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

  • Annie

    IT’S DARLING AND PERFEKT in every way!!! GRAND and WONDERFUL things await you while you live there! ;)

  • It’s beautiful… those windows!! I envy you this adventure! My husband, son, and I live in 800 square feet and we could go smaller. We live in a rural area where anything smaller is hard to find, although we do have *dreams* of buying land and building our own tiny house :)

  • Wow, it looks so wonderful! I’m really happy for you that you’ve found a perfect place at the last minute! Those windows are so huge and the kitchen looks clean, fresh and crisp, I love it!

    Congratulations, and I’m looking forward to those posts!

  • I’m so pleased for you both! I have gradually downsized my living space over the years to my present 420square foot apartment and it does make life much, much easier. Mind you, mine does have a built in wardrobe and storage cupboard but I have been able to get rid of an amazing amount of stuff since I moved and as you dont have much to begin with….! I do wish you both every happiness in your new Tiny Home. Frances.

  • Jenny

    I lived in 300 square feet (this was my own apartment, not a dorm) and space wise it worked okay. It was a basement apartment so it was really dark and depressing. But with lots of light yours should be great.

    I look forward to reading about your adventures.

  • Looks like your next step down is a suitcase! Welcome to my world.
    The new place looks like pure bliss to me!

  • kate

    such a beautiful space. lovelovelove!

  • I know, right! I’ve sooo been here. Dwelling in quant living spaces with my wife and puppy, while renting out our “gianormous” condos. That the way I like it – Call me crazy!

  • Ha! I like the title of your post! I came here via The Simple Dollar and am fascinated by your lifestyle choice. I would not choose to live this way at this point in my life with three kids, but I certainly see aspects that can apply to any lifestyle. Looking forward to reading more — and seeing how you outfit your new digs! I hope you post lots of pictures. :-)

  • I just wanted to leave a word of encouragement. I saw some of the comments left on the 100 things post & LH, and I’m sure it must be hard to see some of the things people have said. I want you to know you’re an inspiration to me and to a lot of people who think this is a conversation the world needs to have. Thank you for being brave enough to be the one who says “I’ll talk first.”

    Congratulations on your new apartment!

  • kirstie

    I agree with Joe that in London, the problem is more configuration than actual square footage. We are a family of 4 living in about 800 square feet. We need to move, but mainly because the house wasn’t really designed with modern living in mind – it is a traditional Victorian 2 up 2 down, with 4 small rooms, two on each floor, and the bathroom and kitchen are later additions housed in a downstairs extension. The space would be great if we gutted the house and completely redesigned the inside.


    I found your site today via The Simple Dollar and love it!!! This was the perfect article for me to read today.
    I would also like to say I read your 100 things I do not have list and loved it today.( cached ) Please return the original post so others can have the same experience. This is your blog and a great one at that and you should not have felt pressure to remove it.

  • Zach Durland

    Wow! It looks so bright and clean! I’m glad that we have you to prove that living smaller is not only possible but can be exciting, too! Cheers!

  • -hilde

    I just came to you blog via The Simple Dollar, and have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Please do not censor yourself! Being exposed to other people’s perspectives is the whole point of blog-reading, in my opinion. Please bring the 100-things list back!

  • I found your site via Chris Stroud’s ivesimp.ly blog and have been thinking about my lifestyle and how I could change it.

    Reading the comments I think I’m the spanner in the works. Saying that I think what you have done is great and the place you have found looks great! man I wish I found something like that when I was living in the UK!

    I am a Londoner but now live in Amsterdam (Holland) and for a short while I lived in the center in a great house, around 120 Square meters, it was narrow (Amsterdam houses are) but more than enough space for me and my growing family (two kids and wife) we got divorced and ever since I have lived on my own within 10 mins of the city center in an apartment that is 135 square meters, 100 of that is one space with open kitchen and two extra rooms that I use for spare room and office (maybe I’ll post some pics later on my site)

    My living space, although big, has a very sparse feel, couch, table, persian rug, bed (yes my bed is actually next to my balcony!) HiFi and my bicycle.

