Our biggest worry when we moved into this apartment was space. Will we have enough? Where was everything going to go?

We were moving from a two bedroom to a one bedroom apartment. And even though we had to admit, our two bedroom was filled with wasted space, we still fretted. As it turned out, we were able to fit everything into our one bedroom with no problem. (But what a moving day it was! We picked the rainest day possible. Flooding in the streets and all! Exciting!)

As American expats living in Asia we already had undergone the colorful adjustment of living in smaller spaces. I’ve heard friends compare apartments here to hotel or dorm rooms back in the States. Now, we aren’t living in Hong Kong cage homes or cubicles, but it’s safe to say that we hail from the land of the largest living spaces in the world.

Although, I know NYC has some crazy tiny apartments. My theatre friends had some claustrophobic stories of sharing space and existing in micro-conditions. Something about sitting on the toilet and stretching their legs and they’d be in the kitchen. Oh, and my friend M, lived in this weird constructed wooden bunk bed space within an apartment living room.

Chiang Mai studio apt computer setup on floor
My studio apt in Chiang Mai (2010). Here is my on-the-floor-with-low-table-computer-set-up next to the bed. Yes, that is a basket of yarn. I know, I’m weird.

Generally speaking though, moving from America to SE Asia meant experiencing a big change in creature comforts and your escape-space. Typically, an apartment here is a studio apartment. And I’ve lived in them all: studios, one + two bedrooms and even a house. It’s rather amazing to see how couples squeeze into studios or even families in small spaces. (Back in Hawaii, we used to joke about extended Filipino families existing under one roof – insane! But not really considered the price of rent in Hawaii.)

It’s good to see then that this minimalism trend has taken off because with paring down unnecessary junk, comes downgrading from larger homes to more modest spaces. You know, I can’t see the appeal of living in a 4000+ square foot home. Sure, you feel rich, but whenever I’ve been in large homes I just think about all the cleaning (because I’m a cleaner) and my eyes roll back – then I faint. And I’m way too private to have someone clean my home for me.

Even my mom (who cleaned hotel rooms) urged me to get a cleaner when I lived in my β€œcat cave house” in the bamboo woods. I couldn’t. I suffered through sweeping all the leaves on the back patio I never used and scrubbed it Cinderella-style after the rainy season slime took hold. And even though I bought a vacuum to deal with the cat hair (and ants!), it was a lot of upkeep.

cat walking on patio in chiang mai
Dear sweet Romeo, currently in cat heaven, walking on that damn deck that I swept every frickin’ day. (Chiang Mai, 2011)

Our latest place is an incredible time-saver when it comes to cleaning. I hardly have to do anything now. My procrastinating days are dwindling down!

But I think another deal sealer has got to be the $$$. Normally, you save money when you move into a smaller space. And since we were so worried about this space, I converted the meters to square feet to discover we are roughly in a 500 sq. ft. apt. We don’t have a large deck or patio, but the balcony is large enough for a couple of chairs to look out and for our love of plants. The deck wraps around to the front door and because we are on the second floor, we get to watch the sunbathers by the pool in neighboring hotel. Peeping Toms!

I feel like it’s my reminder that we live in a tourist destination. Seriously though, I think the lanai (Hawaiian word) helps the space to not feel boxed in. As does being a block from the river. I suppose that is how those city dwellers make do, they get out of their shoebox apartments and take in some wider spaces.

It makes me appreciate how the other half lives though. I’ve been in enough apartments where I’m looking down at said-shoeboxes marveling at how little they can get by with. All of this is interestingly made bearable by technology. I mean, how much space do you really need to use your laptop, smartphone or watch TV?

Cuenca apt in guest house 2010
This bizarre number was in a guesthouse in Cuenca, Ecuador (2010). I lived there temporarily. It was freezing and yes, that paint job was something to behold.

When I lived in the States and we would take our evening walks, one of my favorite things to do was look in those glowing windows to see what families were up to. Space has tendency to dictate how we spend our time and with who. It can bring us together or give us our personal space.

How much space do you need?

48 replies on “How much space do I really need? (moving sucks)

  1. I like your words, “Colorful adjustment” It makes the process sound happy and cute. It is always interesting to figure out where to put things but I seem to manage and usually end up buying extra storage items like drawers, and bins. Since we have downsized to a studio we find it is plenty big. I have lost items in it though and throw a tantrum saying, “This place isn’t big enough to lose anything!”

