Living in Tiny Spaces

When I moved to Seattle in March, my first priority was finding a place to live. All the stuff I owned fit into one rented SUV, and I had a week to find a home for it before the vehicle was to be returned. The quantity and nature of my possessions has changed over the years according to the different phases of my life. It expanded some when I moved to California and needed my own furniture, then contracted again when I moved overseas. Once back in the US, in Overland Park, KS, I failed to rebuild my hoard it to its previous gluttonous glory. Freshly husband-less, jobless, and homeless, I viewed my stay there as a temporary hiccup in my life, one I would joke about later, perhaps while giving a TED talk about my latest research breakthrough (spoiler alert: I find a cure for racism). I therefore refused to buy anything substantial, like say, a bed or a chair. But don’t worry, I wasn’t suffering. I was working the middle class version of homelessness, i.e., I was the weird aunt living in my sister’s basement. Hanging out with my beloved sister and her gorgeous children made that experience a lot less depressing than it could’ve been.

Back to Seattle. I had one week to find a place, very little stuff but stuff I didn’t want on the curb, and basically no knowledge of the city whatsoever. But that’s what the internet is for. I saw a fancy website not advertising an apartment complex but rather a “project” of “stylish eco studios” with “flexible space” and “energy efficiency.” The studios are modeled after the Swedish lifestyle, it claimed. My eyes widened as glamorous images passed through my mind. Sweden? ABBA…Vikings…health care…maternity leave…Eric Northman. Sold.

Knowing it was a studio, I thought I was prepared for small, but no I wasn’t. I had an awkward moment of stunned silence with the property manager when I first saw it, followed immediately by a flurry of rationalizing (It’s okay, I can just follow Maria Bamford’s lead and “crouch, naked, in the shower and get real small.”)


Yes, don’t let the multiple angles fool you…it’s small. Like Japan small. To save space, the bed doubles as a table, the microwave doubles as an oven, the toilet doubles as the kitchen sink – it’s genius. To show you the place, I have to exit the room so you can fit inside and look around. That highlights its biggest downside – the inability to house out-of-town guests, unless they wanna get all creepster with me and sleep in the same bed.

But wait, there are upsides:

Furniture/Appliance Shopping: To fill the place I had to buy exactly 4 things from IKEA (callback to Sweden): dresser, comfy chair, and 2 folding chairs. Given that I have nowhere to put new things, it actually does curb my spending. Nope, no room for that fancy 25 piece blender/chopper thingy that I’d use 3 times. Money in the bank, not chopped carrots.

Murphy Bed: Having a murphy bed makes me feel like a secret agent with a super sneaky hiding place for all my nefarious belongings (I got some crazy books, y’all).

Home Decor: Grab some flowers and a giraffe made out of coke cans, and bam, apartment decorated.


Self-Improvement: Now I have claim to the title of minimalist as I’ve shunned the shallow consumerist lifestyle for a more basic and genuine existence. I feel sorry for you and your gerbil-like need for all your crappy things. While I didn’t do this by design, I must admit that I do like having less stuff. There’s something to the simplicity of it. It just feels better, and I don’t know why. This guy argues that having less stuff gives you more freedom, time and money. (But, you cry, what are we going to do with that money if we cannot buy stuff??!! Doesn’t make sense!)

Oddly, while it did take getting used to, it’s really grown on me. And I’m about 98% sure I’m not saying that to make myself feel better.

All photos are my own.



  1. ginnawings · December 16, 2014

    Good for you! Love the minimalist apartment!
    And, if we do not buy stuff, we spend our money traveling (a.k.a. investing in life). Love!


    • sarahkaraok · December 17, 2014

      I wish I was using it for traveling! (Note to self- start travel fund). But never worry, the money is definitely going towards having new experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

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