    Anyhow my point is this… I love my open plan living and reading recently about living simply for me I think it’s more to do with possessions and not necessarily living quarters, however I do appreciate and realize that space is always limited and people have to make decisions based on that.

    Great article, makes me think more about myself.

  • miss minimalist

    Wow, thanks for all your wonderful comments! I remember a time when I was able to respond to all of you individually — but if I attempt that now, I’ll never get this place in order. :-) Please know that I read every single one, and *really* appreciate your kind words and encouragement.

    To answer a few of the questions:

    There is no dishwasher (yay!). Out of the nine places my husband and I have lived, we only had a dishwasher once (in our last flat) — and we NEVER used it. I like washing dishes by hand (we only have four dishes and two bowls), and I’d much, much rather have the cabinet space.

    There is a small washer/dryer unit in one of the kitchen cupboards. I know that might sound strange to my American readers, but that’s *very* common in the UK.

    There’s a separate bedroom. It’s very small (9.75 x 9.25 feet) — but that’s okay with us, as the only stuff in there is our futon mattress, and two small wardrobes. It’s so tiny it’s hard to photograph, but if I can figure out how to take a decent picture of it, I will.

    I’ll have to draw a floor plan at some point. Basically, it’s three rooms plus a hallway. The living room/kitchen is in the front of the building, the bedroom in the rear, with the bathroom in the middle. An entrance hallway runs between the three rooms.

    So far, we’ve had no problems living with a tiny fridge — it’s actually fun! We have two grocery stores within 5 minutes walking distance, which makes it super-easy to shop often.

    We don’t have a balcony, but we have nice, deep windowsills that make perfect window seats — so with the windows open wide (there are no screens), it almost feels like a balcony. I love to sit there with a cup of tea and people-watch. :-)

    I’d also like to offer a warm welcome to everyone who came here from The Simple Dollar. I’m so grateful to Trent for reviewing my book, and introducing me to his fabulous group of readers!

  • Bravo! I knew you would find an apartment. Those windows are incredible. I plan to use a small dorm fridge when I move into my son’s home this month (in transit to the next place of my own). Since most of my kitchen is already packed I’m living with two plates and one bowl. I prefer washing dishes by hand too, takes me less time than it would if I used the dishwasher in my present apartment. I only used it for storage. Looking forward to seeing how you arrange your little nest.

  • Anne

    Loving the window and view… But that kitchen is the most perfect I have ever seen in a flat. Trades?


  • Kristy

    Honest question: do you ever have people over? How do you do it? We live in a (badly laid out) 700 square foot apartment now, and if we want to have people over for dinner or to play games or watch movies or whatever… if we invite more than 3 people over, we start feeling claustrophobic.

  • We’re in about 450 sq ft one bedroom right now. we have two kids though, so honestly, I doubt we could go smaller. It does make it hard to be minimalist with two little ones and a pack rat of a husband… but I will always try.

  • Pam

    I found your website through The Simple Dollar. I think that your website is wonderful and I hope to find some inspiration. While I’m not a minimalist by nature but frugal, I don’t have a lot of stuff. However, I do enjoy the stuff I do have and have no intention in getting rid of it, at least right now! And I agree with a previous post…this is your blog and I don’t think you should take off material just because some readers took offense. I’d be very interested in reading the original list. BTW, I like your writing style.

  • Heather

    This is wonderful. Looking forward to seeing how you utilize your space. I hope you have many days of simple enjoyment ahead of you. : )

  • 216Stitches

    Beautiful!! I’m so jealous! I’m sorta stuck in 1752sf at the moment and hate it. I’m looking forward to 900(there are three of us and I’m an artist). I can’t wait to see how you meet your challenges. Have you seen the couple that lives in 175?

  • Marina

    Your home looks really nice! My apartment is about 360 sq and it feels enough for me wouldnt wanna have a bigger place. Most people are surprised when i tell them how big it is because it feels more spacious than it is..white walls also help out. Started reading about minimalism some weeks ago and it really fits me such a good feeling giving stuff away. I feel more free and im happy i found blogs like theese :)

  • Jens

    Wow! You finally did it! Well done for finding something in London and those pictures look fantastic! And this has to be one of your most popular posts – over 70+ comments and rising!

