What It's Like to Live in a Space the Size of a Closet

Seattle has gotten so expensive that I recently moved into one of the tiniest apartments in the city.

Comments

1
When you inherit cash you can view it as "seed money" and start saving for a down payment. Or you can spend it on frivolous things and then complain about rising rents. At mid-30s it's time to stop complaining and start figuring out how to make it happen. I didn't even bother reading the rest of the article. And thanks for the pic of the chick on the toilet. That was classy.
2
I thought this was a really thoughtful, funny summary of what’s going on with the Seattle renter’s market, especially for artists. Contrary to a previous comment, I don’t think it’s written from an “entitled” or irresponsible perspective. I appreciate that the author has travelled and lived in a variety of conditions, and took the risk of leaving a steady job to pursue a writing career. This article is a good reminder that Seattle is going to become one helluva dull city if artists can’t afford to live in it.
3
@2 - "This article is a good reminder that Seattle is going to become one helluva dull city if artists can’t afford to live in it. "

Where is it written that artists have to be able to afford to live in the very most desirable and expensive part of town? That has never been the way it is - artists, musicians etc. have always tended to congregate in cheaper parts of tow. Capitol Hill is ridiculously expensive now. Not the place to live if you have chosen not to make any money.

Having said that, I liked this article a lot.
4
randommonkey is neither.
5
Try living on a 30' sailboat some time.
6
Thank you, Ms. Perhach, this is a great story & I really like your writers voice!
7
The fundamental problem is not living space, it is that the author considers herself a "writer". Good grief.

But the world just might be ready for the exciting tribulations of an entitled, middle-class, blonde white girl who thrusts the tribulations of a small Seattle apartment upon herself that she may truly suffer for Art. Maybe, if Ke$ha is your role model.

Who is subsidizing her? No way a self-proclaimed "writer" can afford a bus ride much less an $800 apartment. Methinks many of those roommate ad responses are the answer.
8
I love this story. Thank you for sharing it.
9
Really enjoyed this. Thanks. Measured optimism and a healthy dose of self-doubt is very out of character for The Stranger. Fortunately the "oh yeah, well ..." and "here's how I will fix you" standard comments brought me back to earth.
10
This is a great story. Makes me miss the days when i lived on the hill in apartments with shared spaces.
11
Try living on a 30' sailboat
12
"In my new apartment, if I fold the bed up and the table out, it's not a bedroom anymore, it's a dining room. If I fold the bed down and lie on the couch, it's not a bedroom anymore, it's my living room. It's like RoboHouse."

This kind of writing is why she lives in shoe-box on a "writer's income" = middle-class speak for "Daddy's cash".

But let's explore her engrossing technique: "If I put on my slippers, they become shoes! If I wrap a sheet around my body, it becomes clothes! If I put material on my head, it becomes a hat! It's like miracles!"
13
My, my, there sure are some grumpy-faces out there today in the comments. Seems like the Seattle climate is starting to get to a few people.

I like the idea of learning how to do more with less, so I appreciated the article. It is true that living in desirable or interesting neighborhoods does mean accepting sacrifices in some other areas. The article laid out those sacrifices quite nicely and why they're worth it. I'm glad the writer found a place that suits her.
14
PS @12 Airplane did the joke better. "I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl!"
15
If '10 feet by 9 feet 3 inches' = 175 square feet, I can't stop wondering about what the remeasured dimensions are, which somehow comes to 157 square feet.
16
I was going to post something snarky, but then I re-read the article. Hardly an entitled blond bimbo bemoaning her fate, Ms. Perhach is clearly quite content, and that's the real treasure in life.

I just hope for her sake she doesn't wake some morning and see a broke 40something who's wondering what the heck happened to her life. At 34, it's a bit late in the day to be running around pretending to be Carrie Bradshaw. If kids are in her plans, she's fast coming up on her 'best if used by' date.

She's clearly no dummy, and still pretty cute. She could prolly go over to Amazon and get a nice gig writing copy, snag a rich brogrammer, and move out to the Eastside and squeeze out a sprog or two. She'd still have plenty of time to wordsmith in the evenings and try to be the next J. K. Rowling.

Just don't spin your wheels forever. You don't want to be like the old Diana Ross Song:

"And all the stars
who never were,
are parking cars
and pumping gas".

