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Living Small in Berlin: Focusing Less on Stuff, More on Experience

7/25/2011 1:09:34 PM

Tags: small home living, small apartment living, how to live in a small home, small home in Berlin, tiny homes, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail“Society has us believing that in order to create a happy home, we need to have XYZ,” Katie Clemons says. “That's simply not true!”

Katie and her husband, Martin, had always wanted to reside in Martin’s native Germany. When they began investigating where they might live, they discovered that Berlin was surprisingly affordable. “We thought, ‘Hey, why not just go for it now?’" Katie says. “Picking a small home was the only way we could afford our dream.”

Katie and Martin live happily in a 480-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a 36-square-foot kitchen that they remodeled themselves. “There were days that my husband would be at the table saw, and I'd be hanging out the window, balancing the wood,” Katie says. “Looking back, we should have rented a work space to build the cabinets instead of trying to build everything in the 36-square-foot space.”

Remodeling the small kitchen forced Katie and Martin to take a good hard look at what they really needed. Because they rarely cook for crowds, they chose a two-burner stove and a half-size oven. It was a satisfying first step toward simplifying. “It’s the tiniest kitchen we have ever had,” Katie says. “It’s also our favorite.”

The apartment is powered by renewable energy. “We pay a little extra, so all of our energy is hydroelectric, solar and wind,” Katie says. Heat comes from a building-wide boiler system, and the flat is cooled in traditional German fashion—through open windows. “It doesn't always work!” Katie admits, but many of the other habits they’ve picked up from the locals do.

Katie and Martin do not own a dryer; they hang their clothes on a line. They bike everywhere, including the grocery store, take quick showers and keep a compost bin. “Recycling is serious business, so our building has separate bins for packaging, paper, metal and appliances, compost, and glass,” Katie says. (You can learn more about that at Katie’s blog, Making This Home. 

“Living smaller has taught us to live more simply,” Katie says. “We buy less stuff in general because if we brought it home, where would we put it? Now our energy and money goes toward the things we truly love. It’s amazing how good life can be when you can focus less on stuff and more on experiences and the things worth keeping.” 

Learn more about Katie and Martin’s eco-savvy, simple home at Making This Home.

 clemens katie 

Katie Clemons took on remodeling a tiny kitchen with her husband, Martin. 

clemens martin 

Martin builds cabinets in the tiny space. 

clemens apartment 

By removing walls and opening up the kitchen, Katie and Martin made the apartment feel more spacious. 

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