    I have been looking at apartments to rent in Coimbra, Portugal. I want to have two bedrooms so friends and family can visit. My anxiety level is going up a bit because of the cleaning. Vince and I share it all so that helps tons. I will be sure to post pictures of what we find.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, you know, expat life is one colorful adjustment after another πŸ˜‰ Yeah, I know what you mean though, I end up buying some sort of shelving or storage thingy at every place I move. There was one beautiful apt that required nothing new – rare find. Asian apts truly lack in the shelving department.

      I’m sooo looking forward to hearing about your new adventures! How’s your Portuguese? Don’t tell me, Mr. Hat is already fluent? πŸ˜› xxoo


  2. For western person I think I make do with quite little space. We downsized a year ago, moving and packing was “interesting” but I’m happy: We fit well, not so much to clean, less gardening. I wanted something easy as life otherwize is full on. The only iffy thing is that I’d love to have a spare room for guests.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s actually interesting how many Americans are downsizing and making minimalism part of their everyday lives. When I was doing research for this post, I found some bloggers living in spaces smaller than mine! But of course, they had nice big yards.

      I actually don’t mind not having a spare guest room. Living in Asia is not as expensive as the Western world, get a hotel room a save me my sanity πŸ˜›

      But I’m glad to hear that you are happy with your smaller space!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Like yourself, I don’t like the cleaning that comes with living in a bigger space. Sweeping those leaves of the deck every single day – a part of me thinks that no matter how you swept it each day, it was never clean enough for you πŸ˜€ There is more to life than cleaning and with a smaller space we can get more time on our hands.

    I’ve lived in two storey houses with big front and back yards and small apartments, currently living in the latter and that is what I prefer. My only requirement is that the bedroom must be separate from the lounge and kitchen, and it must be big enough – or rather the doorway – must be big enough for a spring mattress to fit into. I’ve heard there are some apartments where the doors are built small that you can’t even move a sofa inside without much squeezing πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahhaa. OMG. You reminded me of the woes we had when moving in a desk. The hallway and door were to narrow for us to move our desk in, so we ended up having to go through the neighbor’s apt – another time we watched the neighbor use the balcony as a way to get their couch in. Yup. Some creative moving going on!

      Nailed it, Mabel. The deck would never be clean enough. It’s actually great though, having the extra time to not clean, now it’s a quick sweep outside and not everyday sweeping inside (unlike the old place). Thanks for being here, dear!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The hallway was too narrow for the desk…omg. Now that is some tiny building you live in, or that it was simply built that way πŸ˜€ I have heard people moving things via the balcony, lol. Moving a couch in like that…that must have taken a few pairs of strong hands to get that done. There must always be the fear, “Will the couch drop to the ground?” πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nah. Labor is cheap in Asia. They’re used to jimmy-riggin’ stuff and using ropes as a pulley. And our old apt was spacious, much bigger than now, but the way it was built, the hallways didn’t provide for big furniture to go through. Tricky, tricky!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “a part of me thinks that no matter how you swept it each day, it was never clean enough for you”…It’s my reality at home, especially with the kids running around all the time. It feels clean for like a couple of hours and then there goes the dust again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m part-OCD, if ever there is one. Or okay, maybe the term should be be “slightly”. Some things I can take, some things I can’t. And I like to organize stuff (like books arranged by categories), except they somehow still end up unorganized. I do hate clutter. I can stand a bit of dirt (I’d hate to be cleaning all the time), just not clutter. Weird me.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s amazing the differences between house sizes in the US and in most other countries. In big US cities space is at a premium, but if you live in the suburbs the space available is astounding. I think living in a country where space is at a premium allows you to understand that you really don’t need all that extra space.

    In Japan, it was a bit of a shock to live in a small apartment even after sharing a dorm room with a roommate, but once I got used to it, I realized I could get by with less space and (as a result) less stuff. Now I live in a house that most people in my area consider small, but that I wouldn’t wish to be any bigger. Cleaning is already a pain, and I have so few things that it looks quite bare.

