Two Peas in a Pod

Posted June 16th, 2009 by Jonathan and filed in Issue 7: Living with other people
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Ok…more like two kids in a room, but more on that later.

It’s funny how the human mind can adapt and acclimatize to surroundings. I grew up in a 600 sq ft house as an only child. 3 people in a house this size divided to 200 sq ft per person. My college years were spent in a 300 sq ft apartment. Upon getting married, my wife and I moved into an 800 sq ft apartment (i.e 400 sq ft per person). We currently live in an 1120 sq ft house with our daughter (373 sq ft per person).

What will we do with our soon-to-arrive second child?!?!?! Over the past few months, we often found ourselves asking this question. One day we finally stepped back and really realized how absurd we were being. We both looked at each other slightly puzzled and simultaneously wondered aloud why the two kids shouldn’t share a room.

WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!!!

For some reason, the though of having kids share a room never seemed to enter our minds. We did have a 3 bedroom house, after all. Why shouldn’t each child have his/her own space? I think part of the problem was that I am an only child and my wife is the oldest child with the next oldest being a boy – NEITHER OF US EVER SHARED A ROOM!!! We knew tons of people who had, however, and they all turned out just fine. In fact, when we were children, my wife and I were the exception, not the rule.

Despite having three bedrooms, which would allow each child to have his/her own space, our hang-up was with the fact that the three bedrooms were on different floors and we wanted our kids close to us (reasoning here and here). The decrease in sq ft per person was never really the issue (even though each of us would now have a ‘despicable and lowly’ 280 sq ft, which is still more then I enjoyed as a kid!).

I think that as families begin to consider downsizing, “taking a step backward can really be a step forward” (Dervaes). Rather than following the typical American trend of upsizing with every life change (i.e. every 7 years on average), families might look back a few decades to the circumstances of their childhoods and even their parents’ childhoods.

The bedroom, even for parents, was not the size of another living space. It served the function of its name – to hold a bed for sleeping. With families nowadays often finishing basements and creating ‘outdoor living spaces,’ why is the thought of a downsized sleeping area so absurd?

My wife and I certainly feel as though we have had an epiphany (even though it was really a remembrance of times past.) Having children share bedrooms is not a terrible thing – it might even bring families closer together in this time of ‘social distancing.’

Fighting back Mainstream

Posted April 4th, 2009 by Jonathan and filed in Issue 2: Downsizing

It’s true and I hate to admit it – I have become a product of the ‘stuff’ society. It’s shameful but I am fighting back!

paperpileI don’t exactly live in what would be considered a tiny house. At 28 by 32 feet, my current home has an 896 square foot footprint and 1100 square feet with the upstairs included. Even though it’s not tiny, it is quite a bit smaller than the current 2400 square foot average. I look at this as simply a bump in the road; I come from small house roots (grew up in 600 sq. ft; college life in 300 sq. ft) and my wife and I don’t plan on going any bigger than our current house. We do have one problem though…too much stuff! I have often asked myself what I can do about all of our positions but there are so many that I simply didn’t know where to start. Then I had an idea – why not start small!!

I like to think of myself as “mainstream small”. That is, I look for ways to scale down that are very doable for not only myself but also for the general public. For example, a family of 4 could not very easily live in 80 square feet but could quite easily “electronify” their files. This simple act could easily free up space to make living more comfortable, to eliminate the necessity of upgrading to a larger house, and could even spur on the movement to a smaller home! This is one small step that I have taken to downsize my life.

What started as a dare/challenge/New Year’s resolution at work has now become a way of life. As a person with approximately 64 cubic feet of filing space (yeah – it’s a lot), I became the resident librarian of my office. I didn’t really mind this as I am a natural packrat and actually feel good being surrounded by stuff. What was always problematic was having to wade through all of the stuff to find what I really wanted.

Going “paperless”, although initially time consuming, is one of the easier tasks that anyone can do to live smaller. All anyone with a computer needs to get started is a scanner, which can be purchased here (if it is a tiny-living model that interests you!) Once in your home, anyone can easily convert bulky paper files into ‘no-space-needed’ e-files.

After 3 months on-and-off work, I can now say that I have cut my paper files in half and am still going strong! Every free moment that I have at work is spent scanning a few documents. I am determined not to stop until I have a full e-filing system!

After seeing the results at work, I have taken my motivation home. I have begun scanning documents that I have kept in filing cabinets for years. Many of these documents are related to taxes and so are critical to keep for at least 5 years. I also tend to keep the stubs of bills that I might need a history of (student loans, auto and home loan info, etc.). What’s great about e-filing is that there is no paperwork to take up space! Much to my wife’s delight, my packrat ways are now taking up much less space.

One note of caution…be sure to back up files!!!