Five years ago, I was sitting on the sofa next to my friend. I had logged onto my university’s website in order for the two of us to choose on campus housing for the following semester. For our upcoming junior year, we had wanted to live in one of the newer suites with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living area. It was the newest housing available on campus and it was sought after by almost everyone.
The school had assigned both of us a time to register for housing. Since my time was before my friend’s, I offered to do the registration to secure a room for the two of us. When the time came, I clicked on the link to look at the housing options. Although, to both of our surprise, there were no more options for two people. The only options available at that time were for much larger groups than just the two of us. All of our friends had already found who they were living with, if they hadn’t chosen their housing already. And even if we found other people to live with, by the time we did so, there may not even be any options left for any size group. We were out of luck.
If we weren’t going to be living on campus, we were going to have to figure something out. Both of our families lived at least four hours away, so living with them was out of the question. We were going to have to get an apartment.
After looking at a couple of two bedroom options that were within walking distance of the school, we ultimately decided to get our own places. We found an apartment complex that seemed to have reasonably priced units, at all different sizes. Being a college student, I looked at the cheapest option, which was a 350 square foot studio.
350 square feet? Was that a typo? I thought that only places like New York City had apartments that small, not Philadelphia. But, I looked at the floor plan and no, it wasn’t a typo. It was, indeed, a single room with the kitchen, living room, and bedroom, a small walk through closet, and a bathroom. I could make it work, right? For the past two years, I had been living in a room much smaller than that.
There were multiple studio apartments available, so my friend and I decided to both apply.
Our leases didn’t start until August. During the summer, her and I, being the interior design students that we were, drew little floor plans of our apartments and swapped ideas on how we were going to place our furniture and what furniture we were going to buy. It was really exciting to have my own space that I could furnish myself, and it was even more exciting to walk into IKEA knowing that I was there to actually buy furniture for once.
Walking into IKEA with my college kid budget, I really had to pick and choose what I thought was essential for my apartment since I had so little space. I ended up buying things that were on the smaller side, so that when they were placed in the room, they made the room feel bigger than it actually was.
The day I moved in was the first time my family saw just how small the apartment was. They were concerned that I had too many things and it would look cluttered all of the time. It was a valid concern, especially since my bedroom at home was always a disaster. But, I quickly learned that wasn’t going to be the case.
Since my place was so open, you could see every corner of the apartment from wherever you stood, which also meant you could always see whenever there was clutter. “Out of sight, out of mind” really didn’t work because there weren’t many places to keep things out of sight. I couldn’t shove everything into my walk through closet since that was how you got into the bathroom. I also couldn’t shove things into my small coat closet, since it only had room for coats and nothing else. I had to keep my place tidy or else I would constantly be looking at the mess.
I had to make sure that whenever I bought was something that I truly wanted. Otherwise, it was going to get in the way and take up valuable space. I guess, in a way, that was my first lesson in minimalism.
The only time I really noticed how small my apartment was was when I was cooking or baking. The only counter space I had was about eight inches to the left of the sink. Otherwise, I either had to prepare things on my dining table, or place a cutting board on top of my oven to use as additional space. Needless to say, not a lot of cooking happened while I lived there; there were a lot of frozen meals and sandwiches. I managed, though.
Looking back at these photos, I really enjoyed living in that studio apartment. I felt like my life was simpler then (although that could also be because I was still in school…). Either way, living there was a great experience and it’s inspired me to try and cut down on the things I have now, so that my current place doesn’t feel like it’s constantly bursting at the seams.