Four apartments in ten years have hosted my life and belongings. In each, I have experienced seasons of both comfort and frustration. Throughout my nomadic renting, I learned to focus on making the space work for my lifestyle and adjusting my lifestyle to my space. With this balance, a temporary living situation becomes a freeing and empowering experience.

My First Place


Do you ever get angry about something because you know a situation your fault? My first apartment revealed my gaps in life management. Everything was a mess, perpetuating my stress and discomfort. I couldn’t afford the necessary organizational items to corral my belongings, more so the large pieces of furniture like desks, dressers, and bookshelves. As I started to dumpster dive for furniture, I noticed an overwhelming imbalance of tiny junk and useful places to store it. Knick knacks, clothes, textbooks, and random gadgets littered all of my surfaces. However, I really needed a couch, some dishtowels, and a filing cabinet. Eventually, I piled everything into cardboard boxes by item type and started googling.

Frustratingly, most home-keeping advice is focused on houses and families. I didn’t need to organize children’s toys in a playroom or create a bin system for Christmas decorations. I needed a plan to take the piles of stuff from college and childhood and make my apartment function for my single, working life. Projects quickly became clear as I began outlining my problems:

  • Furniture arrangement for sleeping, working, and entertaining
  • Clothing cycle that can be maintained
  • Meal plan and regular grocery list
  • Organization for existing belongings
  • Filing for paperwork and a process for paying bills

Although I thought I functioned well in college, my adult life needed much more manageable. That meant taking ownership of my space and making my apartment work for me.


Home lust – it trips all apartment dwellers from time to time. The resentment stems from a feeling of comparison and manifests as a subtle discontentment. However, renting makes sense for a lot of people. Below is a list of reasons you may mistakenly hate your apartment.

1. It’s too small: People tend to expand and outgrow the space available. The trick to enjoying a small space is living with less stuff. It won’t feel small when there is a place for everything. Look through your extra stuff and decide if you want it more than the open and airy feeling. Then, make a plan to control how much you consume in the future.

2. It’s temporary: This mental obstruction keeps a lot of people from enjoying their apartment. They feel like it’s not a “forever home.” Therefore the effort to decorate it seems to be wasted. However, I find a freshness comes from moving around. It makes you really consider filling your home with things you like and will take with you instead of just buying stuff to fill your current space.

3. It’s upstairs or without a yard: While I love a yard, not having one doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing all the green. Ideas for porch and indoor gardens are becoming more mainstream. Also, you can spend more time outside because you have less space to maintain. Focus on the parks and green spaces around your apartment. Make those a part of your routine.

4. It’s not custom: Just because you don’t have built-in shelving or a pallet accent wall doesn’t mean you can’t make your space reflect your personality. There are a lot of great temporary ideas to decorate apartments without losing your deposit. Personally, I like to line walls with molding to create a little leaning gallery.

5. It’s cheap and ugly: I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the builder-grade fixtures or the white carpet. However, fixating on it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, I find ways to shift the focus away from the unsightly elements and move it to the parts I like. For example, I usually center furniture around the windows as the focus point. This draws my eye to the 3rd story view instead of the floor.

Love Small Space Living

This month, I’m moving again and my new space is actually smaller than my last two apartments. Instead, I chose this spot based on location because I wanted walking access to certain amenities. As I’ve begun packing my belongings, I am reminded of how much my consumption habits have changed. I keep clutter to a minimum by limiting my possessions to the amount of space I have.

The process requires a total understanding of my priorities. For many people, it will require deep research if you didn’t grow up functioning in a rental situation. I needed to consider my most basic needs and focus my living situation on what I could control. Then, I prioritized the space around that.

You will find yourself challenging norms and slowly shifting your habits. With time, you may even find that you no longer own items that were previously a standard part of your routine. Also, you will remember that as seasons of life change, so do your needs. A mindful evaluation of your stuff and your space will help you maintain an apartment that works well for you. That’s the trick to small space living.