Happily Squished: Learning to Live in 270 Sq. Ft.

(Article by Cat Alford)

High up on a hill on a little Caribbean island called Grenada sits the cutest, tiniest 270 sq. ft. apartment you ever did see. It has no couch, no TV, no central AC, and no dishwasher, but despite its shortcomings, I’m proud to call it home.

While one person could definitely live here comfortably, I share it with my 6’3” husband, my furry dog, and the occasional ant that scurries across the counter. There’s absolutely no space, and we’re constantly bumping into each other, knocking knees and elbows against the wall. One time, my husband and I passed each other in the hallway, and our toes accidentally interlocked. It was disgusting and kind of awesome all at the same time. (I’ve worn shoes inside ever since.)

I know that we are completely squished here, but it’s a happy squished, the kind of delirious, hysterical day-to-day madness that comes with moving away from everything we know and immersing in a new culture that’s so different from our own.

How We Got Here

We originally came to Grenada so my husband could attend medical school. We knew that medical school came with a big price tag and that it was really impractical to bring all of our Earthly possessions to Grenada. After making over $2,000 from hosting a huge garage sale and being Craigslist champions, we were finally able to board a plane with our pup and say goodbye to the United States.

Making A New Home

We came to Grenada with only 4 pieces of luggage, one of which held our printer. It wasn’t much, but the truth is, we’ve learned that we can absolutely live with less. The plus side of renting such a small apartment is that it saves us quite a bit of money. We pay $800US a month in rent, which seems like a lot for a small place, but we’re living in the safest neighborhood in Grenada where apartments can cost up to $3,000/month.

small floor plan

Additionally, some things here are just more expensive than they are in the States, like my $200US electric bill that I pay every month. Yet, because we live in a hotel room sized apartment, we’re avoiding the $500-$600US bills that our friends often get stuck with. This alone has made a huge difference in our budget and has allowed us to save thousands of dollars over the past two years.

Finding What’s Important

Perhaps even more important than saving money, living in such a small place has shown me what I can live without, and it’s also made me appreciate what I have. I’ve learned that none of the electronics, new cars, or extra bedrooms that everyone craves in the States are really necessary, and they definitely don’t make you happy.

Coming from a nice, three-bedroom townhome in the States, I never really dreamed I would end up living in such a small apartment in such a small country. Yet, I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I guess the biggest lesson of all is that that the most important things in life aren’t what you have. It’s the people you’re squished with, interlocking toes and all!

About Cat: I am a personal finance freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean. When I’m not writing for other websites on all topics frugal and fabulous, I enjoy sharing all my adventures on my own blog, CatherineAlford.com

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  1. Cat @ Budget Blonde June 13, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    Hey J$! Thanks so much for letting me share my story today! :D

    1. J. Money June 13, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      Of course! Big fan of yours and always loved seeing stuff on your adventures over there :) Glad we were finally able to partner up!

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More June 13, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    270 sq ft is really small, but hopefully you’re spending a lot of time outside of the house when you’re living in such a beautiful place :)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      For sure. You can regularly find me at the pool writing posts on my laptop. :D

  3. Debt Blag June 13, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    Wow. That is definitely impressive — certainly a departure from the constant drive for bigger houses for the sake of being bigger being used to house more and more stuff. Although I’m sure that getting to walk out to that view every morning makes being cramped a bit more bearable :)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 8:10 AM

      Haha the view and our really sweet landlords definitely made it worth the small square footage. :)

  4. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle June 13, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    “but we’re living in the safest neighborhood”

    Is Grenada not a safe place?

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 8:08 AM

      Grenada is a relatively safe island in the sense that there is very little violent crime. However, there is a lot of petty crime, especially against the students. Students will often get their laptops stolen from their apartments but nothing else, things like that. We didn’t want to deal with any of that, so we chose the safest spot possible.

  5. Moneysavingmomma June 13, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    Good for you guys! We currently live in a home that is way to big for us and I wish I could just rent it out (since the rental market in our neighborhood could probably bring us a good amount of extra income)…. but I am working to get the husband convinced. Plus, a lot of rentals have popped up lately. People have been buying like crazy in my small neighborhood and immediately putting their house for rent. I wish I could do what you did, but our babies stuff just takes up to much space… I wish I could throw it all out!!!

