Rightsizing

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My Paris view!

When Pat and I moved to Slovakia, we downsized to an 1100 square-foot apartment. This was a fraction of the size of our Colorado home and made us feel smugly adoptive of the simple life–we were minimalists. Then, we met friends who lived in 500-square-foot apartments, raised families there, and slept on the couch so their kids could share the sole bedroom. To local standards, our apartment signified affluence and privilege and was indulgently large.

Over the course of 18 months, we realized we didn’t use most of the space, so when we moved to Hungary, we decided to reduce further to an 850-square-foot apartment. My local friend who helped us find it stood in our living room as we signed the lease and said, “Julie, Hungarians can’t live like this. You’re lucky. This is a very special place.”

Once again, we found ourselves living in a space that we thought was quite tiny yet locally, it sniffed of affluence. What everyone noticed, including ourselves, was the decadent inclusion of a second bathroom. This redefined luxury.

Our next home was in Paris, a 275-square-foot efficiency. At last, we found an apartment small enough that almost everyone agreed it was, in fact, small. Most of my American friends said, “How can you do that? That’s crazy.” Of course, our New York City based friends commiserated, but to the average American, we had gone too far.

My European friends are largely city dwellers and live in similarly small spaces. From this group I heard, “Julie, that’s perfect. All you need is a place to sleep, right? It’s Paris, you’ll be in a coffee shop.”

It turns out they were right. I did spend every morning at the local coffee shop, which had a room dedicated to working–comfortable chairs pulled up to wooden-top tables. I wrote more in Paris than I have in any other home so far.

Although a slightly bigger apartment would be nice, especially since we are moving there for a year, from our top-floor perch we look out over the roof tops of Paris. I wouldn’t trade it (or the price) for something else.

Now that we have five years of apartment living behind us, I am considering what works. My favorite places have been about 500-square-feet with one bedroom, a desk, a comfortable bed, a functional kitchen and a spot to stash our clothes and suitcases. They were big enough that we could carve out our own space, but small enough to clean in 20 minutes.

I now understand why a dog’s tail thumps when he curls into a cubby-sized hole. It’s comfortable, and carefree.

The other day, Pat came home and mentioned he needed to downsize a bit more. “Now that I’m gotten used to everything being small, I don’t like carrying big things.” He’s specifically considering what the right solution is for his camera. With lenses and hard drives and batteries and cables, it’s the largest single item we carry.

(Watch this space.)

I no longer think of what we have done as downsizing; we have been–in fact–rightsizing. Our life fits perfectly into this newly-sized container. When our kids visit, we snuggle. And if I were a dog, my tail would be thumping.



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