Just sayin'...
17
I’m so glad Popelick monster took time out from his busy day to write two insulting comments about the author. Fortunately she doesn’t need his permission to call herself a writer. Googling her name, I noticed she had been published in Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Slate, Salon, etc. Monster, you didn’t like her writing—big deal. The world is full of other things you could read. Or better yet, write something of your own besides snarky comments. I really enjoyed the article, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have written two posts just to show how big a douchebag I was.
18
Mr B, I think you mean Dionne Warwick.
19
Another thought: anyone who's visited any large Asian city knows that this modest living space is the rule rather than the exception there. My stepson is a PhD with a good job, and his home in a Manila high-rise isn't much bigger than that.
20
As a single 50-something non-parent female, I applaud the writer's way of doing life. And glad for the artists like her who find a niche and stick it out in these times.
21
Welcome to Seattlesisco.
22
Thank you for writing this. It was witty and an entertaining read.

Also, maybe there is an opportunity for other landlords with suitable buildings to rejigger some space to offer housing for people who want to stay in the city but don't have a ton of money.
24
@23: It doesn't sound like she's complaining so much as simply sharing the reality of trying to live on the cheap in one of Seattle's most desirable neighborhoods. It honestly seems like she's gone into this with open eyes, and chooses this minimalist lifestyle in order to live where she wants to live.

She's not asking for anything, least of all your sympathy. Lighten up.
25
And another thing: at least she's doing what she wants to do, and honestly seems happy doing it, as opposed to joining the rest of us on our work/buy/consume/die treadmill. Maybe that's why she's attracting so much invective (or that she's cute, blonde, and totally off limits to you). While I have all the trappings of a successful, seven-figure net worth life, I do find the simplicity and freedom that she enjoys from her deliberate choice to not buy into the who materialist/consumerist intriguing.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the only concern I have for her is if she sees kids in her future. If she does, she needs to get cracking and find a man (or at least a partner), and not some artsy-fartsy type who's as skint as she is. Time to be a little less Carrie Bradshaw and a little more Anastasia Steele (yes, I gagged at little bit at the thought of that too)?
26
What one wants to do can clash with one must do, for their future. Your not a kid at 33.
27
I really enjoy her style of writing. I found myself laughing out load at her descriptions and thoughts surrounding her new living arrangements. She has a comedic outlook on life that I find refreshing and fun.

I don't think any of the haters comments to be worth anything at all. This is not a cry for help. Who asked for all of the annoying unsolicited advice? What is the purpose of going on the offensive here? Why denigrate millennials as a whole? As it happens, I thought the bathroom picture was awesome and helped me to visualize it.

I lived in a circa 1940 studio (400 sq ft) for many years. I mostly did not mind the lack of space and primitive conditions. The location was central and I could walk to work. What I most liked was the low rent. Living there allowed me to buy a house many times larger than anything I ever needed or wanted. Now I live in a vast sparsely furnished home. At least I have more or less resolved the echo issues. Still pretty close to work too. Victory I guess!

GenXJayTallahassee
28
Unless there’s a bump out closet, doesn’t 9x10 = 90 square feet?
29
Location, location, location. Here in Iowa, I bought my first 1500 square foot home for $70K ($400 mortgage payments) at 24. She can write from anywhere and chooses to live in an area with one of the highest costs of living. If any Seattleans want to come to the midwest, I have a closet or two I could rent you and you could pay my mortgage for me. I'd even let you use one of my bathrooms.
30
I've lived in places like that here in Seattle. I was the only one who would clean the bathroom and shower.
31
People live in spaces that size all over Manhattan and consider themselves damn lucky to have it. The upside for them is that they live in New York, where they pretty much have the world at their feet.

The downside for those in Seattle living in space that size is that, well, it's in Seattle.
32
@17) Aww poor baby, it wasn't your shitty writing I criticized. But since you asked: go to college, learn to write, stop being a doofus hipster.
33
"Seattle rents were low in 2011, and I landed a two-bedroom apartment with a dining room and living room, for me and someone else to live in, for $1,275 a month."

Cheap? That's OBSCENE.

When I moved to Seattle in 1985 my rent for a share of a five bedroom house with three other people on Capitol Hill was $75 dollars a month. I made almost $30 an hour in 1986. So my Rent was covered working ONE DAY A WEEK. Except for a lucky few most wages have stagnated since then. So "saving" you way out this mess is non-starter for 80% of the people here.

PS. And that was a palace by todays standards. That house sold not three years ago for almost 900K.

