How Mary Helen Rowell Uses MakeSpace To Live Happily In 90 Square Feet

Exterior of Mary Helen Rowell's 90-square-foot apartment in the West Village, Manhattan

The red brick building you see above appears nothing out of the ordinary. Until you step inside and walk up to the top floor. There, you’ll discover what’s one of the tiniest apartments, yet most extraordinary uses of space, we’ve ever seen.

Interior of Mary Helen Rowell’s 90 sq ft home in Manhattan's West Village

Measuring a diminutive 90 square feet, Mary Helen Rowell’s famous West Village apartment is as big as two prison cells combined. The thought of living in such a small space is enough to make anyone, including Mary Helen at first, feel like they’re suffocating. But as anyone who succeeds at living comfortably in confinement knows, the name of the game is “Get creative, or go insane trying.”

“I don’t have very much hanging space or clothes storage space so I use MakeSpace to rotate my closet seasonally,” said Mary Helen, who heard about MakeSpace in a newsletter she received from Of a Kind.

mary helen rowell's makespace bin, which she uses for affordable full-service storage in west village, manhattan

Similar to how menswear icon Nick Wooster uses MakeSpace, she too is a pro at mastering the quarterly debacle of seasonal wardrobe changeover.

“Coming into spring, I’m thinking about which items will be stored as fall and winter. I’ll get my winter items ready to store with MakeSpace and swap it with my spring box from last year,” Mary Helen told Refinery29. “Then, in a couple of months, I’ll be ready to store those mid-weight fall items and simply trade them out for summer! It feels amazing to get the pieces you’ve been wearing for months on end out of sight.”

As for the clothes Mary Helen keeps in sight, she hangs them here:

faceouts hang clothes in mary helen rowell's 90-square-foot home

“These are what we call faceouts,” said Mary Helen while showing them to Fox News, a tip she picked up from working in fashion. “Usually, clothes are done sort of shoulder out. But as you can see, this [holding a hanger shoulder out] takes up over a foot of space. Whereas these [placing the hanger on one of the faceouts] are only eight inches so I’m saving a good four inches.”

Saving four inches per faceout isn’t enough to make her apartment not feel like a shoebox though, so Mary Helen maintains a minimalist mentality.

“I really like getting rid of things,” Mary Helen told Curbed. “I try to do one in, one out.” Which means every time she buys something, she either donates or gives away another item. The question “Does it make me happy?” is her litmus test for deciding what items to keep or let go.

“Identify the possessions that make you the happiest and say goodbye to things that don’t inspire you,” Mary Helen told us. “Each season, I lay ALL of my clothes out on my bed. I then pick up each piece and decide what to keep for now, what to store for later, which items I’ll keep in the year-round rotation, and what to donate,” explained Mary Helen to Refinery29.

mary helen rowell's bookcase

“After you’ve decided what to keep, you have to make sure it has a place, and you have to put it back in that place each time you use it,” said Mary Helen. It’s an ideology she proudly shares with Marie Kondo, celebrity organization consultant and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

mary helen rowell's wall storage hangs bistro chairs, a mirror, picture frames, a camera, cooking tools, headphones, and more

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo explains that by only keeping items that make you happy and putting them where they belong, your home will be forever organized and filled with nothing but happiness.

“It’s very challenging to live within such specific constraints, but when you realize that you can do it successfully, especially with help from MakeSpace, it turns into such a liberating experience,” gushed Mary Helen.

After living by herself in the apartment for almost two years, she’s excited to take the next step: “Well, it looks like I’ll be moving to Fort Greene with my boyfriend.” It’s an announcement that already has someone lined up to move into her famous tiny apartment after she leaves.

Once Mary Helen finds the perfect place, she’ll simply update her address at makespace.com so we can continue rotating her clothes every season at the push of a button.

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