Curious about how to entertain company in a small apartment? Or how to have friends over when you live in an apartment? Here’s how we’ve done it and why.
Life as a family of five in a 1200 sq. foot apartment townhome can get kind of crowded.
One of our three bedrooms is a split baby room and storage room. Really, it’s a storage room with a crib, changing table, and glider. Everything else in there is storage because we lack a garage and shed. Our kids’ bedrooms are less than 100 sq. feet each.
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With closets and a bunk bed, their room feels cramped, to say the least. There isn’t a designated “playroom” or area in our house. Our kids have to play in our twin’s bedroom or downstairs in our living/dining area.
But, with a large sectional couch, TV stand, large computer desk, and chair, dining room table and chairs, the amount of play space is limited.
While we get by fine, for the most part, it’s hard not to compare our living situation to those of our friends who own or rent houses. They often have playrooms, bigger bedrooms, lofts, and certainly more toys than we do, and they aren’t living with boxes or storage tubs in their or their child’s bedroom because they have garages and attics to store that stuff in instead.
At friend’s houses, the adults and kids aren’t in the same room like at our small apartment, where it’s hard to have an adult conversation over our screaming, playing, needy children.
Don’t Wait for the Invite
I can’t help but hope that these friends invite us over so we can hang out and the kids can play without being so underfoot.
However, waiting for people to invite us over to their nicer, bigger, home doesn’t always work out so well.
If you are a polite person, you know it’s pretty rude to invite yourself over to someone’s house. But, waiting, twiddling your thumbs, for your friend to call and invite you and your kids over for a playdate (which may never happen), can just depress you and make you feel like you don’t have any friends.
I’ve so been there.
And it’s depressing when your kids ask to go to their friend’s house, but you have to say no because, again, you can’t just invite yourself over. Plus, no one always wants to be the one doing the inviting, nor never having the invite be reciprocated.
One trick around this formality is to call up your friend and see what they are up to that day and if they wanted to get together for a play date/hang out. Sometimes your friend will then graciously invite you over to their “bigger house with more toys” (though courteously not say such a thing, of course).
But, since you made the call, you better be prepared to have them over to your small apartment, just in case they don’t offer their own home up for the get-together.
Don’t Be Embarrassed By Your Home
I know I should not care about what other people think about my home, its size, its toy count, or even its cleanliness. I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed by our home, because I know most of my friends don’t care and they understand. They’ve been there too.
But, it’s hard not to compare our “still just starting out” and “still getting degrees” life to their post-school, making real money lives.
We want that.
But, the reality is that it’s still a few years away as my husband works on a Ph.D. to become a college math professor.
It’s like they say, don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.
Some things take time.
Rearrange and Get Creative for Gatherings
When we’ve hosted birthday parties for our girls we got creative with the layout of our home in order to accommodate guests. We pushed our dining table all the way against the wall and placed the dining chairs and ottoman along the wall for people to sit.
We also did some activities outdoors on our small concrete patio and shared grass area. And it was great.
I do want to say, that we do try to limit the amount of people we do invite to parties and dinners and so on because we don’t want people to feel uncomfortable or on top of someone all the time. But, we’ve found that with a little creativity, we can manage guests just fine.
For meals, we’ll bring down our daughters’ small table and chairs for an instant kids’ dinner table.
Embrace Your Small Apartment
My small apartment is my home. I live here. It’s relatively modest, but it’s mine.
I’m not really a private person and I love social gatherings so I don’t want to limit myself because of my perceived non-party, non-gathering, home. I believe in inviting people over to my small apartment because it is my home.
I always want my home to be a place people want to be, a place that is inviting, welcoming, friendly, and full of great memories, laughter, and love. The number of things we have doesn’t matter. I know this because my kids still manage to play and have fun here every single day.
I also know it is big enough. It really is. We have figured out ways of feeding other families and missionaries here, hosting parties and book clubs, and inviting over friends.
Our home is big enough. It is my perceived perspective that wants to limit its capacity limit and niceness.
Do you live in a small apartment? How do you overcome its smallness to invite people over?
