In Praise of Small Spaces

Harper's tiny bedroom

One of the things I want to write about on this blog is living in a small space.  In Brooklyn we complain about our lack of space the way people in the Midwest  complain about the weather, with equal parts pride and totally unreasonable surprise.  When people are leaving the city or considering leaving the city, that’s always one of the reasons.  “You know, we want to have another kid, and we need more space…” Looking for an apartment becomes a weird reckoning of feet and inches.  Is it worth it to move to a neighborhood you don’t love if you will have 50 extra square feet and another closet?  Do the cultural advantages and excitements and delight of city living make up for a kid having to share a bedroom?  Are bunk beds really such a hardship?

We live in what I used to think of as a tiny one-and-a-half bedroom before I started looking at other apartments and I realized it’s really not so bad.  We have a kitchen that’s small but allows for a table, a living room, a middle room we use as a whole-family office, a bedroom, and then a teeny nubbin of a glorified closet that is our one-and-a-half-year-old’s room.  While non-New-Yorkers (and probably some New Yorkers) likely think we’re insane, we probably won’t get it together to move before the spring, when our second baby is born.

And you know what?  I don’t care. We have enough space for what matters to us – our child, our bloated (but, thanks to our space constraints, not as bloated as they could be) collections of books and records, artwork by friends and artists we admire, some workspaces for our creative endeavors.  And because there is not one square inch of this place we haven’t burrowed into in our six years here, our mass of stuff stays compressed.  Whenever I pick up new books I purge some others that I don’t really need.  (Well, in theory.)  Casual shopping has become incredibly unappealing – “Ugh, where would I put that?” I think whenever I see a big sweater or cute vintage teacup — which is helpful when living on a budget.  Harper doesn’t have a bunch of huge annoying plastic toys and baby apparatuses that beep and scream because we just don’t have room, and none of us has ever felt the lack.

And even on the days when I get annoyed that I had to move nine objects to reach the box of pasta because everything is packed into our one kitchen cabinet like an edible rubic’s cube, or I feel badly that I don’t have to room to host a big playdate or the playschool co-op we’re thinking of starting next year, all I have to do is walk down my block to remember why it’s worth it.  Because on that pretty block in our leafy corner of Brooklyn Harper and I are sure to encounter at least two or three friendly neighbors, and probably a kid her age to play with, and we’ll stop for treats at the bakery, and the corner store guy will call our her name and wave hello, and she will delightedly greet a slew of squirrels and pigeons (like greasy, urban versions of Snow White’s woodland friends).  Then we’ll walk to the park where she can run and run and run and I never even need to mow.

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