Survival Tip #162: Where do you put the people?
Where do you put all your stuff?
It makes sense that most tiny apartment queries I get have to do with managing the stuff in a tiny apartment. We’re a family of four in a one-bedroom apartment. It’d be cozy in here even without any of the attending flotsam and jetsam of 21st century life with two kids.
There’s a hundred plus posts in the archives dealing with the particulars of the stuff; how to store it, how to stuff it, how to part with it when neither or those options makes sense. But what’s harder to grapple with, and certainly harder to package into any kind of actionable tip, is not the stuff, but the selves. When I get questions about selves instead of stuff, I admit that I flounder.
How do you make the space in a tiny apartment for the soul searching, or the tantrum having, or the quiet finding? Where do you make art, or make music, or make love, or have yourself a good cry? How do you make room for aloneness and togetherness or catching a few extra minutes of sleep after a night with altogether too few of them?
What do you do when your husband needs to shape the bread and it’s 10:15 pm and you’d really rather be sleeping? Or when your wife is pecking at her keyboard because she’s had a stroke of genius she’ll devow by morning? When you said the light didn’t bother you, but maybe it does, just a little. And maybe a little means a lot?
The truth is that there are almost always block towers that need dashing at precisely the same moment that a phone call needs making, or a nap needs having, or a dinner needs prepping, or the tiniest bum needs wiping. This is life in a family with small children, of course. This is life in cohabitation. But it’s magnified, maybe, by a closeness that I’m not sure feels precisely the same in a home where physical distance is an option.
Where do you flee when your children are on minute ten of matching each other’s tones at increasing volume? Will the roof soon bust open? Is there too much of us for these walls to contain?
Pragmatists will want to know—or already know—that mostly we leave. We leave the apartment to do our work, or stretch our legs, or find breathing room enough to stay married, or sane, or whatever else feels particularly important on a given Tuesday. Where do you go when you need to move your body or cry out loud or stamp your feet? Out, out, out. Out into dark nights or the sunshiny mornings or the drizzle and the damp.
The romantics will understand that mostly we cope and sometimes we don’t and that sometimes there’s a tempest in a tiny apartment and we all still come out the other side.
People ask me if I ever feel envious of other people’s spaces. Sometimes, is the short answer.
PS. For the inevitable questions about what I do with toddler art in a tiny apartment, stay tuned. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. More on that soon.