The artificial interest in small spaces caused by the reality TV trend strikes some of us on the Upper West Side as funny. Tiny house people act like they have this whole new movement. In reality, the lifestyle has existed for years in NYC apartments.

It’s been fun watching the trend of suburbanites with sprawling homes try to stuff themselves into tiny homes. Living well in small spaces has been an important skill for decades in NYC. I have to confess that it makes me wonder what the upside is to giving up your 5,000 square foot McMansion for a tiny house in the middle of a tiny house neighborhood. If I had to choose between an RV vs tiny house, I’d want to be able to travel in it. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely compelling reasons to simplify your life. You can achieve this with less expensive housing or just by downsizing the amount of stuff you have. Draw inspiration from a minimal lifestyle and apply it to a small living space in any location.

You must value time over in-home amenities

Anywhere there is an affordable housing shortage leaves people making tough personal decisions. Being close to work and entertainment means spending less time commuting, but living in a small space means you don’t want to spend too much time at home.

The consensus among my friends on the UWS is that people who seem to adjust best to the lifestyle are comfortable spending time outside their homes. You have to be happy venturing out a lot and spending time in your community. Coffee and meals take place outside your home. You can forget trying to entertain or having guests sleep over.

The limitations and frustrations of a small space become constraining the more time you spend there. If you’re the kind of person who likes to watch DIY shows and plan elaborate projects, small spaces are not for you. Tiny spaces are best for those who spend weekends at brunch, love to travel, and don’t mind giving up objects in exchange for experiences.

Efficiency and decision-making are critical

Living in an ultra-small space makes you decide what’s important enough to keep. If an item isn’t efficient, serving a purpose, or bringing you joy, then it must go. It’s not that you have to give up the things you love, it’s that you need to curate the list of things that matter to you the most.

The reality of scaling back to fit into a few hundred square feet can hit some people profoundly. There are psychological barriers against giving up a lifetime of possessions in exchange for experiences.

Tiny spaces are not well suited for everyone. It’s important to figure out if you can live a Spartan lifestyle before you commit.

Organization and design are paramount

Small spaces reward creativity and good design. Occupants of tiny spaces quickly discover that functional pieces must have enough style to serve artistically. It’s important to choose furnishings that serve double duty as beautiful objects that brighten the corners they occupy.

Occupying vertical space is a unique design challenge for small spaces. It can become visually cluttered very quickly when every vertical space is used for storage. Using a limited color palette can limit disorder.

Spaces must serve more than one function. The four square feet of the shower is only used 30 minutes and can be used for storage during the balance of the day. Furnishings have to multitask as well, so convertible pieces are critical to efficient design.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you’re living on the Upper West Side or a tiny house in Austin, Texas. The concept of living in a small space isn’t new to New Yorkers. Living a minimalist lifestyle is achieved through ruthless curating and strong commitment.

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