Two hundred square feet. We were told—more than once—that we were crazy. And there were definitely days when I believed that to be true.

How many newlyweds live out their first years of marriage in a bachelor apartment—one room, one closet, one bathroom, and no kitchen?

Probably not many. Willingly, that is.

But we were a couple of young twentysomethings, filled to the brim with adventure and exciting possibilities. As we stood in that apartment for the first time, the bare walls seemed much closer together than any normal room.

My husband of two weeks turned to me and asked with uncertainty in his voice, “Will this work?”

I smiled at him through the fading light of that Los Angeles evening, our belongings scattered at our feet.

“Yes. This will definitely work.”

I loved that apartment. I loved the challenge of making it into our first home.

I loved that I had to hoist myself into bed each night because we had added eight-inch risers to the bed frame to create more storage space.

I loved those evenings of cooking spaghetti on a hot plate on the floor, while my husband offered spice suggestions from the bed. I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows that filled our home with glorious morning light, and that every meal was a picnic because we had no table. There wasn’t room for one.

But most of all, I loved how simple it was.

We rarely had the urge to buy anything, since there was no place to put it. Cleaning the whole apartment took ten minutes. The dishes had to be promptly washed because our only sink was in the bathroom (we had only two plates anyway).

Even marriage was simple. Not easy, but simple.

If we fought, we had no choice but to face the problem head-on. There was no other room to run to, no couch to sleep on, not even a lock on the bathroom door. All the issues that rose to the surface during those first years could not be hidden.

In that tiny apartment, we grew.

Before we knew it, we were packing what we could into our little purple Honda, and trekking across the country to plant some roots in Tennessee. Pregnant with our daughter and anticipation for this next stage of life, we moved into a modest two-bedroom apartment. It felt like a mansion to me.

It was there I learned to be a mother, to push aside the crippling fear every first-time mom experiences, and whisper to that miniature sleeping face, “We’re going to figure this out.”

New music filled our home in the form of giggles and late-night lullabies. It was in that apartment that more children spent their first days, and I quickly figured out how to fit three cribs in the spare room like Tetris pieces.

Another blink, and we were moving again. This time to a rental house, with fewer stairs to maneuver, a lush yard for our children to scamper across—and another baby on the way.

There was more to do, more to teach, more dreams to carry. Often I would find my mind drifting back to days gone by, craving their simplicity.

Why was it that I was always looking backwards, desiring another time like a pair of favorite shoes that no longer fit? Were our previous homes the beacons of simplicity I remembered? Was my aim for simple living slipping away with each step further into life?

These questions weighed upon me for a long time. Then one afternoon, the answer whispered to me through the open window, soft and comforting as the spring breeze.

Simple is what you make it.

I looked around my home, and realized that its walls and square footage did not dictate whether or not my life felt complicated. It was not the number of rooms or people living within them that determined it either.

It was within my hands, my power, to make it simple. For me. For us. And that thought was incredibly freeing.

I no longer needed to recreate the past in order to obtain the simple life I longed for. It was right here, in this house, waiting to be uncovered. It was in the noise and laughter and dirty laundry.

It could grow and change with our needs. Once I realized that, I found myself enjoying this new home of ours, and the version of simplicity it provided our family.

We’ll move again. I know we will. Maybe we’ll have to sell everything once again, or maybe we’ll gain a spare room or two. Either way, I’m no longer daunted by the options.

Because a simple life will always be within my grasp—wherever we go.