So telling people to "save" who can't afford rents (let alone so-called "luxuries") only betrays grotesques suicidal entitlement and how out of touch people are to the struggle of young people in our cities.

And Seattle is't Manhattan or even Brooklyn. It has none of the infrastructure of other major cities to justify the living expense. The expense here is driven by pure greed.

It is untenable. I bought my first house in 1992. There is simply no way I could do that if I was 27 now. No fucking way. Even on an Amazon salary. There is no way I could've started a business like I did that now hires two dozen people at high salaries. And this city is losing the newer people who could become like me - business owners who carry cities through down turns when big corporations jump ship.

To every entitled shit bag in this thread screaming to the young people getting screwed in this city that same tired old straw man about how you have no "right" to live in expensive city can go fuck themselves. What an asshole thing to say.

This isn't about an innate right to live in the lap of luxury, you dipshits.

It's about how and why cities get expensive in the first place. It's not foregone. We can do something about it. And even for rich property owners like me the gross greed driven inflation of the cost of living in Seattle is bad for us in the long run.

And. Unless all these "I've got mine" fuck bags trolls in here are reeeally rich — and judging by the fact they bleat their gibbering in here ten times a day seven days a week, they clearly are not — their turn will come and they will howl like frightened gibbons. Most don't even live here and most whine and bitch about every $14 dollar burger and tax and price hike their free market fetishizing entitled asses endure.

Young people have every right to be pissed off.
34
Good article. In my 20's I went from a tiny college room to Officer Basic Quarters and then on to a rabbit hutch apartment in Japan near Tokyo. I had no idea of what living in more than 200sf was like until I came back to Seattle and now it's going that way too. Now if only we could adopt Japanese architecture and furniture these places might become livable.
35
Back in 1976, my wife and I bought a 3 bedroom Phinney Ridge home for $20,000. At the time, my wife was a bus driver and I was in college. Our mortgage payments were $200 a month. Then came a huge influx of techies, selling their California homes and using the cash to buy three or four Seattle homes on spec. House prices tripled in two years. Now that home is worth over $500K. Or at least that is what it would cost to buy it. You have to ask yourself who benefits from inflation in home prices. It isn't the home owner. If the current owners of that Phinney Ridge home were to sell it today, real estate agents, banks and tax collectors would siphon off much of the profit. Then the seller would need to pay as much or more to get a similar home.
We are in our fourth home now. It is a small three bedroom Tacoma home we bought 6 years ago for about $160K. When I got my tax statement this week, I see the property value has risen significantly. The only real effect of this increase is my taxes are also rising significantly.
Oh one more thing: in the early 70s, as a student, I rented a studio apt. at NE 50th and Brooklyn NE, with a shared bathroom. The apt. was much larger than the one in this article and it allowed me to walk to school, my bank and two grocery stores so I did not need a car. The rent was $50 a month. Now do a bit of research on general economic inflation between 1970 and 2017. Compare the two resulting numbers. I believe you will be dismayed at the difference between the two figures.
36
Fun read. Don't take up the sousaphone.
37
Look at it this way. You won't lose much when Seattle finally slides off into the ocean.
(And a little advice from a 55 year old: Save up for a better bed. You reaaallly won't like that Ikea bed by the time you reach 50.)
38
@33, 35: Thank you for having the empathy that nearly everyone in the comments is lacking. Those of us in the job market now have pretty minimal dreams of success. We have to, due to how far the housing market has outpaced wages. The stock answer of "then save money and buy a home in a market that's not so overpriced" makes absolutely no goddamn sense. Save WHAT money, I'm spending it all on rent, even with roommates, that I can't afford health insurance. And how am I to buy a home in a market where my industry doesn't exist? But, you know, thanks for your uninformed opinion.

I do envy the author having her own fridge though. I sure appreciate having my own bathroom, but having that and my own fridge doesn't seem like it should be such an unrealistic dream. Oh well...
39
It is tough to have any credibility when the top half of your article is "I used inheritance from my recently-dead uncle to travel". The editor here should have had a note: "Do you want everyone to view you as a dilettante?"

