Living Well in Tiny Spaces

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Spaciousness could become a thing of the past in urban areas as we continue to contract ourselves into smaller and smaller spaces. In September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposal to reduce the minimum apartment size to 150 square feet.

In Boston, there are plans to reduce minimum unit size from 450 to 350 square feet, and in New York, Mayor Bloomberg has launched a contest to design compact apartments to accommodate an expected influx of new residents. It all begs the question: Are dreams of mansions resigned to claustrophobia?  

Felice Cohen became a YouTube sensation in 2010 for a video showing how she managed to squeeze into a 90-square-foot apartment in Manhattan. She was evicted this past winter after her landlord found out that she was living there even though she was not on the lease. "I realized that you don't need so much stuff," Cohen says. "So many of us have so much stuff that we don't even use or wear, and I think at some point you realize that you're happier with less stuff." 

Jay Shafer is the designer and founder of Tumbleweed Tiny House company. He’s lived in a 100-square foot house for a decade. "Everything seemed to be about the McMansion, at least outside of the city, and a lot of people are thinking about living with what they need rather than with a lot of extra space that they're not using," he says. Shafer says that one of the benefits of living with just the bare necessities means that he has "outsourced" his life — without a large living space to fall back upon, he goes out to eat frequently, and spends more time out in public. 

"We're always out," Cohen says. "Since my video came out, I've had emails from people all over the world asking where they can find these small units."

We asked you to share your house or apartment size and where you live. Here's a map of your responses.