After 7 years of an on-and-off long-distance relationship, my boyfriend and I finally moved in together and for the past 6 months, we have been living as a couple in my tiny studio apartment. In 430 square feet, to be exact.
My SO is a lot of things, but he is not a “tiny space” kind of guy. However, and to my surprise, things have been going pretty well. A million times better than I (we) had anticipated.
Mind you, we lived in a much bigger apartment for a whole year once… and ended up breaking up partially because of the apartment.
So yeah, micro-apartment living with a spouse is possible. It’s all about finding the right balance between learning to take care of and manage ouselves AND THEN doing that while living with someone else.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing from the beginning. In fact, after the first two weeks, we almost called it quits.
We had to make many adjustments along the way to make sharing a micro-apartment work for us. And that’s what I’ll talk about today.
14 rules for successfully sharing a micro-apartment as a couple
Living in a tiny apartment can be hard on your mental health and on your relationship. So, for those of you wondering: how do you live in a small space with your partner, here are 14 rules for doing it successfully as a couple.
1. Know the reason(s) why you do it
If you’re going to live in a studio with your boyfriend or girlfriend, there better be a good reason for it. I mean, most people don’t decide to share 400 Sq. ft. just for the fun of it.
A few reasons why you might choose to share a tiny apartment as a couple include:
- Saving money on rent for future projects (like buying a house, paying down student loans or other debt, saving for a big trip, etc.)
- Building an emergency fund before taking on bigger expenses
- Waiting to find the perfect home in a specific location
- Waiting to see if your couple is solid before jeopardizing your entire life (especially if it’s your first time living together after years of long-distance)
In our case, it was all of the above. Sharing a studio apartment as a couple meant we had to compromise, and it was important we knew WHY.
Our why was crystal clear, but it was also a why that mattered to both of us. This helped us push through at times when we were frustrated with our tiny living space.
2. Make sure there are things you like about this place
One of the things that help make life easier for us in our tiny apartment is that we actually like it. Of course, it’s not ideal. I can literally hear my neighbor snoring.
If (when) we end up moving, it will be because of those damn thin walls.
BUT, it’s a nice, comfy place. It’s located in a hip, artsy neighborhood, with lots of big, old trees, parks, cafés, and cute shops close by. My boyfriend’s job is within walking distance (which is a big plus since he gets off work at 1 or 2 AM). We can hear the birds chirping all day long, the neighbors are friendly…
I could go on and on.
My point is, we are not just enduring life in our micro-apartment. It is a pretty good life.
We also choose to focus on the positive as much as possible.
3. Say no to clutter
I could not live in a micro apartment that is cluttered, even on my own let alone with a boyfriend.
Clutter in general is not fun, but in a tiny space? It is the very definition of hell.
Also, in a small apartment, clutter accumulates at lightning speed. In a matter of seconds! No joke.
But did you know that clutter can make you feel more stressed and anxious? It’s a visual stimulus that creates noise in your head. OR in this case, visual noise. Seriously.
So, try to keep your small apartment as clutter-free as possible. It just has to become a habit for all the people sharing the tiny space, or you might end up resenting each other.
Related post: All that stuff you own is ruining your life. Here’s why
4. Adopt a minimalist decor and empty spaces
In a similar vein, we keep our tiny studio apartment’s decor as simple and minimalist as possible.
We own a bed, a table, a desk, 3 chairs, a tiny couch, plants on our balcony, and of course, a fully equipped kitchen (because we are both obsessed with food, but for different reasons. Him, because he’s a cook, and me, because, well… Rheumatoid arthritis and Wahls diet).
Everything else stays out.
Well… my boyfriend has trouble not bringing home every cool kitchen knife he can find, but… besides that, everything else stays out ????
I also find it important to have empty spaces in the apartment. It keeps me calm and more at ease. Just because the place is tiny does not mean you have to squeeze in stuff in every available space you find.
You don’t have to hang art on that wall. And you certainly don’t have to buy a bigger shoe rack because all your shoes don’t fit on it. The wall can stay bare, and maybe, just maybe you can donate a few pairs of shoes.
5. Say yes to storage and multi-functional furniture for small spaces
One of the reasons why we like our micro-apartment is because it has lots of storage. Well, maybe not lots of it but storage that is adequate in size and quantity.
Storage helps to keep as many things out of sight as possible. When you have a bunch of stuff constantly lying around in plain sight, it gets super annoying (visual noise, remember?).
I’ve also discovered recently the joys of functional furniture, such as our new Ikea bed.
You guys. I am IN LOVE with our bed (but more on that later).
I didn’t know I would become such a fan of storage beds! This is ideal for tiny spaces and it’s one more thing keeping all our stuff and clutter concealed.
6. Discuss your constraints and boundaries
If you’re going to live in a small space with your partner, you’re going to have to set boundaries. Boundaries are essential to managing ourselves (vs expecting others to know and provide us with what we want and need).
During the first days/weeks, we clashed a few times because of this. We quickly had to set things straight.
Thank God, we have become a lot better at communicating with each other.
Example. I work from home, and my desk area is sacred. I have a pin board, my supplies, I need a lot of desk space, and I need things kept in one place…
I won’t get into details. Let’s just say, my work space is sacred. I cannot have my boyfriend remove all my papers constantly, eat at my desk and then leave it all sloppy after, or just chill and watch movies in my work area when I need to work.
We had to set things straight: my work area is my work area. Sorry boo.
(I keep it clean and he can eat there, but that’s it).
As soon as we clarified that, things ran a lot more smoothly. No more fights about this.
