I will always say that finding an appartment in Paris
was an absolute nightmare is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. Five months, three appartment changes and a month sleeping on friends’ sofas. That is the general picture of the time it took to find my tiny studio, on a sixth floor with no elevator, in a popular area and for a reasonable price.
A single space with a sofa-bed, a couple of wardrobes and a table + a kitchen equiped with a small fridge, a sink and two electric cooking plates + bathroom. That’s all.
For all of us who come from nearly any other place in the planet (even if London or New York are promising too), the size of the appartments in Paris is nearly surreal. If you asked me, I’d say it feels a bit like leaving in a hotel room, or even a caravan. But in the end, we can adapt to almost everything. And after a year living in my tiny studio, this is what I’ve learnt:
1. The others won’t have the same concept of “small” than you have. Never mind if you’re talking to a friend that just rented a flat in your home town or if you’re looking for inspiration on small spaces deco on Pinterest. Other people’s “small” are usually castles for you. Parisians have reinvented this concept and people like me have learnt it firsthand.
2. Nothing is indispensable. This is basic. When you have to make all your stuff fit in such a small place and still have room for you, you learn that there’s nearly anything you can’t do without if the time comes. Pictures, books, shoes, clothes… Nothing is saved. It also prevents you from buying unnecessary things, just because they won’t fit. The best part is that, in the long term, being able to distinguish what’s important from what’s not is incredibly valuable.
3. Order is key. It may seem obvious, but if in any other situation being organized is a virtue, when living in 16 square meters is VITAL to avoid ending up living among tackle and with no space to move normally. Can you imagine having to jump over a pile of clothes to reach your bed? Not pleasant. The good thing is, again, you’ll gain many organization skills that you’ll use forever.
4. Make it yours. It’s true you can’t make big changes in 16 square meters, but it’s incredibly easy to make it become a place where you want to be. Small details such as the light that sneaks through the courtains, a couple of postcards, your books on a shelf or a beautiful plant could make you smile and make all the difference.
5. There will always be something that drives you mad. Even if you made it pretty and you started feeling at home, there will always be something you need and you don’t have because there’s no space (like a desk to work properly); something you have, but it’s way too little (like a tiny oven that just allows you to prepare tiny dishes); or something you don’t really need, but how much you’d like to have (kitchen stuff, I miss you). And that makes you angry.
6. Cleaning is not that bad when it just takes 15 minutes. Not everything is about making sacrifices. Living in a small space has also advantages, and the fact it takes almost nothing to clean the whole appartment is one of them. Moreover, I was lucky enough to find a renewed studio, in clear colours and tones of natural light.
7. You can fit a lot of life in a tiny space. Don’t let your small appartment turn you away. Inviting friends over for dinner or making visits stay with you during their weekend in town is just as easy as we make it. In my tiny living-room we fit a 7-people dinner and 4 friends have already stayed with me for a couple of days. Most of the time everything is about taking difficulties with humor.
8. One is fine; more, not that much. It’s true that we can learn to adapt to living in a reduced space, but when it’s about sharing it, things get rough. Things as just one wardrobe, a tiny kitchen or a bathroom where you have to practically jump over the toilet to get to the shower, become a real challenge when you are two people. Again, humor can save your life here (and your relationship).
9. After this, you can live anywhere. After living in your mini-studio, on a sixth floor with no elevator, the advantages of any other appartment will seem even bigger. Aspects that you might have never even noticed get now a special importance. A normal-size oven and fridge? Dreamy. A bed AND a sofa? Wraped up for a present, please. DORS!? I take it.
10. It’s not forever. Even if you make it yours, you keep it tidy and you learn how to leave with just the indispensable, sooner or later you’ll start missing certain things. For me, most of it is about not having different spaces that allow me to wind down when I’m not working. My studio was great for the year I spent learning to know myself, but it’s not enough anymore. My dreams and I don’t fit in here.