    I have not been as regular a poster as usual (although I’ve read every one of your recent posts on my BB) as I’m still in deep battle with my clutter! I think I’ve gone through some 60% of it but I’ve only a week left of my annual leave left! I know it won’t be 100% done but I’ll be happy if I get the floors clear and sanity restored to the storage areas!

    And I’m up to Gifts, Heirlooms and Sentimental Items in your great book! Thanks again for being so generous and a fantastic inspiration! You are truly wonderful!

  • […] last week’s post (400 Square Feet is the New Black), I received quite a number of emails and comments requesting more photos of our tiny […]

  • Robin

    A friend decided to pare down her lifestyle, got rid of her car and moved into a very small one-room place with a small bathroom and a kitchen alcove. The kitchen was so small that the landlord had put the fridge in the main space. She asked them to remove it and decided to not have a fridge at all. The thought kind of drove me crazy but eventually I came to admire her approach. She’d stop at a grocery store at the end of her morning run and pick up just enough for the day. I have lived with a dorm-style fridge and it actually isn’t that bad — although I did miss having more freezer space. I actually think I had less food go to waste when I didn’t have a large fridge to fill up.

  • […] 400 Square Feet is the New Black by miss minimalist […]

  • Piolin


    You say that your place of 400 feet square is tiny?
    To me it is BIG !
    In Paris, a family of 4 usually live in 250 feet!
    Alone, I live in a 128 feet square and i find it quite big already!

    I know that for an american it is quite small, but this is not such a big sacrifice to live in such a place. You’re very lucky you can find and afford that much space.

    I didn’t understood first that 400 feet was that big so i thought it was a big effort, but i went on the internet and checked the convertion in meters and i’m amazed you think it is small…

    I really like your blog though, but this part makes me wonders… maybe i’m minimalist than i thought!

    • Piolin

      sorry, i got the converstion wrong !!!!
      your place is as big as mine!!

  • Di

    What a lovely place! What great design features in those windows, the wood floors, and the sleek kitchen. I’m so happy for you. Enjoy!

  • What an absolutely gorgeous and lovely flat you have there, Francine! Isn’t it just wonderful how everything turns out just fine at the last minute? I am so happy for you two that you were able to find a place, and also, can’t wait to continually hear more about your adventures of living in such a tiny space! I love small spaces, it’s fun and makes you be more creative with what you have.


  • kristin celeste

    Thank you for the post! I live in less than 200 square feet (about 180) in a condo located in the Village at the Grand Traverse Commons (one of the largest, historic preservation and adaptive reuse redevelopments in the country). I am always striving to live with less in order to enjoy life more.

    Please glean some inspiration from the amazing community that I live at online http://www.thevillagetc.com/community.html.

    Cheers-Kristin Celeste

  • Paula

    I just found your website through RowdyKittens (big fan of Tammy’s work). I love your new apt and those windows! I love being a minimalist. It’s something i find refreshing and exhilarating. Going through my closets every now and then and donate things that i don’t even know i’ve own. I want to some day live out of a backpack and travel the world. One of my wildest dreams. Leave everything behind, give things away. i’m not attached to anything at all and if i have to move today, i could just care less about my posessions. It’s all about experiences, friendship, memories… That’s all is left to us!
    Love your website! Inspiring! Thank you! Good luck in the UK!

  • I love the idea of living in a small space, and am sorta new to this minimalist living although we’ve been on that journey for 3 yrs but didn’t know it had a label! Anyways, I’m frustrated by the situation we find ourselves in, with 7 children still at home (that we aren’t willing to get rid of!!) and trying to find someone who would even consider renting to us because of ‘all them kids’ let alone a small place that we believe would be right for us but they judge to be too small. We had been home-owners for 20 yrs but presently find ourselves as renters in a pickle. Any tips, besides lying about how many dc we have?