My advice: proximity is massively overrated. I too spent all my minimum-wage earnings on a place in Capitol Hill - literally 75% of my take home for a studio apartment. It wasn't even wired for phone service, I had to use the library to get on the internet. But I was young and wanted to be in the scene and do young people things. For everything I did, there were 3 more things I didn't do because I had no cash. I should have just stayed in Lake City.
40
@38, " Thank you for having the empathy that nearly everyone in the comments is lacking. Those of us in the job market now have pretty minimal dreams of success. "

I'm not sure how to take this. Have your dreams disappeared and ended here? Here's a bit of history for you. No one saw this coming. This super upturn in housing prices in the 80's and then the 90's. No one. Now it's ultra upturn, but our population has grown like 50% since then. What are going to do?
In the 70's I saw many vacant Tudor brick homes on the SouthWest side of Queen Anne, with incredible views, vacant and with Government posting of foreclosure on the front door. Nobody living there, just empty. You could have picked them up for a song as a dance. Some did.
This is an expensive area to live in now, I can't help it, it happened around me too, just because it was cheap at one time is no reason to bitch because it's not now. You were born too late. Deal with it. Find another city that is Seattle in the 70's.
41
I wouldn't mind living in 157 sq ft in Rome or Tokyo or NYC, but Seattle doesn't have enough public life (or transportation) to make up for the claustrophobia.
42
@33, Opps, been drinking again?
43
Loved this article, living in a tiny place in Eastern Wa for $575 a month. I try not to think of it as the shi-ole. Your bathroom, however, is nicer than mine, which is tiny and I share with a large hot water heater. Scary. I too have the nice rug from Ikea, thank god. Utilities are cheap though.
44
@40 housing price inflation it’s not an act of fucking nature.

And while you didn’t have the foresight to anticipate it - nearly everyone else who worked urban planning and in real estate did.

There were reams and reams and of urban studies done in the 80’s that outlined how Seattle needed to prepare for growth and what would happen when it came and we had plenty of time starting in the early 90’s to begin doing something. But we didn’t.

Well. I did. I bought real estate. Because I knew. Anybody with the ability to look at a map knew how constrained our geography is and how that would kick start prices at the first hint of growth.

And it wasn’t the 70’s. The t was the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. There was nearly thirty years to change zoning laws, develop public housing, and pass market regulatory strategies.

But instead dipshits fetishize the mighty market and then pretend it’s an immutable law of nature. It isn’t.

And we could still do something. Albeit perhaps too little too late. But now everyone believes developers and investment banker market hype and are too chicken to upset the cart. And dipshits won’t raise taxes on the big tech businesses. So, yeah, nothing will get done.

And that is precisely why young people should be pissed. And precisely why our city is more vulnerable and less livable for everyone. We are not Manhattan. And we are not as inherently livable as other large expensive cities. So when the worm turns it’s going hit Seattle hard. The mighty market has failed most people in this country and that is nothing to brag about.

But. Fuck those whinny artists and young people... I guess.
45
I live in Denver, which is quickly following in Seattle's footsteps. Rapidly escalating rents and real estate purchase prices. Many of my friends are facing housing crises as well. What concerns me about those posting comments is this article is this -- each of us has our own values and makes choices based upon them -- so why criticize? One thing I learned when I moved to Colorado from the judgmental midwest was the attitude of "live and let live." If this young woman is happy with her choice, then so be it!
46
Oh. And another thing telling young people to just move to another cheaper city betrays a another profound level of economic ignorance.

There are no cities in this country that are both cheap AND provide infrastructure, culture, good tax base, climate, and income growth potential like Seattle in the 1990’s. Because fucking idiotic GOP trickle down economics is now stifling that kind of growth everywhere.

Sure. You can move to Detroit. Or St. Louis. Or I guess some Red State shithole cultural wasteland. And yup. Rents are cheaper.

And you will still go nowhere.

The cities don’t invest in themselves or their young people. Trumps s tax and entitlement cuts are going eventually gut Red States. Most are dying and held hostage by dying elderly republican dipshits who vote against their interests and liberal areas are gerrymandered out of power so they they would take decades to change.

Yeah. Move there. Great advice.
47
@44, 46. I'm not disagreeing with what your saying, but your complaining about the past, water under the bridge.
It's just inevitable that another city will start to look like the end of the rainbow when some "Big Business" or two invests in it and kick starts it.
48
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you do not have almost 200 sq ft of living space. You have 92.3 sq ft. So, your rent just doubled, effectively. Or the walls are closing in, tighter and tighter.
49
"Save WHAT money, I'm spending it all on rent, even with roommates, that I can't afford health insurance. And how am I to buy a home in a market where my industry doesn't exist? But, you know, thanks for your uninformed opinion."
...
"You were born too late. Deal with it. Find another city that is Seattle in the 70's."

