Shoebox Apartments

asian apartments

We live in a small apartment here in Korea. Well, let me rephrase that to say that in American standards, we live in a small apartment. We feel very blessed and fortunate to have the size apartment that we do because we have known couples whose work has provided them with a 300 square foot studio apartment for the both of them. How they’re both still alive is beyond me. But needless to say, all three of our apartments in Korea have been smaller than what we’re accustomed to back home in the States. And while some things on this list may not apply to our current spot, they all could have been said about at least one of them.

So if you’re sitting there wondering what qualifies as a small apartment or wonder if yours fits the bill, this should help. You know you live in a small apartment if:

.It takes you 15 minutes to clean the entire thing

.It takes just as long for it to look like a train wreck again

.It’s impossible to lose or misplace anything

.You can vacuum the entire place without switching wall outlets

.You have an oven the size of a toaster oven and even that you have difficulty finding a place for

I’m just impressed we could fit a turkey inside. Even though it was so close to the elements that it had lines on it.

.You can see every room from one spot

.When the trash bag is full, you can smell it from every room

.If you leave the door open when showering, all the windows in the apartment fog up

.Your kitchen table is where you do most of your cooking because you can barely fit a cutting board on your counter.

Our first kitchen. I did most of my cooking on the table since I could barely fit anything besides a plate on the counter.

.It takes about five minutes for the place to cool down or heat up

.You don’t have seasonal decorations, not because you don’t want them but because you don’t know where you’d store them

.You have a dorm sized fridge because you can’t fit much else. Thankfully we were able to upgrade to at least a half sized fridge

.You don’t have to yell or even raise your voice in order for another person to hear you across the apartment or in another room

.Your social events have a max capacity guest list

.You have to find new and unique places to store things…like under the couch

This is where we kept out out of season clothes

.You are constantly switching out the clothes in your closet because only one season fits at a time. The rest go under the bed or in our case…under our couch.

.Every time you buy something new, you have to get rid of something. Not because you think it’s the  ethical thing to do, but because you don’t have enough room.

.At least one or more people have to sit on the floor when they come over…good thing we live in Asia and this is seen as normal.

I just want to end this by saying that even though we live in a place smaller than what we’re accustomed to, we now very much prefer it and no longer want to get a large house when we move back to the states. It’s funny the things you can get used to!

  • themosbysinchina

    hahahahahaa this is hilarious. Love all your observations! okay. okay. I know. I’m late on the Expat Diary link up…. I can link up anything expat related? or do you have to stay on a topic?

  • Dan and Vanessa

    Oooo! So excited to be part of this link-up today! 😀 I love your cute place, especially your oven–so jealous! My husband and I live in a pretty large officetel, but it’s still one room with a loft. Personally, I enjoy always being in the same room and not trying to “fill up” all the space in the house. Maybe after I clean, I should do a post with pictures of our house too. Korean living spaces are so fun! 😀

  • Jade

    It’s all so true! We bought a 420 sq ft apartment last year, it was all we could afford at the time and I hate feeling so cramped after living in a huge house in Australia but I am slowly getting used to it.

  • J. Lenni Dorner

    Stopping by from the Bloglovin’ Collective Blog Hop.

    It’s funny how housing sizes vary like that around the world.

  • Rachel

    Oh my goodness. I’m glad you were able to upgrade fridges. I don’t know how you could fit anything in that first one!

    We had a really small/weird kitchen in our first apartment in Aberdeen with no ventilation whatsoever. I always felt like I was about to suffocate when cooking!

  • Ella

    Love this series! When I lived in italy this year, one of my friends had to squeeze past a washing machine to get to the shower. And my bedroom was really tiny, so much so that the bed was meant for a toddler, luckily I’m short though so it worked out okay!

  • Irene

    hehehe great post! I can totally relate to it. I’ve been living for almost two years in a stydio in the Netherlands. It is not really small, but it’s all together in one piece, so it can be quite annoying when my boyfriend is watching tv at night and I’m trying to sleep. But besides those small inconveniences, I love it and I would definetely go for a small appartment as well next time – hopefully 2 or 3 bedrooms, but still, something small. It makes cleaning a lot easier :)

    Also, great blog and the link-up is a very nice idea!