    (Btw, I found u via RowdyKittens)

  • My husband, son, dog & I live in 730 sq. ft (plus a garage, but that is my husband’s workshop, so no storage for “stuff” there). I’m new to simplifying and minimizing, so it still feels a little small, but it is getting more spacious. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a true minimalist, but I’m trying to learn to live with less. So far the small purges have really helped!
    The one major complaint I have is that we have a lack of outdoor space– just a small patio– but it is better than no outdoor space at all!

  • […] It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, since my new tiny apartment came with a tiny kitchen (you can see it here), and the tiniest fridge I’ve had since […]

  • jenifer

    my husband, 2 yr old son, and i moved to NZ from the US. we sold pretty much everything. we brought 8 bags of stuff on the plane. 3 of those were for our child; 3 were clothes for all seasons, shoes, etc; and the remaining two were carry ons that had snacks, books, essentials such as a change of clothes and diapers and our macs. :D In the US, we left some artworks, 25 boxes (books, kitchen goods), and a chair. Those will likely be joining us in a year or so.

    we moved into a 400 sq ft one bedroom apartment. we chose it because it is in good repair with lots of light, all the appliances we needed (and yes, a small fridge, but we don’t use much of a large fridge anyway, and in fact, really only use half of this small fridge that is about 4 ft tall and about 2 ft wide), and in a quiet, quiet little garden setting.

    the only furnishings we have are a place for coats/shoes/bags at the entry and a bench to sit on while putting on shoes, a desk and stool, and our bed and a dresser. we do have built in cubbies in one room, and a closet in the other (both additions). this definitely helps with storage.

    but the truth is, we live with so little and love it.

    one of our favorite things? picnics every day for every meal! I put out a vintage table cloth i found for a $1 NZ (that’s about 65 cents US); a beeswax candle on an old jar lid, a jar of fresh flowers or greenery, and then we just set out our “table” on the cloth on the floor! we even serve friends this way! LOL

    and here is what i seek to add to our house: using pallets, i will make herb boxes for our kitchen; i will make a day bed for our lounge, which will eventually be our son’s bed when he wants to move into his own bed (usually around age 5-6), but can also be a place to sit by day, or a guest bed; and finally a couple of book cases for those books that we’ll send over eventually. :D

    keeping it simple is just a way of life here. i don’t want to do much else. :)

  • […] I moved into my new flat, I was thrilled to see the deep, low windowsills – a perfect minimalist office! I love the […]

  • I am a Zen Buddhist and a philosopher, and I have recently written a book about Zen Buddhism. I just want to say how impressed I am with your work. Your passion for minimalism is inspiring and it helps others. Nietzsche said “throw away everthing that deserves to be thrown away.” Your work helps people to foster a more healthy relationship with their surroundings. Namaste.

  • Mark

    Hi Francine,
    Just a short note to let you that you’ve inspired me! I have way too much stuff, and I see no real reason to keep 98% of it. Anyway, George Carlin said it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

    I was happy to read ‘kristin celeste’s’ post above. As an ex Traverse City resident, I’m pleased to know that Building 50, and the other buildings at the old Michigan State mental hospital have been put to good use. They’re wonderful buildings situated on a great piece of property.

    Question: What utility savings have you realized since you downsized? I’d think it would be substantial.


  • Mayfair

    I once lived alone in an efficiency apt. I loved having everything I owned in the world literally fitting into one room. It was small, maybe about 300 square feet. A few years later, I got married & we moved a few times, and we bought our first home, about 1100 sqft. I love my home and I loved renovating every square inch of it, but in the past year or so, I have felt like I just wanted to go back to living in a place the size of that efficiency I lived in for about 5 years. My husband thinks we need to have a free bedroom designated as “guest room,” even though that guest room has only had guests maybe 4 weeks total out of the 6 years we’ve been living here.