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Kathleen @ Fearlessly Creative Mammas says
I live in a small two bedroom apartment with my husband, daughter and a cat who makes me crazy. I feel like we have too much stuff in here, but I have to have most of what is here. I still entertain and sometimes it’s cramped, but that’s okay. I don’t think my friends mind and if they do, then they are concerned with the wrong thing. I also watch my 3 grandkids here on a regular basis, complete with all of the toys they get everywhere. It’s okay though. I’m glad they like to come see me.
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks for commenting Kathleen! I agree that if my friends do mind it perhaps they are concerned about the wrong things. For sure.
Birute Efe says
oh, thank you for writing this post. I feel that I am not alone. I have been fighting with this shyness of my home for a while and looking for a way to get rid of it. Good for you for being who you are and taking the charge.
Our home isn’t small, but it is smaller than many of our friends’ homes. It can feel cramped when we have several guests, but I try very hard to not let that stop me from inviting others over. I can relate to your feelings though! I think it’s great that you find ways to make it work! #HDYDI
Katelyn, this is so nice! So warm and so nice. I live in a very small apartment too. when we were newly married we lived in a 5 bedroom apartment. with one kid we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment and then now with 3, strangley we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. My son shares his room with our dining area! (Long Story!!) I so totally relate to your post.
I wait for people to invite us too but most don’t but I do go on and invite everyone over just because… Already pinned you… sharing you on my page too.
Lauren Tamm says
We just left a 2 bedroom town home in coastal Carolina and it was a perfect fit unless we had people over or house guests. Then it was a bit tight. We often invited people over when the weather was warm and we could congregate outside, but I’m with you, we shouldn’t let a small space deter us from inviting guests over. We are now moving to Japan and believe we will likely live in an even smaller space. More to come on that!! Ha, ha.
I live in a pretty roomy house, but it’s always a mess. About a year ago, I realized that the people who love me do so despite my inability to be a homemaker. I’ve started inviting them over despite the mess, which has inspired me to reduce the mess, which makes me more comfortable inviting people over. 🙂 And I do rearrange the furniture when I throw my huge winter cookie decorating party so everyone can fit.
We’ve lived in this same small, 950 sq. ft., 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment for the last 5 years. It’s me, my husband, our 6 year old son, and our 80 lb husky. Every year I’ve hosted Thanksgiving and cooked a huge meal for 10-15 people. This year I just don’t want to do it. My husband is upset about it. I told him it’s a lot of work, I don’t really enjoy it until about 9pm when I can finally sit down. Sure, the first couple years it was fun because it’s new and we are having people over to eat my food (I love cooking for people). But I’m just tired of it. It’s always cramped, I’m cooking all day. I told him this time that I’m just embarrassed of our place. It’s too small, the carpets are trashed… they have never been cleaned since we’ve moved in and they were bad before we moved in… there is a bleach stain on the carpet so bad that it ate away the carpet. The walls are a mess. The fake tile in the bathroom is coming up. He said we could hide the bleach stain, etc. I’m just tired of living here. We are in the process of looking for a home to buy, but it looks like the only thing we can afford is a small condo/townhome and that will be the same situation as we are now… living in a tiny place. San Diego is so expensive. I’m just tired of it all, and I say things like that. And then my husband feels bad because he thinks it’s his fault. It’s not his fault, it just is what it is. Then I feel bad because I don’t want him feeling like that, like he is less than a man. Because he isn’t. He is a great husband and father. He works, he cleans, he does laundry. I am just tired.
Katelyn Fagan says
I know Nancey. I know. I know that feeling of being tired and feeling trapped in your home all too well. It stinks and you hate it and you want something different. That’s when I read books about people in true poverty or watch things about people who are far less fortunate than me and remind myself that I’m doing darn well compared to a sadly huge percentage of the human population. Living in America, it’s so easy to grow tired of the same old same old surroundings, but it’s worthwhile to strive to find gratitude.
As for the Thanksgiving dinner, well, I can’t tell you what to do about that. I applaud you for doing it for doing it so many years already! (Really, because I don’t cook!) I think it’s okay to ask a different person to host this year, offering to bring food, etc. Hosting is a ton of work, especially in those small apartment kitchens, cooking a lot of food. I encourage you to pray about it and keep discussing it with your husband and friends and decide what is best for this year.
