400 Square Feet is the New Black

Last week, I wrote about my Housing Crisis – at the time of the post, my husband and I had four days to vacate our flat and no prospect of new accommodations.

Well, today I have some good news to report: I’m writing this post from our new apartment! With only hours to spare, we found a place, passed the reference check, and signed a lease. I still can’t believe that everything fell into place at the last minute.

What’s even more exciting: our new place will inspire us to continue to live minimally, and provide me with plenty of blog material. Why? It’s less than 400 square feet (390 to be exact).

In one year then, we’ve downsized from a 1000-square-foot 3-bedroom house, to an 800-square-foot 2-bedroom flat, to our current 390-square-foot 1-bedroom flat. Woo-hoo! I’m excited to explore the challenges of living in such a small space.

The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t feel small; in fact, it feels more spacious than some of the larger flats we looked at. The reason: it has white walls, ceilings over 10 feet tall, and enormous windows that take up the entire front wall of the flat. It’s amazing what a difference these features can make – the whole place seems so light and airy.

Here’s a few pics (one of the front windows, one of the open-plan kitchen in the corner of the living room):


Some of the challenges we’ll be facing (and I’ll certainly be writing about):

* the complete lack of storage space. This flat was a conversion, and has no built-in closets. We will have to fit all our stuff into three small wardrobes (I’ll take one, DH will take one, and the third will hold coats, shoes, tools, paperwork, luggage, iron, and all those miscellaneous household supplies that have to go somewhere).

* the tiny refrigerator. Having a small, dorm-sized fridge (with an itsy-bitsy freezer) will be wonderful inspiration to shop often and cook fresh. I plan to write more about our simple, healthy meals in the future.

* no parking. Last year, DH needed the car for work, and we found it convenient for exploring the English countryside. Since this flat does not include parking, we’re ready to go car-free! DH will commute by rail and foot (2 miles walking each day), and we’ll be relying on trains and buses to get out of the city and go on our weekend hikes.

So what’s the meaning of the title, “400 square feet is the new black”? Well, my good friend Tammy Strobel (Rowdy Kittens), her husband, and their 400-square-foot apartment were featured this week in a wonderful New York Times article on living a happy life with less. I’m thrilled to join the ranks of such inspiring, small-space dwellers, and hope to see a trend develop for mindful, “right-sized” living.

My husband and I haven’t lived in this small of a space since college, and we’re excited to come full circle (we always felt the 1000-square-foot house was much too big for us). Fortunately, our lack of stuff has enabled us to move into a lovely space in a great location (if we had more possessions, we’d probably still be looking).

I never expected to live in 400 square feet again, but I’m pretty confident we can make it work. How about you – how low could you go? Let me know in the Comments!

141 comments to 400 Square Feet is the New Black

  • tami

    I’ve lived in small apartments and a small house <900 sf and I have to say I love my current 3100 sf house! I live minimally, but love the space. Everyone who visits does also. Just goes to show everyone has to find what is right for them.

  • Hi.
    I cannot remember what the first blog post was that drew me to buying the book.

    I do know that it revitalized my walk with Jesus…who, btw, had nothing in this life.
    It reminded me of the vow of poverty taken by Franciscans, whom I admire, and aspired to be, until I got married!

    As a family with five children, we have moved from a HUGE 2100 sq ft farm house, down to 2 children and an RV(300+ sq ft). At that time, we had a huge storage shed.

    For the next 9 years, we again became saddled with things…and when we moved to this current job in Houston, we had a huge sectional we were still paying for that didn’t fit. Stuff.

    I read one of your blogs…and it settled our hearts, we wanted to go back to full time RV living. We will be downsizing from a three bedroom, 1500 sq ft apartment, to our 400 sq ft fifth wheel at the end of May. The trailer has slides, and the feeling is roomy. But, we were wanting to add a desk/office area…and based on the principles, we chose a smaller, less expensive build it yourself desk over a larger one that would take up more space. Empty space is waiting to be filled with love, happiness, order, and peace!

    YOUR BOOK, the Joy of Less, has been our guidebook.