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 8:18 AM

      Thanks! It’s definitely overwhelming to declutter and get rid of things. I remember being so stressed when we were getting ready for our big garage sale. But, once it’s gone, it feels amazing and it’s addicting. Babies definitely take up a lot of space. We don’t have that “issue” just yet. :D

    2. J. Money June 13, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      I know right?? We keep getting rid of our own stuff, but then the baby’s just re-fills it! Haha… but I do wish you tons of luck convincing your husband to move and take on a new adventure. Being smack in the middle of renting out our own house AND moving into a new one, I can tell you I feel incredibly alive and happier already :) And we’re not even moved into the new area yet!

  6. Jordann @ My Alternate Life June 13, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Wow I’ve finally met someone who is currently living in a space smaller than mine! I live in a 400 sq. ft. one bedroom cabin in the country. It’s very small, but since it’s just me, my fiancé and our dog and cat, we don’t need much space!

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      Hi Jordann! I actually saw your post about that on Michelle’s blog. :) Tiny house sistas!

      1. J. Money June 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM

        Yeah!! I saw that too right before Cat hit me up to guest post – I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ I love this stuff!

  7. John S @ Frugal Rules June 13, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Wow, I thought our first apartment was small – it was just under 500 sq ft and had the neighbors from hell. That said, we really did learn how little we really needed and that “stuff” can add up quick. I would also imagine that living somewhere as beautiful as Grenada you’re inside very little.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 9:08 AM

      Oooh sorry about the neighbors! That would definitely change things!! And yes, I love going outside here. I like to write at the beach, sometimes with the laptop, sometimes with just a legal pad. :)

  8. Sarah Hansen June 13, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Love your story and the life lessons! I’ve learned the same ones coming to Grenada. I had the big garage sale too. Well, actually, I just opened my house up and let people take stuff. It got a bit chaotic. I wouldn’t recommend it! But, it was very freeing to not have so much stuff anymore. Hmmmm… now you’ve got me wondering about the square footage of our tiny place. I may ask my landlord, but I doubt it has yours beat! Glad we get to share the adventure! :)

    1. J. Money June 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      Another Grenadian here? Awesome!

  9. Rich Uncle EL June 13, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    Kudos to you. Bigger is not always better, as people who live in Mansions often hide from each other and tend to communicate less. Also it does force you to enjoy nature with your loved ones I bet.

  10. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce June 13, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Great stuff! I’ve enjoyed living in a studio style apartment, as I find that it helps me maintain some idea of open space and minimalism.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      Absolutely. I never used to be a minimalist until coming here. Now, it’s a little addicting!

  11. Michelle June 13, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    This is something that W wants to do. I just don’t see our 80 pound dog being happy haha!

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Haha I totally understand. Ours is 35lbs and super lazy, so she just sleeps all day. :)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 11:02 AM

      Those are awesome. I’ve seen that 78sq ft one before. Crazy! I think I draw the line at 270 haha!

  12. Shafi June 13, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    270 sq ft is small but is not that small compared to some folks I know who live in one room with 3 or 4 kids plus a cow and a calf. When you go out the door, you immediately are out in the street. However, they are some of the happiest and contented people I know.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Oh yes. I’ve definitely witnessed very poor housing situations in the local population here. We are constantly reminded of how lucky we are.

  13. Nick @ ayoungpro.com June 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I find it so awesome that you were able to do that! What prompted the move?

      1. Nick @ ayoungpro.com June 13, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        You guys are my heroes! :)

  14. #Broke Millennial June 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    If NYC looked like Grenada, I might be willing to squish into 270 sq. ft. Part of the reason I picked to live in an outer-borough was space (and price). But, making 270 sq.ft. work is impressive, Cat! Just proves people can adjust to anything.

  15. Retire By 40 June 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    That’s way too small for your family. There is no way it’s sustainable in the long run.
    We have 3 people and 2 cats in a 1,000 sq ft and it’s about right. It would be pretty difficult to go smaller than that for us.
    It’s great that you guys are making it work and are happy about it. :)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      Thanks! It’s not a long term thing. :) When we have kids, we’re going to get something bigger for sure. Gotta fit the crib somewhere!

