10 Lessons I Learned in 900 Square Feet

It certainly doesn’t look like much, but this little box was our home for many years.

It was our home when my husband and I became “Mommy and Daddy.” The home we were in when our little one took her first steps and eventually started jumping off the couch (notice the banged-up walls). We brought home our rescue pup to this tiny apartment, and we built many friendships over many cups of coffee. We made many memories that these walls won’t show to anyone else, but they will never leave my heart and mind.

We intended for our time here to be short. We moved in in August of 2012, as a way to save money so that I could quit my job and stay home with our baby, who would be arriving soon. (Side note: Can I give a bit of advice? If at all possible, avoid moving when you’re eight months pregnant! I won’t ever do that again…hopefully!) After the first year, our lease renewal came around, and we were still just making ends meet. We weren’t yet ready for anything bigger or better. Year three rolled around, and my husband’s job felt very unstable, due to the lack of jobs in his industry in 2015. Remember the oil prices that year? Year four came, and I had just lost my mom to cancer. I wasn’t ready to make any big changes. So our “temporary” living situation became our home.

Many neighbors came and went. Heck, we even outstayed many, many shifts of management companies. The memories we made inside those four shared walls were lovely, and I worked to make our place feel cozy and inviting. But it still didn’t feel like enough for me.

Apparently after four-and-a-half years of living here, this is the only picture of our living room I managed to save, which clearly, is more directed at our coffee table. I was pretty proud of my first furniture DIY at the time. Anyway, I wanted to share a little peak of the space we called home.

I wasn’t satisfied, and I was frustrated each time that we signed another year of our lives away on that lease. I hated that I could not control the stench that leaked into our apartment from our pot-smoking neighbors. We were forced to eavesdrop on way too many of our downstairs neighbors’ fights. I wanted more for my daughter—a yard for her and our pup to run around in. I wanted a spare bedroom where guests could stay, and a kitchen I could host a party in.

Is it wrong to feel unsatisfied, to want more? I think it depends on where your heart is. It took me several years, but I slowly and somewhat painfully learned how to be content where I was, while working towards greater things.

In the beginning, even when I told myself not to, I often compared our life to others’. How do they do it? I thought. How did they afford their home? Why can’t we?

At times, I even felt embarrassed to have guests over (even though I couldn’t fit many guests in there anyway!). It didn’t take me long to see that our friends cared about us and the kind of people we are, not about what kind of house we lived in. I never felt judged for our living conditions, with the exception of the judgments that I put on myself. I really wanted to feel content and happy with the blessings that we did have: our healthy daughter, the opportunity for me to stay home with her, a loving marriage, wonderful friends, a cozy home, and nice cars. I felt that if I couldn’t learn to be content where I was, I would never be content anywhere. In my experience, life rarely goes as planned, so if I couldn’t find the positive things in any situation, I could end up unhappy and depressed all the time.

I never floated around my apartment like a Disney Princess, singing loudly and admiring spiders and roaches. Hell, no! My goal became finding a healthy balance between appreciating the blessings I do have, while still being motivated to work toward a better life for myself and my family.

In the beginning of 2017, we broke our cycle and moved into a nice house with more square feet and walls that belong to just us—and if my neighbors are smoking pot, I sure can’t smell it! And since hindsight is 20/20, I feel ready to pass along the 10 life lessons I learned in 900 sq. ft.:

That smile says, “This is the last day I will ever step foot in here!”

  1. First off, yards are a lot of work, y’all. A LOT! But I do think that having a place for the youngins to frolic makes the hours spent mowing worthwhile.
  2. If you’re in a place where your four walls feel too small, plan lots of outdoor adventures. We used to spend most of our time outside of our apartment, thanks to S.A.’s great museums, libraries, and tons of parks.
  3. No good can come from comparing yourself to others. Once I let go of my jealousy, I was able to feel truly happy for my friends’ successes and blessings. I don’t know anyone else’s past or current situation. I can only be responsible for making the best choices I can for my family. 
  4. With more living space at our disposal, my favorite place hasn’t changed one bit. I’m happiest when I can cuddle up on the same couch with my two favorite people. The best part of life will always be the people in it.
  5. Less is more…free time spent not cleaning! Golly, I love our house, but I might occasionally miss the days when I could clean our whole apartment in 30 minutes!
  6. My daughter is just as happy in our house as she was in our apartment. Kids don’t care about square feet, office spaces, extra bedrooms, or marble countertops. Kids remember happy memories like baking with mommy, silly faces on pancakes, or sleeping under the Christmas tree. Kids want a place that feels familiar and safe, and parents can make that magic happen almost anywhere.
  7. In the midst of a stressful situation, time can drag by, but once that stressful phase has passed, you’ll remember it differently. Back at our apartment, I started to feel hopeless, like we would spend the rest of our lives in that box. But that was silly. I’m not sure what the rest of life has in store for me, but I can already tell you, those four years are already starting to feel like they were just a blink.
  8. During our time in our apartment, I learned how to maximize every inch of space. My organizational skills improved, and every nook and cranny had a purpose. It also helped me to learn how to clean out out junk frequently—I wasn’t going to waste any space on needless storage!
  9. Each part of life is a gift, a lesson, a stepping stone. Personally, I feel like we are not meant to move forward until we can learn the lesson from our present situation. We can learn something from every experience.
  10. I learned the benefit of living within our means. I’m glad we stayed in that apartment until we could comfortably afford a house. I’d rather have money to spend on museum memberships, fun date nights, or small trips than spend all of our income on a house or cars. It also equals smaller freakouts in the event of emergencies or unexpected financial burdens. Collect memories, not things!

For those of you who are wanting more, keep pushing forward until your dreams come true. However, take a moment to appreciate your life as it is now, and fall asleep tonight counting your blessings.

4 Responses to 10 Lessons I Learned in 900 Square Feet

  1. Melissa Reyes November 11, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    Anna your story is completely mine! We’ve lived in our complex for 7 years have 2 beautiful kids and have moved from 1 to 2 bed the first 3 years. I’ve never been happy where we are and I’ve felt embarrassed so many times to tell people I live in an apartment. Recently my beautiful sisters in Christ reminded me how the Lord wants me to be content and see the joy in our little place our kids love it. The size doesn’t matter. So I’m learning to do exactly that. Thank you so much for this it spoke so many things to me. One day we will be there with our home I have faith. Until then I’m goigg to build memories with my 1 year old in this tiny little 2 bed room apartment. 😊

    • Anna Angenend
      Anna Angenend November 13, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

      Melissa! This made me cry. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. I know it can feel like a long, and sometimes painful journey, but I commend you for choosing happiness! Enjoy those precious memories.

  2. Valeria November 9, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    Loved this! I feel like I could’ve written this and totally relate! We are on year four at our apartment and although it can be frustrating at times I remind myself this is a comprise so that I can also stay home with my son and still be able to afford to go out and buy things we want on occasion without being stressed out financially. I think it’s normal and healthy to want more but it’s also very important to appreciate and be grateful for the things you have in the present moment.

    • Anna Angenend
      Anna Angenend November 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

      Valerie, I completely agree with you! It’s so heartwarming to be reminded I was not the only one going through this life lesson. I think it’s so worth it to spend your days with your son, even though I know that can be trying at times too. haha This is just the beginning of your journey! I wish you all the best.