We also had to talk about my diet and food constraints, agree on how to organize our fridge and cupboards, what foods could not come inside our house, etc. That’s because, when your spouse is not on-board, it can be even more difficult to manage your dietary restrictions.
Related post: Is it rude to bring your own food to someone’s house?
So, maybe you’ve been trying to avoid all these uncomfortable topics of discussion. But trust me, your couple won’t last long, especially not in a tiny space, if you don’t both lay some ground rules.
7. Set some ground rules for cooking
I wake up early, my boyfriend comes home late. We don’t function, and therefore eat, at the same hours. In a micro-apartment, we have to be more intentional with our cooking habits and schedules. It takes a bit more planning, but it’s doable.
Also, do you know what comes with a tiny apartment? Food smells.
Multiply this by 2 when there are two of you sharing a tiny space.
As a couple living in a studio, we had to set some rules when it comes to cooking.
Of course, ultimately, if you gotta eat, you gotta eat. BUT, as much as possible, we:
- avoid cooking late at night (because you know… food smells)
- Bake or roast things as much as possible in the oven (less smelly)
- always turn on the fan and open windows when cooking
- No more oil cooking in the evening (because you then have to sleep in the smell… yuk!)
- Store away each other’s clothes when cooking
8. A place for everything and everything in its place
One thing we do to keep things running more smoothly in our studio apartment is to (try) to keep everything in its place.
The key here is to do everything we can to keep our frustration levels as low as possible.
You can’t be sharing a tiny living space as a couple and live in clutter and/or spend your time looking for things.
Everything has an assigned place and it doesn’t move unless there is a good reason.
9. A king-size bed
I credit this as the single most important reason why we’ve been able to survive as a couple in a studio apartment: our King bed.
Let me tell you, two people will NOT survive in a small space if they don’t sleep well. And before changing beds, we were definitely not sleeping well.
We were sharing my double bed for a few weeks before finally calling it quits.
My boyfriend was hesitant. He believed a queen size bed would be more than enough. I’m not one to usually make demands, especially when it comes to buying stuff. But, this time, I was adamant. I was tired of sleeping poorly.
Plus, imagine being on top of each other all day long in the house, and then being on top of each other in bed too?
We ended up buying a king bed and haven’t looked back ever since. And after 2 nights, my boyfriend was convinced 🙂
We literally have a “king bed appreciation moment’ most evenings, and it’s been almost 6 months!
If you are wondering whether or not you should buy a king bed vs a queen… Go for a king.
10. A balcony
If two people are going to survive in a tiny apartment, a balcony is definitely something to consider. Or at least easy access to outdoor space.
I don’t think we would have made it in a small apartment as a couple without a balcony.
Granted, it’s tiny, just like everything else in our apartment. But we have one.
Sometimes, when we need space, we will pop out for a half hour and just listen to music or the birds.
11. Have each your own personal corner, a safe place (that’s not the bed, btw)
One thing that’s helping us share a tiny living space successfully as a couple is that we try to give each other as much space as possible (and I’ll be addressing that in the following points as well).
Even though the apartment is tiny (I mean, we can barely sit on our couch at the same time), we each have a dedicated corner that is “ours”.
We didn’t do it intentionally. It just sort of happened naturally, by observing and respecting each other’s needs.
I started noticing that my boyfriend liked having the mental space to wonder what he felt like doing. I know what he wants to do is sit on the couch and read. But HE doesn’t know that. It’s taking him a lot more time to reach that conclusion.
But if I’m sitting on said couch, he won’t know what to do with himself. He will become all fidgety and anxious. He won’t ask me to move (he would never), but I don’t know… It’s just one of those things I’ve noticed. He likes having that little spot to himself, and he needs the mental space to figure it out on his own.
And so, whenever we are home together, I let him have it.
I rarely sit on the couch if he’s in the house. That way, he is “free” to chill there if he wants to.
(I work from home; I get to chill there whenever I want to. It’s a tiny sacrifice I make gladly).
My spot is the big table with my writing stuff. It’s my creative space. My desk 🙂
12. To each their own space
Give each other alone time in the apartment every week
Two people sharing a studio, having to constantly compromise or adjust to one another, can be exhausting.
It’s important for both of us to spend time alone in the apartment. It also helps us feel like it is “our” place.
My boyfriend works long hours outside of the house. So, I get plenty of time alone in the apartment during the week.
On the other hand, when he’s off work, I make a conscious effort to spend a few hours outside, to give him some space and at least a tiny bit of privacy.
I think we both appreciate it.
13. Respect each other’s privacy
When sharing a tiny space, privacy has to become a conscious effort.
Of course, we share 90% of everything in this house. But we also each have separate drawers (for some things), time alone in the house, and some tiny spots that are “ours”. But mostly, we respect each other’s right to be ignored.
14. The right to be ignored
When you live together in a tiny square box, you see each other constantly. You don’t ever wonder where the other person is. You know where they are: right there, in front of you.
When this happens, it’s easy to feel like we constantly have to talk to each other, acknowledge each other’s presence or give (or request) the other person(‘s) attention.
But that’s not true.
When there are two of you in a tiny space, you both have the right to be ignored (and the right to ignore the other person) from time to time.
In a normal house, you would go to another room to have some privacy. We can’t do that in a micro apartment. Therefore, just because the other person is right next to you does not mean that you HAVE to talk to them or ask them to pay attention to you (and vice versa).
In order to be happy as a couple living in a micro-apartment, you will have to learn to ignore the other person from time to time and to accept being ignored too.
Related post: 6 things you should never do in a healthy relationship.