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Moving into a studio apartment with my girlfriend only improved our relationship

Why downsizing was the right decision for this Seattle couple

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Editor’s note: About six months before this article was published, Curbed Seattle ran a piece called “I live in a studio apartment with my boyfriend—and I love it.” Some readers expressed curiosity for how the author would fare in her living situation further down the line. This follow-up piece is by the other half of that couple.

In October, my girlfriend and I downsized from an 850-square-foot one-bedroom with a view of the Space Needle to a 650-square-foot studio with a view of a radio tower.

We made the move by choice—Seattle rent prices are no joke—but we were a little nervous.

How would we functionally live in nearly a quarter less space with no bedroom door? Living in one giant room would mean that we’d have to be on mostly similar schedules to not wake up the other, and we wouldn’t have much private space except for the bathroom. What if one of us wanted to watch a show by ourselves? Where could we go to decompress if tensions ever ran high?

We also both work from home full-time. How could we best give each other space to get focused work done? Would one of us be able to work while the other was on a phone call? Would we need to buy two desks, and if so, where would we put them?

We knew we’d figure a lot of this out along the way, but we were still unsure if downsizing would help or hurt our relationship.

So how are we faring since the move?

It’s helped us grow even closer as a couple, largely because living and working in a smaller space requires us to communicate often and respectfully.

For example, when we work, my girlfriend and I have to communicate about how we each need to use the space for the day, so that we can avoid scheduling calls at the same time and know when to give each other the space we need to do the work we need to do. One permutation: As I write this, my girlfriend is taking a call five feet behind me at our standing desk. I’m using my laptop at our kitchen table (earplugs in so that I can write while she talks).

When we just want to relax, we communicate about that, too. With separate cozy chairs and a good pair of headphones for each of us, when we need a break to watch Netflix, play video games, or whatever else we want to do to relax, we can tell each other what we’re going to do and have our own “space” to do it without requiring separate retreats or a TV-sharing schedule. (Plus, just using our laptops and the lounge chairs meant we were able to get rid of our TV, saving us space in the apartment and saving money on cable.)

With less space to worry about, chores are also a lot easier for us to power through. We have a smaller area to maintain, so wiping the counters and sweeping the floors only takes a few minutes. It’s easy for one of us to just spot-clean when we have a few minutes and we can share the chores well.

And since we can’t have a lot of stuff because we don’t have much space to put it, the layout of our apartment is open and uncluttered. Our furniture —a bed, two lounge chairs, a standing desk, and a two-person dining table with leaves for expansion—all face the kitchen and are used often throughout the day. A benefit of this layout is that we can keep up a conversation just about anywhere that we are in the apartment without having to raise our voices.

When things get tense or either of us is in a bad mood, living in a smaller home actually helps us, too. While it would seem like it’s better for each person to have their own space they can retreat to, we’ve found that having to share all of our space forces us to communicate well and respectfully with each other to help work through any issues that come up. We have to face each other across the kitchen table, in our lounge chairs, or on our bed, and figure out what’s wrong and how we can work through it.

Not only did downsizing save my girlfriend and I money, but it’s helped us grow closer through the required communication to make the space work, and now, we have an even stronger relationship. Downsizing was the best decision we ever made for our relationship —and we even have some extra cash to put toward date night.