- Cruise-ship employees are used to small living quarters.
- Two former employees told Insider a less-is-more approach is necessary when living tiny.
- Taking stock of your own habits is essential before moving to a small home with someone else.
Since cruise-ship employees have to live in small quarters while working, they have become experts in making the most of cramped areas.
For tips on how to live tiny, Insider spoke with Brian David Bruns, the author of “Cruise Confidential” who spent four years at sea with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Radisson, and Wind Star cruise lines, and Heidi Menier, a former American Cruise Lines housekeeper who worked with the company on a six-month contract.
Here’s their advice for making the most out of a tiny living space.
Be aware of clutter
There’s not a lot of room for error when living in a small space — something cruise workers know all too well.
“My first cabin was so small, I did not have the floor space in which to do a push-up,” said Bruns.
Menier said she had to share a living space with nine other women, forcing her to greatly reduce the number of personal items she was able to keep around.
“Only keep things you absolutely need, otherwise it can get cluttered,” she said.
Take your time with decorating
It can be tempting to want to buy everything at once to feel like your space is complete, but don’t rush into it without taking stock of how much space you really have — Menier recommends prioritizing sentimental items over pieces that you may grow out of over time.
Collecting items over time also helps you curate a space that feels more like “you” and not just whatever decor are trendy in the moment.
If you’ll be living with roommates, take inventory of your habits
No one wants to believe they’re the subject of someone’s roommate horror story. Realistically, there are going to be times your habits clash with someone else’s, and living together in a small space increases that likelihood.
Menier said managers on cruise ships do their best to mitigate any conflict and set up a schedule for time in the room, but this may not be realistic for people living in a small apartment or home. Setting expectations and ground rules in the beginning can limit the need for uncomfortable conversations in the future.
You might also have to adjust your expectations if you’ve never had to cohabitate before.
“I grew up with a small family in a large house, so it was quite a shock to me to share space at all,” Bruns said. “I resented the proximity of my roommate.”
“I had to accept the situation because I had no way to affect it, regardless of how I felt about it … It’s important and true: Attitude is everything,” he added.
Be realistic about what you need to buy, but also think about items that may make sharing a small space easier
It can be tempting to shop for the version of you that you hope to be. This may include buying workout gear and health equipment that you won’t really use, but with limited space, you need to be decisive in what you bring.
“I was sharing a space with a guy even bigger than me. When one of us was getting dressed, the other literally had to lay in his bunk,” said Bruns.
However, it can be helpful to choose items that will make the situation easier.
“I always had headphones on … It’s about immersing yourself mentally into a place you want to be, rather than where you actually are,” said Bruns.