  • Caroline

    Hahaha, I feel ya! Our apartment in China is like that… except my mom’s a freak and will spend ALL DAY cleaning it (the dust comes back crazy-fast). And also, my dorm room… LITERALLY the size of our laundry room back home in Texas, ha!

  • Amanda Wissmann

    Stopping by from Expat Diaries!

    I loved this post! Isn’t it funny the things we get used to by living in other countries?!

    and I LOVE the picture of the buildings. Beautiful!

  • Jelli

    Hi Chelsea! Visiting today from the Expat Diaries series & loving your site. I live in Costa Rica with my Tico husband, our daughter, and soon to be son (due in July). We live in a pretty tight apt. too, and I love it! I’m not one for collecting household items & decor, so keeping it small & simple is great, not to mention that you have to clean way less stuff & moving is made easy.

  • Sam M

    If I do don’t end up working tonight, I’m all over this. We lived in a room in Cambodia. Literally, a master bedroom that was not a large bedroom. And we shared the kitchen with our host family. Cramped is what you could call it.

  • RitaMarie

    I looove having a small place. Ours is still a little big for me- 827 sq ft. If I buy again, it will be 700 ot less.

    I live in Texas, where small spaces are rare, but I looove them for all the things you listed (the good ones, at least). :)

  • gladley

    Hey, did you see the Small Cool 2013 winners? This would probably be way up your alley!

  • Amy @ The Tide That Left

    Small, but perfectly formed. A small apartment takes some getting used to. Our apartment in Moscow was quite small and it made it difficult to have guests, but you just have to get creative, hey? I love the way you store your off season clothes.

  • Kelly S

    It’s small, but cute! We went from a big American house, to a teeny tiny German apartment. With 4 kids and a dog. What a pain.

  • misty

    but its so sunny and bright!
    and I thought I lived in a shoebox sized house.
    You can go up in the attic (which is packed full) and see the entire rectangle layout of our house.
    We have to get rid of things quite often too.
    Floor pillows would be good if you had a good place to keep them, and seeing how under the couch is taken, you may have to hollow out some other piece of furniture 😉

  • M and L

    I’m all about my space. With two people & two larger dogs, I need my own corner of a house. But living in my in-laws basement has forced me to get over it. It’s also made us us get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff & we too had to get creative with our storage.


  • Lindsey Marie

    I totally can relate to wanting a smaller house when you go back, the less to clean and the less ephemera I feel I need so the less there is to move or trash!

    And if it makes you feel any better I don’t think Thais believe in ovens, if I want to “bake” anything it’s out on the bbq rain or shine.Which leaves baked desserts out of the question:(

    But I’m right there with you on the tiny fridge! It can fill up or empty out in a day!

  • Bonnie Rose

    England houses and flats have hardly any storage so I hear you on getting creative. I’ve had to fit our coats in our wardrobe because there are no closets or linen cabinets, or places to hide away the vacum or sports equipment. I love for things to have ‘homes’ and its hard when theres no where to put things. So with that said I love how you guys have made use of your sofa! Thats really ingenius!


  • Sisters Marie

    that’s the thing about humans…we can adapt! (well, sometimes, lol!) i think it’s a cute and cozy place.

    Sisters Marie
    Start your closet on BISTM!

  • The Bradleys

    We got lucky, our two apartments in Paju were both three bedroom ( albeit small). When we were considering going back to Korea we couldn’t find any family sized apartments, they were all studios or small 1 bedrooms. I think yours is awesome, very nicely designed too.

  • Z

    I love your features – this one is so funny! thankfully, my room when I lived abroad was large…but I shared it with three other girls. One big room. It was…interesting. I wish I had a ready-to-publish travel story but I will link up when I have it!

  • Melyssa @ The Nectar Collective

    LOVEEE THIS. We live (with Monja) in an approximately 270 square foot studio apartment. It’s REALLY small and I can totally relate to sooo many of these things it’s hilarious! Somehow we make it work and I actually don’t mind it too much, but man is it tiny! I also agree that I don’t really want a big house anymore. What’s the point!

    The Nectar Collective

  • Cassie Marshall

    Hahaha.. I love this. Seriously like living in a dorm room!