@40: Thanks for your uninformed opinion.
50
I moved from a very large house to a very small boat (living space about 110sf) 5 years ago. It required that I rid myself of my 30 year accumulation of stuff; tools household items, furniture kitchen appliances , etc. I gave nearly all of it away, mostly to young families that needed it.
The move was supposed to be temporary, a place to stay until I found a house in Seattle. At first my new small life was a little depressing but as time went on I realized that I rather enjoyed the sense of freedom that no stuff, no house had given me; I had inadvertently freed myself from the tyranny of things.
Now the thought of owning a house full of things and expending all the energy necessary to for there maintenance and management is a little depressing. Try small for a while, loose the junk, take your time (and it does take time) and you might really like it.
And yes, I could afford to buy a house in Seattle.
51
When we moved from Manhattan to Seattle in 1994, I thought I was coming to the land of cheap housing, but found, even then, that all I could afford close in was a Ballard 1926 cracker box with no insulation and no charm at all. I've put a lot of work into it and added a few extensiones so now at least it is livable. I make a tidy, professional, living, but absolutely could not afford to buy the house for what I could sell it today, and I am not sure who can afford to. I'm not complaining, I'm nearer an early retirement because of it.
52
This is what is called a “4th world country” problem. Similar to hearing people cry and moan that it too hard to find an outlet to charge one’s many iGadgets.

Here in Hawai’i--the island of Oahu is where Honolulu and Waikiki is. One million people live on an island 20 by 30 miles. About 30% is habitable. Our studio apts average ~175 sq feet and that includes the lanai (the balcony.) Asian families bring over grandparents, children, etc and it is not unusual for 10 to 12e people to live in a 200 sq ft studio. How? Each adult has a futon sized mattress (youth sized) and 2-3 children can sleep on one futon. During the day one puts the futons up against the walls. Then the area is made into the kitchen with hibachi grills. No windows--just jalousies otherwise everyone would die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

We have flash floods all the time. Last year a house was carried downstream...a house where the owners had been hit up with dozens of fines...but nothing done.

85 people !!!! lived in that house! Two bathrooms for 85 people. The owners kept putting up more 1/2 inch plywood walls. The areas were so small that one could not lie down and stretch out/Or STAND UP...sort of like “tiger cages” used for POWs in the Vietnam War.

I once lived in a single garage that had been divided into four areas. Three guys and me. My room had two sides that were a corner of the garage. Third wall was plywood and 4th wall was chicken wire. I had a youth mattress, a two drawer table and a coat rack to hang clothes. One outside bathroom, and a cooking area with a hot plate and sink. Still bigger than the 25 ft sailboat I lived on for 5 years off the grid.

When the dorms at the U of Hawai’i were finally condemned a call went out to house the students flying in 2,000 plus miles to school. People were offering up their couches for $1,000 a month! Really! JUST the couch..not use of a bathroom or kitchen or fridge. Come in the back door and sit on the couch, then “stretch out” on the five foot couch.

Hawai’i had the highest number of homeless per capita than any other state. Polynesians who have been here since the third century live in rusted out pick up trucks, or homeless under an overpass.

This article was laughable. 30% of the people in the world still live on less than $2/day. Mud floor huts in areas of civil war where the women have to walk 6 hrs to fetch potable water.

Oh well...
53
@52: So, because people pack themselves in like cordwood to be able to live in the most desirable place on the planet, and there are other people in the world living in abject poverty in failed states, those of us born after 1975 in the richest nation in the world should have to live that way too? Thanks for your uninformed opinion.
54
This woman might actually be positioning herself pretty well at least far as a private living space goes. Who knows, maybe the city council may go fully socialist and establish a housing authority that begins to assign homeless people into the houses of the homed. The larger your house the more people you will have to take in. Since her personal space is so small it is unlikely that she will have to take in a homeless person; at least not at first.
55
I don’t know if they’re still common but when I lived in Japan many students lived in a yojohan: a room with four and a half tatami mats. That is 75 square feet. There was usually a sink and a place for a hot plate. The toilet was shared. Bathing facilities were at the neighborhood sento (bathhouse).
56
What a great read!

And to all the hater-commenters: at no point does she ever complain about her plot and I'm pretty sure she's 100% aware that spending an inheritance on world travelling was less fiscally responsible than spending it on a down-payment. If you failed to pick that up you might want to work on your reading comprehension.
57
The criticism of this piece is gendered in some pretty interesting ways.