The Story of Living Small
December 28, 2007
We moved. It’s tiny — 509 square feet, to be exact. One skinny bedroom capped with a sleeping loft. A “great” room that’s about the size of a single-car garage. A kitchen that accommodates a cook-and-a-half, and a bathroom that accommodates — well, a commode. The icing? One closet, six feet long and 28 inches deep.
Our last place, a second-floor apartment in a Deco building, was, technically, 454 feet square. Smaller, right?
Wrong. Little did we less-than-savvy, first-time homebuyers know, that sleeping loft — all 100 square feet of it — was rolled into the grand footage total, leaving us with a 20’ x 20’ footprint, or a round 400 sqaure feet.
The new house is smaller. Definitely smaller.
Stuff had to go. Granted, the bed would take up less floor space; it would reside in the loft. So that’s, like, 24 square feet saved. And we’d be able to tuck the dresser in the closet. Another 9 squares. But what of everything else?
This lesson in purging was nothing new, really. In the spring of ’06, we relocated to Seattle from Olympia, downsizing from a two-bedroom, 900-square-foot house to the aforementioned apartment. Half the loot had to go. We took it in stride, cutting sweet deals at a blowout yard sale and relieving ourselves of several years’ worth of accumulated swag. Our goal: Only keep the cool stuff. Cut the fat.
This time, though, we had to slice up the muscle. The bicycles? Relegated to the in-laws’ basement storage. The sweet mid-century telephone table? Sold to an antiques dealer. The monster Marshall amplifier that, 10 years ago, was supposed to transform Hubby-Dearest into a rock star? Carted out via craigslist. Our Awesome Stuff list shrunk. And shrunk. And shrunk. Agony.
So why did we buy small? I won’t pretend that price didn’t have anything to do with it. We knew we wanted to live in the city, with access to public transportation. Price hike #1. We also knew that we wanted to find a place with personality (read: pre-Kennedy assassination). Price hike #2. Finally, we wanted four walls, a roof, and a floor that didn’t transmit neighborly noises. Price hike #3. With these requirements came Small, or, in real estate language, charming, cozy, cottage, and, my favorite, dollhouse. Once we started looking, though, we realized that Small wasn’t so bad. It was pretty good, in fact. Small is energy efficient — less space to light, less space to heat. Small is also kinda cute: the smaller the living space, the closer you can get to your sweetie (not always good, but nice most of the time). And really. How much of your house do you actually live in?
Certainly, we still have piles. Files that don’t have places. Stacks of small boxes filled with odds and ends that haven’t found homes. Art stashed in corners, propped face-against-wall. In the kitchen, dishes rotate from the dishwasher — a new luxury — to the sink, as we haven’t come up with an effective storage strategy for that most high-functioning of all rooms. The closet is a tumult of musical instruments, shoeboxes, luggage, the Goodwill pile, errant toiletries, and, of course, my ever-expanding and contracting wardrobe.
I keep relying on my ingenuity — or maybe Blueprint magazine — to transform the tumult into a hybrid zen-mod space that is meticulously organized in a Martha Stewart kind of way. I don’t know if I’m that ingenious, however, and I don’t think Blueprint knows about me yet. Moreover, they’re out of print after the first of the year.
Ah, the comforts of home.