How We Handle Laundry and Dishes in Our 250-Square-Foot Home

One of the first things I asked our landlords was, "Is there a Laundromat nearby, or do we have to beat our clothes on a rock down by the nearest creek like the pioneers did?"

Living in an extremely small space has its challenges (especially so when it's two people), and no challenge is greater than that of keeping up with laundry and dishes. There really is no room for dirty dishes or laundry to pile up in 250 square feet, so it's up to both of us to stay on top of them so we aren't tripping over clothes on the floor, running out of clean towels and sheets, or trying to play a losing game of Dish Tetris in order to clear counter space.

With the current trend of apartments and condos shrinking in size, manufacturers are starting to design portable apartment-size appliances that are suitable for smaller spaces, yet just as functional and efficient as full-size models. We have purchased several portable appliances for their balance of small size and adequate capacity; the ability to do laundry in our own space has contributed greatly to our continued autonomous small space existence, and the addition of the dishwasher has pretty much made our counter and sink space woes a thing of the past.

When we moved into Microtopia four years ago, one of the first things I asked our landlords was, "Is there a Laundromat nearby, or do we have to beat our clothes on a rock down by the nearest creek like the pioneers did?" To our dismay, we learned that there are no Laundromats located anywhere on our side of town; the closest one takes two bus rides to get to, which is SUPER inconvenient when you're hauling heavy bags of laundry around — not to mention how ridiculously expensive and disgusting the Laundromats around here are.

This journey got old REALLY quick, and hand-washing laundry in the bathtub is its own special kind of hell, so when we found a portable washing machine with spin dryer, it was the ideal solution to our problem. It hooks up to our washroom sink faucet with a quick-connect adapter, the drain hose hooks over the edge of the sink, and the laundry detergent pods are the perfect amount of soap, although I've found they don't dissolve very well in cold water, so I dissolve them in hot water before adding them to the wash tub. The machine itself tucks right into a corner of our washroom next to the bathtub when it's not in use.

The washer's agitation cycle runs for up to 15 minutes at a time, and it even has a gentle setting for delicates. We usually run one wash cycle, drain the tub, and then run one or two 15-minute rinse cycles, depending on the colors and size of the wash load.

Drying our laundry used to be a matter of wringing water out until our arms and hands were aching and useless, and then draping the items over chair backs and arms for a few days, which left them musty-smelling and damp on one side if we forgot to turn them. The spin dryer spins at 1400 RPM for up to five minutes, which gets any remaining soap residue and water out.

After we got the washer and spin dryer, I went to the dollar store and picked up some clothesline, clothespins, and coat hooks, and strung up clotheslines in the entryway and across the window. We also added a pair of wall-mounted IKEA drying racks to flat-dry pants and sweaters. Now we can just hang everything up on the clotheslines and IKEA racks for a few hours until everything's dry. We keep mulling over whether to get one of those AC-powered tumble dryers, but they take a really long time to dry anything, our electrical outlet capacity is nearly maxed out as it is, and besides, hanging clothes to dry helps your clothes last longer.

We usually do one-to-two loads of laundry per week, and the amount of time and money we've saved by not having to drag it back and forth from the Laundromat has paid for our machine several times over. We do still visit the Laundromat a few times a year to wash our duvets and blankets, since they are too large to fit in the washer and spin dryer, but that's acceptable.

If you think preparing meals without a kitchen is difficult, just imagine what the cleanup afterward is like without a kitchen sink. Doing dishes by hand in our small washroom sink is an incredibly time-consuming and aggravating task, especially with larger dishes like a slow cooker crock or rice cooker pot. God help you if a plate or glass slips out of your hand and shatters in the sink or on the washroom's tile floor.

We discovered right away that hand-washing dishes after every single meal was not going to be sustainable for very long (or conducive to maintaining our harmonious relationship), so we went to Canadian Tire and got a small kitchen cart and a countertop dishwasher. The dishwasher holds up to six full place settings and hooks up to the quick connect adapter on our washroom sink faucet. We simply wheel the cart in and out of the washroom whenever we run a load of dishes. The pod-style dishwasher detergent fits perfectly in the soap dispenser, the rinse aid reservoir holds a month's worth of rinse aid, and even the crustiest casserole dishes and rice cooker parts come out sparkling and sanitized.

The dishwasher has several cycles to choose from: a two-hour heavy wash cycle for pots, pans, and casserole dishes, a regular 85-minute wash cycle, a one-hour light wash cycle, a 45-minute quick wash cycle which I use for plastic containers, and a 10-minute rinse/soak cycle. We have never encountered any major problems with the dishwasher despite several years of almost-daily usage; one of the drain hoses sprung a leak a couple years ago and it cost maybe $12 with shipping to replace it.

These two portable appliances have allowed us to overcome several of the limitations of living in 250 square feet — and most importantly — allows us to entertain friends and family members when they visit, proving that living in a small space doesn't necessarily mean you're doomed to a life of total social isolation and overcooked ramen noodles.