Thanks Katelyn. I really appreciate you responding. I kind of didn’t expect a response since this post is a couple years old. Sometimes I feel like we can’t get ahead. I’m from Michigan and most of my friends have bought a house with a yard. And I’m still living in an apartment. Yes, it’s nice here in southern California, but the price for nice weather and beaches is outrageous rent and mortgages. We both have a college education, have good jobs, make “middle class income”, but live check to check. Our kid asks for a brother, and we want more kids, just can’t afford another. I want him to be able to go outside and play in the yard, but we have no yard.
I know we are better off than most, but I’m not where I want us to be in life. This is not what I’ve strived for.
So I remember reading this article a few years ago. When my family lived in a 1000 square foot apartment. I was always so incredibly embarrassed. I eventually did have a few people over for dinner from time to time.
Fast forward to now. One more child added to our family of 5 and we are living in a 1300 square foot apartment. Not much bigger yet nicer. Yet, here I am. Finding myself reading your article again.
We should be buying a good-size house soon, but for now, this is what it is. And part of the embarrassment isn’t only that it is small, but that my husband and I aren’t in our 20s anymore…so that “excuse” of “we are still starting out” isn’t valid anymore.
Yet, my perspective really changed when I met this family upstairs from me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about them that brought on this admiration from me…until I talked to my oldest child. My oldest told it to me when she went with me to visit them…she couldn’t put her finger on what it was about their place..then she figured it out and told me. She told me that it’s like they took all their furniture from a house and placed it in their home. It was like they lived in a house..a nicely decorated one. And they ALWAYS have guests, family and friends over. They have slumber parties for their daughter, and have Christmas Eve get-togethers. You can knock on their door any time of day and they will welcome you in with open arms, invite you to take a seat, offer you a drink, and be excellent company. That’s when I realize that it is just as much, if not more, about the company I am than about the house. Yes, a big home, spacious room, and excellent aesthetics help achieve this….but being a great hostess and excellent company is how to create a home (no matter how small) to be welcoming, inviting, and cozy to visitors. It’s like that word “Hygge”….that is my ultimate goal no matter where we live. Whether it be a small apartment or big house.
Thank you for writing this article. I am curious to know whether you are living in the same apartment since you last wrote this article. If not, is your current place bigger? And how you are doing with inviting people over..more comfortable?
Katelyn Fagan says
Thank you for your comment!! It really is so much about you as the hostess than it is about your apartment. I know we’ve lacked in the “making it a home” feel with decorating often too, but we still try. This post was written in 2014, right before we moved to Texas into a 1300 sq ft townhome (up from the 1200 before… but not by much!) when we only had three young kids. We stayed in that apartment for almost 4 years, until one year ago, March 2018, after we added kid number five into our family! We finally moved into a rental home with about 1750 sq feet, four bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an office, a garage, and a fenced backyard. It’s amazing!! We love it so much. But, even in our previous apartment we invited a lot of people over into our home, even with my “office” and “homeschool room” in our living room and dining room, even though our dining table still can only fit six people properly. We make do. And I don’t regret having anyone over, ever, even when people, most of the time, never reciprocate (unless we are actually great friends). We see it as an act of service, of fellowship, of friendship, of duty to God, and of love. We invite neighbors, co-workers, friends, acquaintances, church members, and whoever we feel called to invite over, over! In fact, we’ve made it a goal in 2019 to invite at least 1 family/individual over to our home every month, and so far, so good! I know our home is still lacking in decorations and “coziness” or “Hygge” but we hope to be warm and inviting ourselves. We don’t want to put holes into the rental house we will likely be leaving sometime this year (my husband is FINALLY graduating with his PhD this spring!! Can you hear those angels singing?!)
At this point, I think we just have done it enough we don’t think twice about what others will think when they enter into our home. With five kids, it isn’t always spotless (though the kids all have regular chores and we make it a point to clean before company comes over), and it isn’t decorated, but, I dunno. We just do it!
I am glad you’ve enjoyed this article for years. I wrote it for people like you. 🙂 I hope it is encouraging.