    Here’s a praise for today…we almost jumped for joy when we realized that the 7 trunks in the garage WERE EMPTY!!! We will have things in storage…but we will be able to do so in the smallest temp controlled storage area – 5×10!

    Your principle that if we ‘have’ ‘use’ consume less, we will have more to give, is life affirming to us.

    Next – my wardrobe!

  • […] of you who may be moving or downsizing soon, take a close look at Miss Minimalist’s “400 Square Feet is the New Black.” Not for everyone, but everyone can find a useful idea […]

  • GreyQueen

    My apartment (flat as we call them here in England) is 240 sq feet; 4 rooms (bathroom, bedroom, sitting room and kitchen)plus a small hallway with a couple of tiny closets. It’s a challenge but a definate plus if you’re trying to downsize as there literally isn’t room for more stuff. You’re inspiring me to whittle down what I do have into what I actually need and to release my excess to the thrift store/ freecycle it to serve others. Love your blog to pieces.

  • southernman

    love your post! I myself have lived in small apts for 15 years now. The largest one i’ve lived in was 500 square ft. Furnishing wise…, bed,dresser,love seat,coffe table & 1 tv, no cable dvd’s instead. What’s really kool is that I’m moving into a 171 ft. 5th wheel no need for extra furniture, comes included,plus my expenses are waaaaaay low.

  • Patti

    This is awesome. My first apartment oy 23 years ago, just out of grad school and in my first REAL job, was a 1 bedroom. The largest place I ever lived was a 3 BR townhouse, 1750-ish square feet, and WAY too big for one person (the garage was nice though)

    I recently moved to a 1200-ish square feet 3 BR flat, but seeing as how two of the bedrooms are merely storage for stuff that is ready to go, is also too big

    Fortunately I’m not planning on living here very long; I’m even leaving most of the built-in cabinets empty. Within the next 12 months I hope to be rid of enough stuff including all furniture that me and the cats can move into a studio efficiency apartment (or even a home on wheels) with a bathroom, a mattress on the floor with favorite pillows and blankets, and call it a stress-free day

  • Candy

    I am ready to do this, we only need 2 bedrooms or 1 with a loft (we have 2 teens). We are now in 1000 sq ft and it is too large. We have 3 bedrooms and one is storage for all our stuff ( 6 boxes are my teen daughters). We lived in a larger home before moving here. I am ready to sell it all for a fuller life.

  • MotherLodeBeth

    Have never lived in a place bigger than 800 sq ft and after my husband died I was overjoyed to downsize to 400 sq ft, because it made me think of ways to be more efficient with issues like storage. So the bed is on a platform with drawers underneath. A large upholstered ottoman is great for storing special occasions items like linens, and even china and glassware. A bench on one side of the dining table which opens for storage is great for things like extra bed linens, sewing machine, little used kitchen appliances.

    Having a French style armoire is great because it makes you really see what is important re clothes. Have long older buffet that has massive storage and makes a great place for the small tv, DVD player.

    Lowe’s and other places now carry apartment size kitchen appliances, so even a small place can be both environmentally sound and full service. Like the apartment size stackable washer/dryer, European style all in one washer/dryer,and wee dishwasher.

  • Wow I love the look of your apartment. The microfrig would bother me as well as the lack of closets. I love closets. Would rather have XX amount of stuff shoved into a closet with nothing in viewing space than X amount of stuff in viewing space and nothing in closet. How I would love to have my stuff pared down to a 400 sq ft space though. Soon, soon.

  • My husband and I will be soon moving into a 30-ft RV full time while I travel for work (hopefully – that’s the plan, anyway)!! Getting rid of our stuff was VERY challenging, but now that I’ve done it, I wonder what took me so long! I feel so free!

  • Dawn

    My partner and I share about 315 sq ft: bedroom, bathroom, dining area, living room, and efficient, modern kitchen. Our floor’s communal laundry room is separate: so much better than owning, storing, and maintaining the machines ourselves!
    I don’t find 315 sq ft small, though our Kiwi friends think it absurdly so. (Mind you, I lived in tents with my hippie parents as a child, then spent years in uber-efficient Tokyo.) Our flat has huge windows with a lovely 5th floor view of Auckland, which makes it feel pleasantly spacious.
    We did have a major cull before I moved in! We created a flow chart based on this saying: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Anything that did not fit either category became rubbish, and anything that WAS beautiful or useful, but not “to us, immediately and regularly” was either gifted to a friend or donated to charity.

