Life in 250 Square Feet
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I have too many plates. Eight large plates, and eight small plates, to be exact. Cupboard space is at a premium and nothing, I repeat, nothing, fits.
I found myself contemplating the necessity of a toaster: I don't really need a toaster, right? Toast is just twice-cooked bread and I could absolutely live without it.
The oven is too small to fit a normal sized baking sheet. It's approximately the size of an easy bake oven, with none of the fun accouterments. I donated most of my kitchen supplies to a local Goodwill: a set of dishes leftover from my French roommate, a deep fryer from my shopaholic roommate, pots and pans that will not fit into my new, Barbie's magic dreamhouse-sized kitchen, pub glasses from who-knows-where, mugs I never use, flimsy, worn out plasticware, a counter-top egg cooker, and all the mismatched spoons. Life here is too small for mismatched spoons.
I also gave away my bed and my bedframe to a kind lady with a very dirty minivan. She was extremely thankful for the bed, and I was thankful that she was taking it off my hands. I swapped out my soft, plush, queen-sized bed for an Ikea couch-bed that is only slightly more comfortable than sleeping on concrete. I bought a mattress pad for it, because I'm a bitch who needs her beauty sleep. The couch-bed is slightly smaller than a full sized bed, so when I'm starfish-splayed with my cat roaming near me, the bed gets a bit crowded.
I gave away two full garbage bags of clothes that I never wore or that no longer fit. I gave away a giant suitcase I've only used once. I gave away a large wooden bookshelf that was leftover from my ex. I gave away my fake plastic Christmas tree and the accompanying ornaments. I gave away coffee tables, bar stools, and an iron (no board). In sum, I gave away a lot, and still, I was left with so much.
The things I kept are the things I use: clothes, books, dressers, shoes, a suitcase, a lamp. I kept my toaster, just in case I get a hankering for some crusty sourdough. I kept most of my books, stacking them on top of and around my small bookshelf (my current read is Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee). I was going to keep my TV, but my cat devilishly broke it. I was just relieved that I didn't have to make room for it. I kept a small table and two chairs, my motorcycle helmet, and my camping gear. I Marie Kondo-ed my life in an extreme fashion, and I love it.
The less I have, the less I have to worry about. "More things mean more problems", etc. But it's true. My mini fridge only holds so much food, so I buy less and therefore waste less. There is a use for almost every item I chose to keep, and every item has it's place. While my peers are buying condos or houses or excreting children or adopting puppies, I shed 2/3 of my stuff and gave up a parking spot and in-unit laundry. Why? Because, pre-COVID, I was never home. My life happens in the world; up in the mountains, on stage, at the beach, traveling. My life is outside, and here in Southern California, I can be outside almost all the time. There is freedom in having less, spending less, and experiencing more. I love my tiny apartment, but it did not come without its fair share of challenges.
My bathroom is politely cramped. If I were taller or wider it would be nearly impossible to maneuver. When I sit on my toilet, my knees hit the shower. Actually, I've taken to sitting on my toilet sideways, like a mid-century woman riding sidesaddle.
I grew up in the Midwest, which means life gets cold, which means we accumulate warm things: gloves, mittens, scarves, blankets, fur coats, racoon head dressings a la Davy Crockett, face warmers, hand warmers, feet warmers. So I should not have been surprised when, in the course of packing my belongings, I discovered I owned no less than 80 blankets, which I've now whittled down to a modest four: one for my bed, one for my car, one for my cat, and one for a guest. There simply isn't room for more.
Fewer things means fewer distractions means I can't hide from myself, not that I'd want to, not that hiding from oneself is even possible. But so many of us try. We buy things to distract ourselves from some uncomfortable reality. Stare at our phones instead of working. Eat instead of facing our emotions. Travel to the ends of the earth under the pretense of restlessness. Bury our fear instead of swallowing it whole.
My apartment complex is small and communal. One of my neighbors is sharing a wifi connection with me. Another gave me a roll of quarters for the washing machine. Another told me which side of the street to avoid on street sweeping days. There is a tiny white cat that roams around each morning, and a kumquat tree outside my patio. I am on my own, but not really. And if you're on your own too, or feel lonely, remember that you're not ever, actually, completely alone.