Felice Cohen's teeny tiny 90-square-foot NYC apartment captivated Inhabitat readers in a BIG way when we published this viral story about it back in 2012. Now the queen of tiny living is sharing her small space tips with the world in a new book entitled "90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more)". She describes the read as a "want-to guide that offers lessons on how to live large in any size home", as well as a memoir about how inhabiting such a tight space changed her life. We recently caught up with the author, organizer and speaker about her new book (which is pretty compact in itself at just 142 pages), decluttering secrets, and the rise of tiny apartments in New York City. Read on for the full interview.
Why did you write a book about tiny living, and what do you hope your book will convey to readers?
FC: I had been toying for years about writing a book on organizing, but wondered how to make it different from all the other books. After the YouTube video of my tiny space went viral, I received so many emails from people asking for advice on decluttering, but also praising how I “lived large” in a small space. I decided to write the book about how living small made my life larger, but the lessons are less a “how to” guide and more a “want to” guide to motivate people to do what they haven’t done so they can find more time to do what they love, such as getting rid of stuff, which takes up a lot of our time (we spend time cleaning stuff, organizing stuff and working to pay for stuff…). What I hope readers get (and what many have emailed to say they have gotten from the book) is a push to start a project, to get motivated to do it. I break down large projects into small, manageable bites.
What was the best thing about living in a tiny apartment?
FC: Not much to clean! Seriously, living in a tiny apartment I knew where everything was, I only had what I needed, and it was like walking into a hug. In this large city it was nice to come home every day to my own place. The size really didn’t matter.
What do you think about the rise of micro apartments in NYC?
FC: I think [it’s] terrific. With many single people living in NYC and more importantly, wanting to live in the city, the city needs more single apartments. Many people come to NYC because they’re high achievers and are looking for success in business, arts, writing, design, whatever, and these people want to experience the city outside of their homes. The reason people want to live in NYC is to be part of the city, not to stay holed up at home. And while there’s nothing wrong with lounging at home on your couch, it’s not the norm for many New Yorkers. With life going on outside, that means our abodes don’t necessarily need to be huge. Having lived in 90 square feet for almost five years, I can attest that having a small space was rarely an issue. For me it was about being able to finish my first book (What Papa Told Me) and to enjoy what the city had to offer (theater, museums, restaurants, people watching, etc.), and I was able to do that because I had an affordable rent. As long as the new apartments, aside from being small, are affordable, then I’m all for it.
What was the worst thing about living in a tiny apartment?
FC: Again, my attitude was such that I loved my space and didn’t think there were really terrible things about it, but there were times I wished I had a kitchen or more space, so I could cook and have friends over for dinner parties, but it wasn’t a big deal. In NYC most people meet at outside places — restaurants, theater, museums, park, etc.
What did you learn from living in a tiny apartment?
FC: That size doesn’t matter. Really. It’s not about the size, but about your stuff. We all have cabinets full of food we keep for years, closets full of clothes we don’t wear and shelves of books or toys or just things we don’t use. And for what purpose? So we can dust more? Having a small space made me stay on top of my stuff. Made me conscious of what I owned, what I really needed and what I used. I was always going through my stuff and asking what did I really need or who could I give it to? I felt lighter and less burdened by owning a lot of stuff. The tiny apartment was a blessing. And I’ve taken that with me into my larger space.
Where do you live now?
FC: I am still on the Upper West Side, in a slightly larger one bedroom just 2 avenues from the tiny apartment on the same street!
What is your advice to people considering living in a small space in NYC?
FC: Go in with the right attitude. If you agree that life is more about experiences than it is about stuff, then a small space can work for you. How many shoes can you wear? How many books do you reread and what’s the point of things that just sit there and collect dust? I’m not saying you have to be a minimalist or that all tchotchkes are bad, but if you want to enjoy life without feeling burdened by stuff or by the bills that pay for the stuff, then a small space is wonderful. Before moving, pare down what you own. Ask yourself what do you really need? Be ruthless. And while it can be hard to get rid of stuff, think about the people you’re helping by donating what you don’t need.
If you’d like to glean some more small living insight from Felice’s experiences, be sure to check out 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or more) here.
Photos: Felice Cohen and Fair Companies