  • Southern England

    I also moved from the US to the UK – over 8 years ago. I went from a 4 bedroom house with full basement to (now) a 650 sq ft flat, also with no built-in storage space. Very typical of new builds in England. In fact, your kitchen “corner” – and it is a corner of the living room – mirrors mine! Ikea has glorious “built in wardrobes” that are 236 cm tall. You don’t have to attach them to the wall, just stand them up. Buy whatever you want for storage space – ours have tons of shelves.

  • […] do you regularly entertain in your house (includes Chippendales)?All that space is unnecessary. Minimize your living situation and see large spaces for what they truly are: fun places to scream and listen to the echoes.Wall […]

  • BL

    The picture of your new home reminds me of the condo that my husband and I lived in for 10 years before moving to Colorado. It was great. We lived very organized and minimalist lifestyle, and I never once felt deprived…I take it back, my big wish then was a washer and dryer in the house so I could stand in my underwear and wash everything. The height of the ceilings and the big light airy windows always made the place feel “big.”

    Now, we live in Colorado, in a tiny Tudor. Most people that have kids in our neighborhood move out to the ‘burbs or they make a huge pop-top. Our house is still the tiny charmer it was when it was built. We only have one bathroom, and at first, I thought that would be disastrous with teenagers, but pulling the shower curtain does wonders…lol!

    I have always liked our small homes. I think we are a closer-knit family for it. Thank you for the inspiration and community that you provide, that counters the prevailing “Joneses” theory!

  • […] apartment is my minimalist dream apartment. Think miss minimalist. It would have room for my shiki futon on the floor, a couch, and a small desk. The kitchenette has […]

  • Great inspiration! My husband and I just downsized from 2100 square feet to 950. We’re hoping to get down to 880 (and that’s for a 2br/2ba place!) We’ve still got a ways to go so I’m loving your blog!

  • You two did a really good job of making best use of that space. As one person, living in about 750-800 sq. ft now, I can definitely see something like 490 working fine. I felt it was small when I moved in, now it seems too big.

    Your space seems very bright and open as well.

  • I have you all beat (I think). 120 square feet, two people and a bunny! I have been reading The Joy of Less and it has made our space so much more manageable. I’m not poor, my partner and I both work full time and make decent wages, but we do live in a National Park and space for residents is extremely limited.

  • Elizabeth

    I’ve got some good experience with this http://www.washerdryercomboz.com/fagor-fas-3612/ washer dryer – small and not expensive in comparison to the other ones.

  • […] until now, I’ve practiced a rather extreme form of minimalism: living in tiny spaces, and carting around all my worldly possessions in a duffel […]

  • […] first few years of living together in an Edinburgh flat that was under 300 square feet in size. As Miss Minimalist shows, this can have definite advantages, but given that many of our friends lived in the traditional […]

  • Silvia

    Hello, I`m from Bulgaria. Most of the flats, which people can afford to pay for living in the big cities, are around 400-450 sq.feet. I`m sure there aren`t so may minimalists, but if you have to live in such a small area with your family (sometimes even with an old and ill parent/grand-parent), you haven`t other choice than keep only the essentials.

  • dhawal

    Hi, I am from India, mumbai. here most of people live quite frugally. i have seen 10 people living in 250 sq.feet house. I personally dont live in house, I live in shop :)

  • Jay

    I just had to read this when I spotted it on a Google search. My spouse and I definitely aren’t minimalist, mostly because of our professions and hobbies (loads of outdoor gear and tools – don’t marry a studio artist & carpenter who likes boats and bikes and backpacking and snow sports and… Especially if you like those things, too).

