend time outdoors or frequenting their neighborhood public spaces.

    Although I enjoy the HGTV series, House Hunters, it makes me cringe when people say…. The bedrooms (bathrooms or closets) are TOO small. Rarely are they too small & FYI, every child doesn’t need their own bedroom.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to see that what we “need” is different than what we “want” – many of my friends w huge houses (on acres of property) “want” lots of space, lots of clothes, big cars and ginormous refrigerators & full pantries, but they don’t need it. There’s a difference.

  • Reply Hannah October 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Awww – this is sweet. 🙂 I love how you included “invisible friend” at the end, haha. Side note – great job with the new website design; it’s so clean and streamlined and pretty.

    • Reply Kristina October 14, 2015 at 9:58 am

      I’m going to second Hannah on everything she said because it’s exactly what I was about to say 😉

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 14, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Thank you!!

  • Reply Jordan October 14, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Wonderful post! I would love to know where those men’s shirts are from so I could purchase some for my husband! 🙂

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 14, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi there! The shirts are mostly from Everlane, and mostly the slim fit oxford!

  • Reply Heather October 14, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I love this post! I have a husband and two girls, ages four and one. We live in less than 700 square feet, with two small bedrooms. We have all been sharing one bedroom, though, because my husband uses one as an office. The hardest part for me is figuring out how to live with my girls’ stuff! If I picked all of it and thought it was all adorable it would be easy. But they accumulate so many ugly things from elsewhere. Things they love! I try to get my daughter to give things away, but I don’t want to turn her into a hoarder, in rebellion! I will be interested to see how you handle the stuff, as Faye grows and has opinions on what she wants to keep. The level of tidiness you seem to maintain is my dream!

    • Reply Emily October 16, 2015 at 10:48 am

      I have two girls also — a 4 year old and a 5 month old. Oh, how I have tried to keep ugly, junky things from piling up… but they do! Constantly! I know your struggle very well. It’s nearly impossible to talk my older daughter into throwing away precious treasures like the string off of a long-deflated balloon or a no-longer-sticky name tag from her preschool music class… Kids do deserve to have their own little joys though (within reason!), so I’m trying not to be TOO uptight about it and let her do her thing. It’s her home too, I remind myself, and kids’ natural excessiveness and exuberance are part of their charm. 🙂 As long as everything has a place where it can be put away, I feel like we’ve hit a balance. If the drawer won’t close, something’s gotta go! (And then they get the learning experience of choosing what goes, and why.)

  • Reply Veronica September 13, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Okay, I’m sure this is creepy that I’m leaving a comment almost a year after the post was written, but alas, I’ve only just stumbled across your blog. I love it! My boyfriend and I have spent three years living in a tiny studio apartment, going through the same phases as you with rearranging and rethinking your space, and I’m positive that your blog is exactly what I’ve been needing to give me that pat on the back that we’re not alone! I appreciate every one of your tips, and I’m going to slowly and steadily work my way through all 145 to see if I can pick something up.
    The last two paragraphs of this post are words taken straight from my mouth, and its great. Liking your significant other goes a LONG way, but I also, can feel the mess before I even see it. I feel like I’m constantly screaming “PILE!!” while I’m sweeping the floors, out of fear that he’s going to walk straight through the dusty pile before I’m finished (which happens almost every. single. time.)
    Yay small home dwellers!

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