How to Live in a Smaller Space Without Killing Each Other

I didn’t worry as much about moving to New York as I did sharing a much smaller space with my husband.  We’ve temporarily downsized from about 3,000 square feet to 1,000 — which is not bad by New York standards, but since when are we New Yorkers?

Also, we were both planning to work at home and I had some reasonable fears there might be bloodshed.  (The possibility of which derives from my own personal theory that if you haven’t wanted to do violence to your spouse, then you really haven’t been married.)

So far, it’s working.  We’re each parked in separate rooms and we can close doors between us if we want to.  I have a vivid memory of trying to study for law school while my husband was studying for grad school, only a few feet apart, and it wasn’t pretty.  Every noise he made drove me crazy.  This leads me to believe I’m a) a lot less irritable than I was when I was younger or b) a lot more deaf.

I do like the way people in big East Coast cities make better, more efficient use of space than we do in the land of far horizons.  I’m also inclined to think small spaces force a certain kind of orderliness on you — or otherwise, you’d go nuts.  “We’re going to keep this apartment a lot neater than we do our house,” I told my husband when we got here.  “We have to — since it’s so small.”

He found that highly amusing, the way he does every time I come up with an important new theory about self-improvement that will transform my life.  (He’s the kind of guy who, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, tells himself to keep up the good work every January 1.)  “You’re dreaming,” he said.

I ignore him, just the same way I ignored him after I announced I wanted to take our dirty clothes to the laundry in a cloth sack instead of a plastic one because I wanted to think I led a more glamorous life than plastic would indicate.  “You don’t,” he pointed out.

So, we continue to ignore each other’s helpful hints about life the same way we always have.  But I notice I can now live with my laundry in an unglamorous plastic sack and that we do seem to be keeping the apartment neater, just as I wanted.  It’s like Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, “Fifty-fifty, kemo sabe.  We share the same way we always have.”

And sometimes, it even seems to work.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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6 comments… add one
  • Ruth….we are going from 6,000 Texas sq. ft. to 600 New York sq. ft. that is what is the biggest worry. Also from a King bed to a double. Can we do it ? You are inspiring. Your Sunday in NY sounded like a dream. Enjoy each day.

  • Cindy A Link

    Hope the peace accord lasts.

    Almost saw your husband on the Discovery Channel a couple of nights ago. He was cited as someone who did a study on lying and George W. Bush. Or maybe it was just lying and the producer tried to extrapolate. I missed all but the end of it, but it sounded interesting!

    So, knowing when you are lying must be his secret to getting along in small spaces…

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Yes, you can do it, Pamela — but man, that’s a big change.  Hope there are no cold, rainy days while you’re here.

    Cindy — He usually requires a computer analysis to find evidence of dishonesty.  And I have such an innocent face.

  • My parents live in a large house most of the year but spend a good part of the winter in a condo in FL. My mother complains that it’s too small for them and they can’t stay any longer or they will kill each other. We go and stay at the same condo with our 2 kids on vacation and it feels luxuriously big to us, but that’s just for a week. I think downsizing is hard.

  • I have a dream of living in a small space w/my husband when the kids move away. Two small spaces, actually: a loft in New York and a bungalow in the San Juan islands.

  • Having sold my slightly larger studio in Manhattan (which I of course regret) we spent our first year of marriage in Marc’s bachelor apartment of about 400 square feet, with no dishwasher, since Marc didn’t think that was important. How’s that for testing a new twosome?

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