    But. We are in the process of moving from 1000 square feet to 450 with a garage and we are realizing that we don’t need 1000 s.f. to live in. We need 450 with about 2000 for workshop/studio and gear storage. The realtor we were talking to when we were selling our house was dumbfounded because he assumed we were looking for a larger place. I expect that the one we use to buy our next home will not understand either. But what do we do with the 500 s.f. we don’t actually live in? We fill it with tools and outdoor gear. Oh, and a guest bed. We probably have overnight guests all of five days a year so why should we clean, heat & cool and pay taxes on a bedroom for them? I could probably save money and time by paying for their hotel AND we wouldn’t have to clean up.

  • jamie

    We are a family of six, two adults and four kids, embarking upon our own small space voyage. We have recently purchased a cottage with 790 square feet of living space. Benefits: We’ll have it paid off in two years. It’s on the lake, in a great community. In a school district that is ranked in the top four in our state. The views are specatular and the weather in our state doesn’t get “cold” except for two months..so living outdoor spaces like on the wrap around porch, or out on the lake in a boat, is possible most of the year. (We are orignally from the North…cold for us is -20 so the mild winters of 30/40 for two months is like summer heat to us LOL!!) Our $400 electric bill will go don to $90. Our heat bill is miniscule. The water is aroun $30 (We paid upwards of $100 for water) The downside is we only have two small bedrooms. That leaves the adult bed out in the living space area. We have done away with the kitchen table, we can eat out on the porch/deck most of the year..and TV trays during the other times. We are concealing my bed in the livingroom behind a room divider made out of old wood doors, brightly painted. I love the freedom to LIVE. To not be tied down to a mortgage payment. We can vacation when ever we want, where ever we want. We can afford a boat to toll around on the lake. We can pay off all our debts and live DEBT FREE in under THREE YEARS. Its liberating… and frustrating. We are learning new communication skills..and learning a new respect for one anothers differences. You have to face all those annoying little nuances in your kids and husband… but… it will be worth it. We will be living our priorities first. Family. and then having the opportunity to live the lifestyle we have longed for.

    its awesome. its scary. its 790 square feet.

    • I read your downsizing comment with interest, largely because of the idyllic-sounding community in which you live. I am almost 60 years old and am planning to sell my 1000sq.ft. home in the next few years. I’m researching ideas for a warmer climate, such as you describe, and I currently live near a beautiful lake in Western NY, which I am loath to leave; thus, my interest in your locale. Would you mind divulging your state and lake? I am very concerned with privacy issues and would never attempt to contact you — I’m just trying to find something similar and hope to save some time and effort. Thanks.

  • Beverly Acosta

    I live in 379 sq ft in Alhambra CA 91803. Its a work in process. Moved in with a bed & Dresser only. Apt included Stove & normal size frig. Landlord allows use of washing machine & dryer on his back patio, free. He is a darlin 93 and spry as a pup. I’m 74 sometimes I can’t keep up. Looking for more storage in and out of Apartment. It will come in time. Lot of thift store shopping Queen Ann Chair $40, Night stand $10, computer $150 from second daughter Victoria @ Good will thrift , friend gave me printer`, nice friend. hand me downs swivel rocker blue, Love seat blue, entertainment center $45 at Salvations Army use for computer. from eldist daughter Kim and # 7th grandchild Catalina New Brown drapes & cushions for love seat. All in all I’ve only been here just over a year moved in November of 2011. Still need things however the fun is in the looking & when you least expect it a great find. Good look to all who live in small places. Love to all Beverly a lucky Mom of 4 – 3 daughters 1 son, Grandmother of 8 – 3 girls, 5 boys and Great Grandmother of 1 a girl. Would like to live in England some day for a least a year. If someone can tell me how I can work & do that in England please let me know. Post a reply.

  • My husband and I have been living in our 50sqm (about 540 sqf) apartment for a little over a year now and it feels okay, though a little stuffed. We still own a lot of stuff and some of it even sits in our part of the attic, but at least we got the living room somewhat minimalised by now. My husband enjoys hording exotic cables and taking apart technical devices while I can’t let go of all my university works yet as I might need them for my thesis or teaching (not to mention my beloved books, books are beautiful), so we migh never become minimalists in the truest sense, but I try to find a way in the direction of simple living with the only excess stemming from genuine interest. I think it is quite possible to live with far less than we own right now, and with less space, but in the end it’s about finding one’s own right size for happiness.

