What Is Too Little?

Space.  The final frontier…

We’ve done a lot of thinking about where we want to end up after our big trip, and how we want to live.  And in particular, how much space we actually need for the two of us.

We stayed in a lot of very small places.  Here is Richard in a tiny room we occupied in Amsterdam, where buildings tend to be old, stairs tend to be narrow, and rooms tend to be tight.

We got by, but we couldn’t open the suitcases at the same time.  We could barely fit the suitcases in, even while they were closed up.  And it was hard for Richard to stretch out on the floor to do his exercises. There was no space long enough for his body.

As we traveled around the globe, we stayed primarily in Airbnb rentals (typically more roomy than hotels, with a bit of a kitchen, and usually a washing machine), in a few B&Bs, and in the occasional hotel room, with star levels ranging from the bare minimum to the somewhat luxurious.  We have been calling this long trip a “reset,” and we definitely had a chance to reset our expectations in terms of space.

It’s become obvious that in general, people live in smaller spaces in most of the world.  It’s a good lesson in how much we need, or don’t need.

When we left Connecticut, we sold our grand house–more than 3,000 square feet, on just over an acre of land.  It was clearly far more space than we required, but it felt so luxurious to have room for offices for both of us, a spare bedroom for guests, 2.5 bathrooms, and tables all over the place: in the dining room, in the breakfast “nook,” in the spectacular music room, and out on the two-level deck.  It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we were spoiled with space.

We need to go smaller.  I’m trying to picture us in a place where we are more in each other’s face–which will be very different than it was when Richard was working away from home full-time.  We’ve managed to go all the way around the world, spending more than five months together nearly every moment of every day, with very little friction.  But now we’re going back to real life.  No separate offices, I  imagine, and no huge music rooms to sing in.  We aren’t likely to be in a house where we can get so far apart that we can’t hear each other when we ask, “Where are you, honey?”

So now there is the question of what is enough.  As I write this, I’m sitting in a pleasant (and free) space courtesy of Richard’s sister Joan, who lives in co-housing in California.  It’s perfectly adequate for two people; a room with a queen bed, plus a kitchenette/living room with a sink, refrigerator, microwave, table, and two comfy chairs.  But I can’t quite imagine living this tiny.  At least… not yet.

How much space do we really need–how much privacy, and how much independence?  How much is reasonable in a big world where some have a lot and some have so little?