I live in a pretty small bedroom. It’s certainly smaller than any room I’ve occupied so far in my life, but I believe there are many great benefits of living in a small room.
First, let me describe my house for you (here it is when I moved in, July 2013).
I live in a house. It’s 3 meters wide. My house has a garage and a living room on the ground level,
a full kitchen (definitely a perk, even without windows)
and 3 smaller bedrooms (~XX meters x XX meters),
a garden terrace (definitely the best feature, and one I’m pretty proud of!),
and a (now neglected) rooftop party area, which used to be pretty special and magical, but the dry season has taken its inevitable toll. (Ohh, and if you haven’t, check out my 360 pano from my roof!)
As my roommates from last year have slowly moved out, Joao and I, (and, presumably, Terra Nova, since no one else comes to see it) have had trouble convincing people that it’s a quality house to stay in. Essentially it’s a dingy, kinda broken, sparsely furnished hostel with a bad window seals and a terrible paint job.
It’s also a little expensive given the actual quality of the rooms. My room goes for 4,200,000 VND ($200 USD) and I actually have four real walls – two of the smaller bedrooms are basically large closets with one wall made of glass partitioning, and go for 4 million VND ($190USD). In addition, Terra Nova recently replaced the bedframes with wooden pallets… wooden pallets… the look on faces of prospective tenants is pretty hilarious, because none of us know if it’s supposed to be trendy or they’re actually ‘fixing’ some problem, or what.
The point is, the bedrooms are all smaller than average. You can’t even take pictures in them except for from the opposite corner; there’s just no room to maneuver. Here, I tried to take a pano getting the whole room: fail.
However poor the inherent quality of our house, however, I’ve discovered that I mostly love living in a small bedroom in my own house.
Benefits of Living in a Small Bedroom
Smaller place, smaller price. I think that’s pretty evident. My room might cost more than it really should, but it’s still on the Very Cheap end of the spectrum of HCMC foreigner housing, and I have my own house – usually for this price you’ll live with a Vietnamese family in a guesthouse. I appreciate the freedom.
It’s Easier to Clean
While it’s true that SE Asia is a very dusty place, it’s equally easy to clean because of the usual construction materials. All the floors are tile and are mopped three times a week. Terra Nova used a pretty terrible, watered-down matte paint on the hallway walls, so they’re impossible to clean (sponges and soap take the paint off, seriously), but I repainted my coral pink womb to a brilliant, glossy white, and it’s remarkably easy to wash, as well as looking much larger.
You’re Less Likely to Accumulate ‘Stuff’
Pretty basic geometry, I guess, but less room means less stuff. That’s especially important to me, because when I eventually leave Vietnam I will have to ship the things I keep to my destination, which tragically costs money. I also was a pretty extreme packrat in my American apartments, so this kind of spartan attitude is a refreshing difference.
A Small Room Means Less Wasted Air Conditioning Power
And less AC used saves you money. My AC in particular sucks, a lot, but that in itself is a nice reason to save some money and lay in front of the fan instead.
Easy and Cheap to Decorate
It’s so important that your room act as a home-base for you. I need to claim my space when I move, and make an environment that doesn’t make me feel like a transient. You have to feel comfortable. A smaller space means that you can focus on a few special objects or pieces of art that can really transform a space.
It’s Hard to Lose Stuff
In theory, less space means fewer places for stuff like keys and pens to hide. However, like in the case of that d*mn AC remote I inexplicably lost in my room last year, I’m still good at losing stuff. The disappearance of multiple vegetable peelers from the kitchen remains an annoyingly stubborn mystery. I just keep buying them. Where do they go?!?
Easy to Overhaul and Purge
Perhaps my second favorite thing about living in a small space is that it’s really easy to see when you’re reaching the saturation point with your things. Clothes, especially, have revealed themselves as a thing that I have too much of. (For instance, I purged almost 3 dozen clothing items last year, and it still seems like I don’t have space for everything. Probably doesn’t help that my wardrobe is the size of a play kitchen, but them’s the breaks. And it’s hard to argue that having more clothes is materially improving my world, so the purge is good.)
Not the ‘Party House’…
When your hangout spot is a space that only seats 7-8 comfortably, and that spot can only be reached by climbing five floors of steps, you don’t throw many big parties. Sure, we have regular BBQs or dinners for friends, sometimes every week, but they’re not ragers, and no one has any room to cause a ruckus (well, mostly).
…but Planning a Party is Much Easier
Having less space means that small parties can be more intimate and easier to plan. It also means that it’s more likely you’ll interact with your roommates or family.
Guests Don’t Usually Stay for Too Long
Since our only extra bed is on the floor in the living room, where anyone on the street can see you sleeping, guests generally don’t stay for more than a day or two. That’s nice.
You knew I was going to say something about this, didn’t you? 🙂
But it’s true – a trend toward small rooms overall helps increase population density. Furthermore, most of your neighbors all have these types of small spaces, too, and the benefits are easy to see anywhere you look in the vital street-level activity. More people in less space is fundamentally more environmental… but also more social:
In Vietnam, your neighborhood will most likely be a vital, busy place, for at least one really good reason: everyone’s room is small and hot, and so everyone’s outside. Our neighborhood is one of the best in the city – it’s simply awesome. From the people to the services, the food to the location, the very best part of our house is actually everything outside its walls. I have no doubt that I’d spend even more time in my room if it was bigger, and I’d be doing myself a serious cultural disservice.
Perhaps the most salient perk is that small rooms require we interact with each other more. This would definitely have been a negative in my mind if you asked me even one year ago, but I’ve had a change of heart. My last roommates were an amazing set of people, and I benefited from their cultural knowledge and friendliness. If I were living in a house like this with my family (and if I was Vietnamese, my extended family), I can see this degree of forced intimacy resulting in a richer family life.
These are just some thoughts I’ve had about my house as I see potential roommate after roommate look into those bedrooms and just grimace. I can read their minds… but I believe I fundamentally disagree with them (now, at this point). If anything, a small room will make your experience in our wonderful, convenient neighborhood even more varied and exciting – it’s just a matter of perspective and a sense of possibility.
SO… anyone want to come be our roommate?? 🙂