  • Heidi

    My husband, daughter, and I live in 320 square feet… and we’re a couple of months out from welcoming another Baby. I’ve been slowly getting rid of stuff, but luckily babies don’t seem to take up too much space!

  • milky

    i currently live in a 172 square feet “apartment”. it’s the size of a walk in closet but it has and fits everything i need. i moved in here before i became a minimalist and i can tell you it was a pain to fit all my stuff and live in something so cramped and full of things i eventually realized i didn’t need. slowly sold off most of my stuff (finally sold off one huge bookshelf so wohoo) and the change is amazing. airy, light and minimal. if i could live here forever i would.

  • […] book review by redefining the meaning of wealth interview by rowdy kittens love her post “400 square feet is the new black“ and this one on how living with less is a revolution my podcast interview with rowdy kittens […]

  • Tina

    We moved from a 1400 sq ft home with an attic and basement where we lived while our 3 kids were growing up to a condo with a big eat in kitchen and its own washer and dryer. It was fine while 3 of us lived here but is really too big for 2. The upside is that our kids who live in apts bring their laundry here and we have a guest room and a den. DH’s friends all have huge TV’s and there is no room here for one of those. Too bad.

  • Joanne

    I lived in a house that was just under 700 square feet for most of my life but after some financial difficulties had to move to a place I could easier afford. I now live in a studio that is just about 300 square feet with no closet, linen closet, or bathroom storage. I never had very big storage areas where I have lived before but what I have now is horrible. It has an armoire but trying to fit all my clothes, linens, and personal items in a small armoire is hard. The ceilings are 10 feet high so the kitchen cupboards sit high rather that the approx. 1 foot above the bottom cabinets. This makes it hard since I am so short. I can only use 2 out of the 3 shelves because I cannot reach the top shelves and have no room to store a step ladder. The management will not allow the residents to bring in additional storage items like trunks, suitcases, chest of drawers, dressers, storage cupboards, etc. so finding room for everything is hard. I put all the liquid items that I would normally store in the bathroom or the linen closet under the kitchen sink but because I have to keep kitchen items and all cleaning supplies under the sink there is hardly any room left to store those items there also. I am grateful to have this place but it sure would be easier to live in a 1 bedroom with a separate living and sleeping area that had storage in every room. I would appreciate any suggests you have except for downsizing. I have done that already and am unable to downsize any further. Thanks in advance.

  • Tina

    The only things I can suggest are either a bookcase or under the bed storage for linens if you are allowed that. You might try a folding screen and put your items behind it or hang a curtain and use the space behind that. We have hassocks from Ikea with storage inside.

  • Tina

    I forgot, when I store liquids under a sink, I put them in a dishpan so if they spill or leak they don’t ruin the cabinet.

  • Tina

    We continue to declutter. It is a necessary part of our lives. I can’t have the mess I grew up in because my mom hoarded all sorts of things. Our cats don’t make messes and the children and grandchildren don’t make messes.

  • Dylan

    I’ve always been a white walls person. I was in college in the late 70s/early 80s when all the apartments seemed to have white walls. Not sure if painting walls different colors was really a thing back then. When I bought my first house years later, the walls were kind of a pale beige but I could tell the “background color” of the paint was yellow and I didn’t think it was flattering my rooms, so I had the entire house painted white. I’ve done that ever since! But I’ve always lived in large cities, urban cores, busy, often noisy, and I like coming home to calming rooms. Of course having clutter wasn’t calming! :p

  • Tina

    Our library gives away magazines. If I find something I want to keep either I copy it or tear it out and save it in a notebook. I like crochet and quilt patterns and directions for crafts. My mom has always had piles of papers, magazines, and newspapers all over the place all my life. I can’t stand messes.

  • I have been giving away 2 big bags of stuff every week for as long as I can remember. My younger son came over and took some clothes and shoes home. Then I have 2 more drawers to look through.

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