4 things about your tiny apartment that are causing you stress — and how to handle them

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Living in a tiny space is the most common home stressor because it’s full of limitations, Stephanie Rojas, an NYC-based therapist who works with a depression research organization, said in an interview with Insider.

In a 400-to-700-square-foot space, you’re more likely to see the same space and objects over and over again, Rojas said.

“Over time, you might find yourself feeling ‘stir crazy,’ which is when you feel trapped, restless, and agitated,” she said. “This can impede on your ability to enjoy your apartment and feel less motivated to spend time at home.”

You can alleviate this stress by redecorating your home from time to time and purging your belongings often.

We talked to therapists about common household stressors in small living quarters, and they shared four key ways living tiny can be stressful and what to do about it.

1. Feeling cramped? Amplify natural light and get outside.

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The layout of a home is a key factor in managing stress.

“Open spaces can be more inviting and may put us in a more expansive state,” therapist Cecille Ahrens said. “Tight spaces, especially if without a window, can create anxiety and trigger a panic attack.”

Ahrens added that in less-severe cases, people in confined spaces may experience milder physiological effects like stress, feeling overwhelmed, and difficulty concentrating. 

If you live in a space without a window, Sank suggests going outside to boost your mood. 

“I always recommend people spend a little bit of time each day, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes, in direct sunlight in order to de-stress,” Sank said.

Tiara Christian is a maximalist who used to live in a 400-square-foot apartment, and she used mirrors to amplify natural light to keep her space from feeling cramped.

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2. Combat an open floor plan with room dividers.

While feeling cramped in tight spaces can be stressful, so can open floor plans, because they offer less privacy, according to Rojas and therapist Weena Cullins.

Being in a single, large room also makes it harder to feel connected to your environment, Rojas said, adding that the openness of the room can lead to frequent distractions and feelings of loneliness. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic, separation in shared spaces has become more important, Rojas said.

“Many have required rooms and separation to be on video calls for work or school, as well as to have space from others at home,” she said. 

To combat this, Anju Abraham, a studio apartment renter in Washington, DC, previously told Insider she uses a room divider to temporarily carve out spaces for privacy when she has guests over.

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3. Add storage with multi-use furniture and purge your clutter regularly.

To maintain order in a small space, finding ways to store items can be extremely stressful, Cullins said. 

To combat this, Cullins recommends investing in furniture with multiple functions, like seating and storage.

Another tip, she said, is to purge your belongings regularly. 

“Holding on to items that create clutter or reduce your living space can cause stress over time,” she said.

Abraham uses both of these tactics for reducing home stress. Her bed, couch, and coffee table have hidden storage space.

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Abraham previously told Insider that the more functions a piece has, the better. She installed wheels on her coffee table trunk so she can roll it around to wherever she needs a surface.

4. Don’t work and relax in the same space

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“During this past year, when many people were working from home, it became very difficult for people to separate work from their personal life,” therapist Ariel Sank told Insider.

“By creating a separate area where you work versus relax, you are not only creating a physical separation but a mental separation from the two,” she said.

Sank added that separating your work and chill environments could be tough when living in a small space.

“Even changing up the chair or table you sit in to work versus relax can make a big difference,” she said.

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