    I think in America (or at least where I live now), the bigger the house you buy, the more chores that come along with it, but most people tend to outsource these chores. If you have someone to mow your lawn, clean your house, and walk your dogs, you have more time to enjoy your large home. I don’t want to hire people to do these things either, so I’d rather live in a smaller space!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said. I didn’t make the connection with city vs suburbs regarding space and yeah, wow, in the ‘burbs it is downright luxurious. I remember when I used to show model homes, walking around in the spaces thinking, these places are huge! And that was over 15 years ago.

      What usually ends up happening is these big spaces become storage units for stuff and more stuff. They are dusty and unused. I’ve rarely seen a guest room that isn’t filled with some old exercise equipment that has become a clothes hanger πŸ˜› or something like that.

      Like you, I’ll take a clean, modest space over outsourcing chores for a big house, any day! (famous last words.hahahhaa.)


  5. Nice audio blog. It’s nice to put a voice to the face πŸ™‚

    I like space- it doesn’t have to be huge though. I don’t like to feel as if I’m boxed in, and I don’t mind having cleansers.

    @Space has tendency to dictate how we spend our time and with who, just recently a friend was saying she doesn’t entertain because she doesn’t have the space. Her place is small, but in my view 8 of us could settle in her living room and dining area for a meal without bumping into each other. She disagrees.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe that is her excuse? It’s funny, whenever I end up at someone’s house for a party, everyone generally congregates at the same area anyway. Even though we are in 500 sq ft, we could have folks over. I mean, why not? But we aren’t horribly social animals. I think if there is a will, there is a way πŸ˜›

      Yeah, I was waiting for someone to say that they needed space. For some it’s like feeling pampered, or they don’t know any other way, or they know what it feels like to be on the other end. My mom grew up very poor and now she loves her designer handbags πŸ˜›

      Thanks, btw, I’m glad you liked the audio!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This reminds me of Leo Tolstoy’s classic story…”How Much Land Does A Man Need” driving home the same point you are making!
    Too much space becomes a liability financially as well as physically…it should be just enough to stretch and read. Though I love space but only within the means πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow. I had no idea! I’m a genius! πŸ˜› I knew it!

      But seriously, good point. Space can be expensive. You know, many expats and travellers end up at coffee shops. Heck, many others do anyway. Many it’s the need for feeling/being social?

      Yes, living within our means – so damn hard, but worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I had all kinds of spacing situations in the past years. Let’s just start when I was in a dormitory back at high school where we had 12sqm for two guys just fitting two beds, two tiny tables, two tiny chairs and one sink,then in Helsinki I had at first 20sqm apartment with kitchen, living room and bed room in the same room…later my wife and I bought an 40sqm apartment with even a sauna in it! However it was getting small when Nathan was born. Now we have an 90sqm apartment for us and it is also getting small. We hope to buy or build An house inthe next years with about 160-180sqm…life does bring a lot of change especially withthe space you need!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, space for families can get tricky. It seems like you’d want BIG. There are some folks who get by with their families on little and everyone seems used to it. I think what I’ve learned is how the space is used. For example, our new place was planned well, so we don’t feel cramped. Our old place was very nice and spacious, but not laid out thoughfully.

      Are you sure you want a bigger house with MIL? πŸ˜› Hahahahhaa.


  8. You are clean, neat person, Lani. Unlike I.
    I’ve always lived in a condo home 700 sq ft. Shared with my partner. Works for me. LIke you, huge homes actually turn me off for the same reasons: cleaning, more space to accumulate junk. I have my stuff across 2 cities. So already..it’s a vague headache. Yes, that’s clothing in 2 different cities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhh, you and I have that in common. I have stuff in two countries (not including the one I’m in). It IS a vague headache, but it’s so lovely at the same time, too! I mean, I’ll have to deal with it at some point, but it’s nice not to deal with it now.

      Oh dear…


  9. I, too, have a patio that is not only covered in leaves daily from April to November, but it’s also covered in little red pepper balls. Stupid Brazilian Pepper tree, now classified as invasive, after idiots planted them all over SoCal. It does provide nice shade, at least, and I have no slime. But those peppers stick to everything: socks, dogs, cats, shoes, etc.

    So I sweep daily.