  16. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth June 13, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Wow, 270 sq ft. I sometimes feel like our 1,400 sq ft is tight. That being said, it sounds like a lot of fun and a great experience. Enjoy everything down there while you can.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Yes, we’re definitely having a blast. It will be bittersweet when it comes time to leave!

  17. Patrick June 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Hi Cat,
    Just one question…. Is that picture the view from where you live?

    I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place above 1400 sq ft for a family of 5. I lived in NYC for years, so I got used to ridiculously small places. It just makes you go out of your space more. But 270 feet is basically a shed, which I think is awesome.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      LOL a shed! I love it! So true. That picture is from a sailing trip we took to the north side of the island. It was so much fun! You can see the picture of my view by clicking on the floor plan. :)

      1. J. Money June 19, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        (best floor plan ever btw – love you doodled it out like that :))

  18. Sean @ One Smart Dollar June 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    My first apartment in Chicago was 500 sq ft and I thought that was small. It is all about making it work for you and it sounds like you guys did just fine with that.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      I’m loving all these stories about 500sq ft. Maybe I’ll upgrade to that next. :)

  19. MrsPoP @ PlantingOurPennies June 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I love it! My apartment was 400sqft before Mr PoP and I moved in together and it was awesome. The tight quarters were more than made up for by the fact that I was steps from the beach. =)

  20. Crystal June 13, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    More power to you, girl! :-) I would wear shoes too. :-)

    Our smallest place was our first apartment (500 sq. ft). I think I could do that again since I actually liked it, but I wouldn’t want to go smaller. We now live in what most people call a Mcmansion (3750 sq. ft., 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, kitchen, etc). We love it, but we do have 5 adults and 2 dogs in the home since my younger sister and two of our friends live here. Plus, my husband and I are self-employed, so another bedroom has become the office. Overall, it’s our own world in the house, so that works for us. But I do see the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle…just not there yet. :-)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      Hey Crystal, good to hear from you! I didn’t know you and Len shared your house with so many people! I’m glad you are enjoying the new digs though. :)

  21. Cait June 13, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Great guest post, Cat! I didn’t realize your guys’ place was so teeny tiny (and still with a huge electric bill!). Awesome to see you posting over here :)

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 3:09 PM

      Thanks Cait! Yes, the electricity is ridiculous here. I pay the same here as I did in my 3 bedroom house back home!!

  22. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries June 13, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    The layout for your place is so nice! I just love the bathroom! You two did a great job making the place look nice without having to do too much crazy storage adventures.

  23. Savvy Financial Latina June 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    I think it’s all about the surroundings. I would mind living in a small area if I had a nice yard, and the beach nearby.

  24. Michelle June 13, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    I love this post! I live in a 495 square foot condo. When I first looked at it a friend of mine called it a bomb shelter. I was insulted-big time! But, I went ahead and purchased it. I love it, love it, love it. It has sheltered me from the storm called life.And, it has almost doubled in price. Nice.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 13, 2013 at 9:25 PM

      Haha I’m glad your bomb shelter has turned out to be an awesome investment! :D

    2. J. Money June 19, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      There you go!! doubling in price is killler. Ours has lost like 30%+ since buying, ugh.

  25. Carrie June 14, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Wow! That is definitely a tiny space, but it sounds like you guys have the right attitude about it. I can relate to learning to live without a lot of possessions, as my fiance and I just moved across the country at the last minute for some family medical stuff. I could only take what would fit in my two-door car. And after our TV, computers and printer, there wasn’t much room for other possessions. But now I’m happy (and content) with less stuff. Why did we think we needed all that in the first place?

  26. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen June 14, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    I am absolutely amazed and impressed that you and hubby and dog can live in 270 sq feet! that being said that view is amazing. my hubby and I live in 750 sq feet of space and sometimes I just have to go thru and give away stuff. empty space just seems to want to get filled up.

    1. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) June 14, 2013 at 6:50 AM

      Haha it’s amazing we’ve gotten this far!! I have to go through and give stuff away pretty regularly, but I love the feeling of decluttering!

  27. Evan June 18, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    St. George’s medical school? Have 2 buddies that graduated from there.

    Any chance we can see some real pictures?

    1. Cat@BudgetBlonde.com June 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      Hey Evan! The picture in this post is real! Isn’t that crazy? Such a beautiful island! If you click on the link where it has the floor plan, you can see a picture of the whole apartment. :)