    We hope to move out of state, closer to family, as soon as we can (but it will likely be a few years). I have steadily gotten rid of things here & there & I get a kick out of finding things new homes (donations, giving things to friends, recycling, etc.)—-kind of the same way some people get a kick out of shopping… but getting the stuff out feels infinitely better than bringing it in ever did. Most of the stuff in the house is mine (he got rid of all his bachelor furniture when we got married), so there is never any objection when I get rid of stuff (cos its mine). Soon he won’t recognize the place. When we finally move, I am calling Salvation Army to come take the couch, recliners, guest bed, a dresser, desk, and an old tv. They will never make it onto the moving truck. Right now, we kind of need furniture because we have a big,open floor plan with a very airy feel & it seems weird to have nowhere to sit…we do entertain groups of friends every few weeks. Anyway, I love the idea of getting rid of everything & starting from scratch in a teeny, tiny place. Anything important will fit in a small space anyway. Quality over quantity. I want a small cottage with shutters & a little, tiny yard with a white fence & rose bushes. Like now, only less than half the size:) I want to “mini-size” my life…just the essentials:)

  • […] Minimalist says 400 Square Feet is the New Black. I would be happy to be in style with any future rental […]

  • I have just read your post for the first time. I have subscribed to your Miss Minimalist posts. For over one year, my husband and I along with our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have lived in a 29 foot fifth wheel trailer. I have learned that we can live very comfortably in this very efficient space. I want to continue living minimally even when we leave our RV. Your posts are helping me think through this process of downsizing our housing needs. Our home in Tucson, Arizona (now rented out) is 1,700 plus square feet. I think that I could make it in 400 square feet if there is lots of outdoor space to move about in – whether it is a city block or a country pasture. Thanks for your blog.

  • Sarah

    I live in about 600 square feet with my dog, and it is more than enough space. I’d gladly trade for a 400 sq foot place with a yard for her to play in. My boyfriend lived with us here for a while and it was pretty crowded. He has a lot of junk that I doubt I could ever convince him to ditch :)

  • Jan

    Great post, and I loved reading the other comments too.
    We’re a family of 6 (2 parents & 4 kids) in a 2 bedroom condo,under 800 sq ft. We’ve lived in “big” and got so tired of the housework and always pushing the kids away — the “go play in the playroom” mantra gets really old. Now we always have kids underfoot and have never been happier.

  • David

    Home depot has tiny prefab cabins which are like a human
    size doll house. I love them

  • […] 400 Square Feet is the New Black – Miss Minimalist gives readers a quick tour of her very simple apartment.  At less than 400 […]

  • dave peters

    11.5 x 11.5 per person was the size configured by le corbusier using his le modulor. i lived comfortably in this size for over a year before marrying. i’m sure that double the size will work. d

  • Narwagner

    Your apartment is serene. My blood pressure drops when I look at your pictures.

  • MelD

    I just found this and love it and all the posts that I’ve been going through.
    Sometimes it’s about compromise when you are a family, so we live small but not completely minimal. I would be ok with less but I am physically quite small and like cosy, while my 6’4″ husband likes more airiness around him.
    As far as children go, I don’t understand the attitude that children supposedly need so much stuff or rooms of their own all the time. One of my favourite stories features a family with 8 kids (8-20 at the time) who just had a girls room and a boys room with bunk beds and all the kids had to call their own was one drawer each in the dresser. Simple as that. This was a family who lost everything and had to start over in simpler times, they all spent a lot of time outdoors or together as a family and all went on to study, too. Now kids expect to own so much stuff and be alone, which I don’t think is good or necessary. The best book I had when my eldest was born was about what I didn’t need, e.g. towels to lay on, cover up, diaper change etc. instead of fancy separate stuff. I think the old-fashioned bedroom/playroom would be better for kids if there are 2 rooms, rather than each on their own. Later it is easy to create a private spot for teens if they want it. I think a little privacy for parents is important, no matter the kids’ ages. Otherwise, I’d rather have a huge dining table so the family and friends can be together a lot for play, togetherness and dining. Where we live, guests always sit at the table anyhow and don’t tend to use the living area, it’s just the culture!
    This is such an interesting topic…

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