Happy in a Small Space – 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Sq. Ft.

“Could you live in an apartment with 90 square feet of floor space, the area approximately the same as a Honda Accord? Could you do it for five years? And could you be happy? Felice Cohen could. And she was. Her YouTube video  of her astonishing use of space went viral with millions of hits.”

As a professional organizer who is trying to reduce her own footprint and not leave behind a mountain of things for her kids to fret over, I’m always interested in ideas for living in small spaces, which usually means fewer possessions. Felice Cohen is also a professional organizer, and her book, 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or more) has good advice; with many of the offerings aligning with traditional organizing edicts. She describes the book as “less a how to guide and more a want to guide to help you arrange the life you want. To live large in any size space and focus on what matters without the clutter.” I think that most of us trying to get organized ultimately want to enjoy life more and worry less about stuff.

Here are some of her 90 lessons that jumped out at me…

#2: The only way to begin is to begin. For many, getting past the inertia is the hardest part, and not knowing where to begin can feel paralyzing. So just pick something and start – that one drawer or cabinet that is making you crazy. Do it for 15 minutes (see lesson #52 – speed tossing/beat the clock).

#15: Schedule time to organize. Just like going to the gym, or food prep for the week, if you don’t make time in your schedule to do it, it’s likely not going to happen.

#19: Keep an open mind. At Living Peace, we are of the idea that your space needs to work for you, and so if you need to store office/craft supplies in a cabinet in the kitchen because your kids always do their homework/art at the kitchen table, then go for it. Rooms that have a certain “purpose” (especially when they are designated as such because the previous owner had them set up that way) may not work in your own life….so re-purpose them!

#20: 1 in-1 out. Math doesn’t lie – if you buy something new (shirt, kitchen utensil), then get rid of something at the same time so your overall number of possessions doesn’t grow.

#41: If you work in an office, spend the last 10 minutes of the day putting things away, filing papers, tossing trash, and writing out your To-Do list for the next day. I loved this when I did work in an office, and it made coming in the next day feel welcoming and not overwhelming, especially if I had a busy day planned.

#50: Purge the past, make room for the present. I’ve always resonated with the idea of keeping empty spaces (e.g. on your bookshelf) to invite present/future gifts into our lives. How can we welcome the present/future if our past lives are taking up all the space we have?

#77: “In junk drawers, junk will sink to the bottom over time. Routinely clean out the bottom.” Love this concept!

#84: Keys – clump “like” keys together (e.g. office, home) and face the blades the same way; color coding can be helpful too. I admit this was a concept that I hadn’t heard before.

Overall, this book was an easy and quick read with most lessons being one-pagers. If you pick just a couple of the lessons and apply them to your organizing life, you will find it beneficial.

Have you heard of Felice’s story before and what do you think of it?  Personally, I don’t think I could sleep in a loft bed that close to the ceiling, could you?

What areas could use a little focus in your own home? Give one of these a try and let me know how it went in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!


About Melissa Belliard

Melissa is committed to helping her clients find the organizing system that works for them, with compassion and creativity. She has been helping her friends and family get organized for years, and loves decluttering closets and cabinets, especially for empty nesters and folks who are downsizing. Melissa brings her 16 years of experience as a Human Resources professional to her work, including compassionate listening, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills. Melissa is also a part-time massage therapist, and has raised two great kids. She loves being out in nature, listening to music and dancing, as well as bringing women together in community.

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