    You now what’s great about small living spaces? You can vacuum them from one outlet. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to google Brazillian Pepper tree. Yeah, I learned the hard way that bamboo leaves fall – and in great numbers πŸ˜› I liked the coverage, too, but damn, it was messy. I tried to get “zen”, sweeping, but I just felt annoyed. Hahahhahaa.

      Carpet is actually not a big thing, in fact it’s quite rare, in SE Asia. But our latest place, has it, and yes, one outlet vaccuming!


      1. Zen sweeping? Not possible! Sweeping is like laundry. It’s tedious and it NEVER ENDS. I try and remember that at least my house has shade in the summer.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. “we used to joke about extended Filipino families existing under one roof – insane!”

    LOL!!! We live it!…Well, not me personally. This often happens if there’s a large family. Having an extended family has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Our apartment must have like 80 square meters, but I feel the space is not very well distributed. The kitchen and living room are huge and the 2 rooms are not very big. I am thinking now about getting one more cabinet for the kitchen to have more storage space.

    I hate when people give me things that are too big. They take a lot of space! Once an ex colleague went to a city famous for its ceramic and she brought me a HUGE decorative plate… it’s buried in the wardrobe. I don’t have space to put it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, you don’t know if a place is well-planned until you have lived in it! And yeah, gifts. I was so proud of packing my things down to one suitcase when some friends gave me 2 handbags. Cute, thoughtful, but damn it, where was I to put it? Managed, in the end, but small gifts, are my favorite πŸ˜‰


  12. I’m totally with you Lani, less is more. Americans are so obsessed with their huge houses, but it looks like a nightmare to me. I actually think all that space in a house creates more distance in terms of personal relationships. I think being in a smaller home forces people to be together.

    In Japan I lived in a one room shoebox, and in Shanghai it was even worse! I hear you about paring down your junk until you literally just have one suitcase of clothes and a few doo-dads.

    Lately, though, I’ve gotten real tired of moving. I kind of miss buying nice plateware or having a good tea set or just… decorating in general. I don’t buy anything anymore because I know in a few months or so I’ll just be moving anyway. The interior decorator inside of me kinda wishes for a home.

    But yes, having a nice empty home and knowing you can live with just a few pieces of clothing and other items feels pretty great.

    Good job, Lani! I’m glad you found an apartment that makes you happier… even if it s smaller πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A bigger house probably does create more distance! Good observation. Even having a 2 bedroom before created more time apart between me and my man. Seriously!

      I closed the bedroom door the other day and he said, “No, leave it open” and we figured out it was because he liked feeling closer to me, even though we were working at our respective desks.

      Barf. I know.

      Anyway, I decorate now, knowing I can leave things behind, or give them away. It’s a strange new form of unattachment and conscious way of purchasing domestic stuff.

      It’s nice to feel settled and have a home though. I don’t think I could be on the road, traveling for very long for this very reason.


  13. We downsized about 15 years ago and I love the smaller living area (except Christmas Eve). I don’t know that I would be comfortable with anything much smaller than our manufactured home. It seems to work well for my husband and I. I hate cleaning house anyway! ! I have laughed over couples that up-size after their kids are grown and gone….what are they thinking?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems natural to want to be in a bigger house when you have kids, and no one wants to really think about what to do when they leave! On top of that, I think kids eventually come home less and less after college – it’s natural. Maybe if parents kept a smaller house, they’d be more likely to get rid of the kids after college, too. πŸ˜›

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m glad the move to the one bedroom place went well. Bad luck about the weather on the day you’d arranged to do it on, though. Still, I guess it always gave you the option of using a boat for the move. πŸ™‚


  15. Great post Lani! My fiance and I have lived in many small spaces. Currently our one bedroom apartment is without storage space due to water damage in the wardrobe so we have had to cut down even more. We’ve never had much stuff but I was surprised how much more we could cut down when we needed to – I think we might be slightly addicted to minimalising, it’s a good feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh, the addiction to minimalising…I’ve heard about this. I wonder if I’ll ever get bitten by the bug πŸ™‚ I have enough problems just trying to maintain it πŸ˜› Thanks, Cat! ^^


      1. I should clarify that minimising my stuff has not stopped me being messy, I still manage to be remarkably messy with very little stuff!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Less stuff definitely makes the moving thing less complicated. It’s been the same for me! πŸ™‚ I love the little tweaks you’ve done to your site btw.

    Liked by 1 person

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