The beauty in small spaces.

kitchen maggie whitley

I’ve been a renter for ten years now, renting apartments & homes all over the country.

It all started after high-school graduation. I spent four years at Central Michigan University (2003-2007; where Zack and I met/fell in love) renting dorm rooms, an apartment, and then a house just off-campus. After that I lived in Lansing, MI for almost a year (2007-2008). Zack and I were married June 2008 and shortly after that we moved to Detroit, MI where we lived for a year (2008-2009). We then moved to Minneapolis, MN for three years (2009-2012). And now we’re to the present: living in Los Angeles, CA for almost two years (since 2012).

bathroom maggie whitley

Most of the places we’ve called “home” have been small and perfect for a him & her. For two years we lived in a very generous-sized house in Minneapolis complete with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a backyard, patio and private driveway. At 26-years-old we felt like we hit the rental jackpot.

But towards the end of our time in that large house Zack and I traveled to Tanzania, Africa with Compassion International (truly one of the most life-changing events I’ve ever experienced) — we came home, and pretty much everything about our lives changed.

The amount of space we live in…

The number of physical “things” we own…

The answer to a 14-month prayer of growing our family: your womb is full…

The yard-less yard… (This one is still hard.)

All of these things were suddenly not as they’d once been.

kitchen maggie whitley

When we decided to move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles the size of our home may have shrunk nearly 75%, but our hearts grew immeasurably.

Living in a small space has been really hard for me at times. It’s even hard for me to write that out! :) But it’s allowed me to look deep and hard at what I consider most important in this life…

I don’t share often enough about the struggles that come with living in a small space, but I’m inspired to change that.

Because as I’ve learned: where there are struggles there is also beauty.

accessories maggie whitley

We were not created to be defined by the size of our homes or the number of adventures we’ve been on. We are not defined by how much gorgeous sunlight pours in our windows, or the thick never-ending grass that grows off our patio, or by having a (unachievable) large social media imprint.

There is so much beauty, even in the small spaces of our home, and the best way to find it is to know the asnwers to these questions:

– what is your purpose for this season of life?

– what changes do you need to make so you feel satisfied with the everyday?

– what internal changes would help you feel more confident with where you are right now?

– are you giving your most important people first priority?

From there, however life sorts itself out (in a way that feels totally natural to you), is what you need to be doing. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing or what their life looks like.

When all think alike, then no one is thinking, –Walter Lippman

If you’re going to worry, worry you’re missing out because you can’t stop your mind/eyes from wandering elsewhere.

It’s perfectly wonderful to be different, to be brave, to be dancing to your own life beat. And that’s something living in a small rental has taught me.

to be continued…

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  1. 1


    Thanks so much for sharing! I always love the reminder that it’s okay to live in a small place with a family. We’ve been house hunting lately and I’m often finding my first reaction being “this is too small” or “we need more room” because other people in my life are living in larger places. While looking at a house that is maybe considered a little small (its still 2x as big as our 1 br apartment), our realtor told us the previous family lived there with 5 kids. It reminded me that it isn’t about finding the biggest house, but finding a place that is good for our family. The small living spaces forces us to be closer and to be more creative with the space we have.

    • 2


      You are right on with the perspectives you’ve shared in your comment. Most often outside influences tell us something is too small/big/wrong/scary, when really these outside influencers opinions don’t have that much weight anyway. Thank you so much for sharing what you did :)

  2. 3


    Oh Maggie – i absolutely love this perspective! You have shared your heart and struggles with such grace – I really admire that! I love the questions too!

    It feels so amazing to find peace with whatever season you are in and to know its OK to make the changes you need to.

    Blessing you today!

  3. 5

    Ashley Ditto says

    Maggie- this really inpsired me. We lived in an apartment for 6 years, and brought our 2 babies home there. It was small, but it was magical. You are so right. Thank you for being so transparent, up front and honest- I NEEDED this!

  4. 7


    I really loved this post. When we lived in Minneapolis we lived in a townhome that was our first home we bought. Then when I got laid off from my job we lost our home because of that. We rented an apartment for 4 years. it was hard going from a home to a small 950 sq ft apartment. Then we had our first child still living in that small apartment. At times it was really hard, But during that time God taught me so much about contentment and his perspective on things. Looking back now I cherish those years, and it makes me even more thankful that 4 years later we’re once again God’s provided a home for us.

    • 8


      Our current apartment is 600 sq ft. It doesn’t take long for it to feel super tiny, so I try to keep things put away. I also go through cupboards and closets and weed out anything that doesn’t belong there OR could be donated. Those two things help so much :)

  5. 9


    We have been renting for about 4 years now and always a small space, it comes with the territory for the areas we have wanted to live. I also struggle with living in such a small space, but we make the best of it! To us the area we live in is more important than the space we live in, and it really makes us keep only the ‘things’ we absolutely love.

  6. 12


    I’ve learned even the opposite can be true. I’ve been married almost 15 years now, with 4 kids. We built our dream home and it honestly overwhelms me on most days. The space is definitely a blessing with 4 kids, but the weight of trying to keep up with the size of this house can be crushing at times. We lived in a tiny apartment when we were building our home and I loved it because it was so easy to maintain. It’s funny because the more kids you have, the more space you need, but the less time you have to keep up with more space. Ha!

    • 13


      That’s so brave of you to share such honest words. I enjoy a smaller place to call home, however I’d really love to be blessed with some sort of outside patio/yard. And yes, children = time! :)

  7. 14


    Love. Just shared about the exact same thing basically on my blog. We live in a 440ish sq ft. apt in San Francisco…with a 13 month old. And we are ok with bringing #2 home here also. It’s small. And when it gets messy I kinda want to poke my eyes out BUT…I love that those who I love the most are so close to me. I love that I can clean my whole house in like 45 minutes. It’s that comparison thing that gets you every time. You see that nice large…or heck, even average size house that other people have and you think you’ve fallen short for being where you should be…or that you DESERVE more even. Blak. God has blessed me and my family so very richly and I desire to never throw His gifts back at him…even my itty bitty postage stamp apt. So yeah…thanks for sharing.

  8. 15


    I love this post.

    We rented for years, and bought our first home 2 years ago. It’s plenty big for just the two of us, but even then, I feel tempted to compare to other’s spaces.

    In my quest to be more intentional this year [my 2014 word of the year is Intentional], I’ve been seeing my home through a new paradigm. Daily, I look at our landscaping, our little yard, our first floor and our unfinished basement which might always stay that way, and I am so grateful.

    I also loved your reply to another comment above, where you talk about going through your cupboards and closets often to remove anything unnecessary or that’s not serving you. I’ve been doing that often for the last few years and it’s amazing how cleansing the act of giving things away can be.

    Blessings to you as you embrace your life in your little but perfect place in CA!

  9. 17

    Shelia says

    You are so wise & insightful! I don’t think at your age I was this mature. I & my husband ( we’re in our 60’s) live in @900 sq ft. I never thought at this age I would be living small. Your perspective is greatly needed today!!
    I know God provided a way for me to own this building & I should never begrudge His Perfect Gifts!! My plan however was never to be living here past 2 yr (it’s been 17). I know God’s plan is always greater than my own, for he knows best the one’s who trust Him! It’s not so much my battle of what everyone else has as battling what I haven’t achieved!
    Many prayers coming your way with your “new” little one & continued success!!!!

  10. 18


    I love this post so much, I cant wait to hear more about your journey. Since last summer when I started my whole journey to a more simple life, I can not imagine my life any other way. I have learned so much and have learned to appreciate smaller things as well as the importance of people and things in my life.


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