7 Things You Can Live Without in a Small Apartment, from Someone Who’s Been There

Entryway in Alison Mazurek's Vancouver Apartment

If you’re a city dweller, there’s a point when you reach a crossroads in your relationship with your (probably tiny) apartment, and that point comes when tiny humans are added to the equation. The question then becomes: Try to make it work in the place that’s suited you well up to that point, or cut and run for wider horizons—and more space?

When they had their first baby, Alison Mazurek and her husband, Trevor, opted for the former: to try to make it work in the 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment they loved in Vancouver. But to do it, they’d have to give up a few things. (Mazurek chronicles the ongoing process in her aptly named blog, 600 Sq Ft and a Baby, though she now has two kids.) We asked Mazurek what she had to give up but doesn’t miss. If you’re downsizing or trying to fit a growing family into a small space, take it from Mazurek: These things you can live without.

Photography courtesy of Alison Mazurek.

Kitchen in Alison Mazurek's Vancouver Apartment
Above: Mazurek’s simple kitchen (with the above-cabinet space reclaimed as book storage).

1. Books and magazines.

Remember that there are places where you can rent what you need—and return it (no storage needed) when you’re done. “We got rid of most of our books and magazines and now use the library, audiobooks, or give them away once we are done. We use ‘the one, in one out’ rule now (except for kids’ books),” Mazurek says.

Living Area in Alison Mazurek's Vancouver Apartment
Above: The living area feels spacious thanks to low-slung, pared-back furniture, big windows, and lack of a coffee table.

2. A coffee table.

Make even the tiniest living area feel bigger (and easier to navigate): say goodbye to your large, low coffee table. “We replaced our coffee table with two small side tables that we can shift around the room as needed. I worried the living room would feel weird without a coffee table but I actually prefer side tables now.”

3. Paperwork.

No matter how big or small the space, paperwork adds clutter and stress. Limit yourself, and have a strict system: “We each only have one bankers box for files and paperwork. All other paperwork we recycled or digitized,” Mazurek says. (For more about conquering paperwork, see Happier at Home: 8 Tips on How to Go Paperless.)

Above: Mazurek’s sturdy wall bed pulls down to transform the corner between the kitchen and living space into the couple’s bedroom. Note the wall-affixed reading lights and tiny shelves that hold books on either side.

4. Backup sheets and linens.

When it comes to the linen closet (or drawer or under-bed bin), ditch extras. “We only have one set of sheets for each bed and four towels,” Mazurek says. “We just ensure they are high quality and wash and dry them in the same day.”

5. The TV.

For both space and sound considerations, sacrifice the TV. “We could see and hear our TV from most areas of the apartment,” Mazurek says. “Getting rid of it made our apartment feel bigger, and we’ve never regretted it, though we do dream about a projector for movie nights.” Or, make like many apartment-dwellers and watch what you please on your laptop instead.

Kids' Room in Alison Mazurek's Vancouver Apartment
Above: The kids sleep in the apartment’s actual bedroom; they, too, have pull-down beds that stow away when not in use.

6. Toys.

How to keep the accoutrements that come with kids (read: plastic toys and piles of books) in check? Be ruthless. “We are quick to share or donate any toys that aren’t played with often. We keep one box in the closet for rotating toys; otherwise, if they don’t fit, they have to go.” (N.B.: We agree! See our minimalist guides to the only toys you need for baby and toddler.)

Kids' Room in Alison Mazurek's Vancouver Apartment
Above: The neatly curated play area.

7. And, a bedroom.

The biggest ‘thing’ Mazurek and her husband had to give up to make it work in their apartment? Their bedroom. (Their kids sleep in the apartment’s actual bedroom, while the couple sleeps on a fold-down wall bed in the living area.) “It sure felt scary to give up our bedroom and put a wall bed in our living room. Luckily, we’ve never regretted it,” she reports. So long as you’re comfortable with a more modular (and less private) living situation, it’s doable.

And, as more of a remodeling note, get rid of any noisy appliances, if you’re able; the convenience they might buy isn’t worth it. “We replaced our old model loud dishwasher with a much quieter model so we can run it anytime day or night without waking anyone. Considering I sleep beside the dishwasher, this was so necessary,” Mazurek says.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published on April 11, 2018.

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