Category Archives: Living Small

How we maximize our square funnage.

Location, Location . . . something.

As we contemplate leaving the Fun Apartment for a newer, Funner Apartment, The Mister and I have begun to prepare for a transplant. We have responded in different ways to this impending event. He has made a lot of complicated spreadsheets. I have started work on several craft projects. Hey, these dinosaurs aren’t going to knit themselves!

I have also had to resign myself to contact with the world of people who care about real estate. This is not a natural fit for me, despite the fact that this entire blog is dedicated to small space living and other mistakes I have made. Yes, I do know rather a lot about ONE apartment, but this experience, hopefully, will not translate, as our next apartment, I’m certain, will be nothing short of palatial.

However, did you know? It turns out that moving involves shopping around for a new place to live. Apparently, one has to go out to places and actually examine them to see if they could possibly contain all the fun you are planning to put into them!

For some people, this is pure bliss. People who care about real estate, bless you if you are one of them, seem to constitute rather a large percent of the population if HGTV’s popularity is any indicator. For me, it is nothing short of bloodsport. Looking at, shopping for, flipping, renovating or otherwise changing a home is torturous enough when it’s you doing it–watching other people do it seems like pure sadism. But people are into it.

You see, as far as apartments go, I’m really not that picky. As proven by our seven years living inside this Faberge Egg, I can be happy literally anywhere. So I’m not fussed about the details, beyond my list of demands. Would you like to know my must-haves for the Funner apartment? They are simple but they are not negotiable.

  1. TWO Bedrooms. With doors that close properly. And without a giant window negating the purpose of having a wall.
  2. A dishwasher.
  3. Laundry that happens at the same address as the apartment.

Beyond those items, I honestly don’t care about anything else inside.

But I still have to go look at places anyway. And so do the kids. We’ve begun a search for a neighborhood that might suit us. There are many to choose from, but we’ve polled the natives to narrow it down. Results are as follows:

  • Inwood: 2
  • Green Bay: 1
  • Weirdo Face Town: 1
  • Chicago: 148

While we are still waiting for election officials to certify these results, my best friend from high school is appalled by your suspicions that he may have abused the super delegate system to swing the election his way. However, questions of frequency and residency requirements remain unanswered as of press time.

Neighborhood aside, we had always assumed that in order to sell our beloved Fun Apartment, at least three of us would need to move out of it, and it would have to be the right three. I can assure you that NO ONE would walk in here now and express their fervent wish to overpay for this place.

So Plan A has always been to move out, rent some apartment somewhere, sell the Fun Apartment, count our money, and go shopping for the Funner Apartment.

So the search for an apartment to rent began. It involved outright bribery of the children. They complained loudly at the thought of another viewing. But, despite the protests, they are actually fairly good at it. Upon entering, they tear through a carefully-staged home by opening every door they can find, flopping down on any flat surface, and demanding to use the bathroom. Then, they declare each apartment to be the home of their dreams and immediately lay claim to the master bedroom. They are positively colonial. These decisive lads are very put out when we suggest we might look at another apartment and I can’t much blame them. After all, they’ve already found the dishwasher and counted the bedrooms. What more would one need, after one has seen the onsite laundry room? They are not interested in apartments that get great light. Light is free, people.

But Mr. Fun Apartment is an architect. This is really all in his wheelhouse and once my demands are met, he can bother with all the other business like closets, load-bearing walls, and mysterious things called risers.

This division of labor is not infallible, however. Recently Mr. Fun Apartment fell hard for a combined apartment 200 blocks north of all the current fun. Unfortunately he failed to notice that the floor sloped dramatically. If we end up living there, all of our stuff will ultimately end up piled against the eastern wall.

I do not begrudge him an apartment crush. This is not his first. One time his flirtation with a Russian Church almost cost us our marriage. But I learned to avert my eyes with the skill of an English Queen, and go off to find a bar to wait for him in. And I have my vices, too. I have had a thing for Enyclopedia Brown since grade school and the Mister hardly ever teases me about it.

Slope aside, the Mister is so enamored of this place that he wants to try subverting the dominant paradigm by buying first, selling later. His plan B is borrow a lot of money, buy his mistress apartment, move into it, sell the Fun Apartment, and pay back the money. It’s a little unexpected–he’s not usually the rebellious type, but it has been surprisingly easy to convince banks to go along with this wild scheme.

He’s working on convincing me. After all, his apartment crush does tick all (three of) the boxes. It as a dishwasher, a laundry room and TWO bedrooms with TWO doors. It will fit all our current amounts of fun plus a little extra. It is next door to a football field. What more do we need?

I try not to raise my hopes. After all, I’m told this process is not quite as fast as HGTV would have us believe. Apparently it can take somewhat longer than one fast-forward montage with uptempo music. Ah well, we will be patient.

But we will not be on Househunters.

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Ready to Throw in the Towel

Every time I climb out of the shower I curse my own indecisiveness. Then I apologize to the towels.

Once, our towels were new. I got them when we moved into our home in Philadelphia, roughly the size of the Palace of Versailles. I remember thinking “Look how much money I just spent on towels! I must be a real grown up now!”

But now, those towels, much like my illusive adulthood, are ragged and worn. They are stripping off at the sides. Drying oneself off with them leaves you covered in scraps orange string. These once plush towels even jump off their hooks by themselves as if trying to end their own agony. “Just a little longer,” I urge them.

Why don’t I just go and buy new towels, you ask? The reason is this: I am not buying new towels for an old apartment. We need to buy a new apartment—not new towels. Until we can organize ourselves to tackle this momentous task, we are not entitled to new towels.

The Man of My Dreams, it seems, is having a similar moment. A few weeks ago, a nearby fancy furniture store was closing, promising slashed prices on their inventory. “Ooh, we could do with a new couch,” I thought dreamily. Our previous couch, is starting to sag in an uncomfortable and noticeable way. We’re practically sitting in the lego trays. (To be fair, we dragged it over from our neighbors’ apartment after they decided they were done with it, so it is not the couch’s fault it didn’t have the longevity of, say, our old bed. It met us late in life. But it was great for reading.)

No, insisted Mr. Fun Apartment. No new couch. No even going to look at and sit on new couches. He was very firm on this.

It seems that somewhere, somehow, we crossed a line. From this day forward, we are not investing in anything that would make our lives somehow easier or more comfortable. New towels and a new couch would make us too comfortable here on Easter Island. And if we are too comfortable, we will never leave. And leave we must, because adolescence is looming. It is looming too large to fit in the Fun Apartment.

I’ll be honest, my experience with adolescent boys is extremely limited. But from what I understand from my panel of former adolescent boys, they need truckloads of food, delivered hourly, and they need bedrooms with doors so that they can engage in–I am reliably informed–silent prayer before going to sleep.

Also, a mother of adolescent boys will need a bedroom without a great bloody window into the rest of the apartment so she can change her clothes without hiding into the closet. I know it brings light to the rest of the apartment, and doubles as a goalpost, but people, enough is enough.

After all, this was only meant to be a two year experiment. We are now seven years into that two year experiment. Soon, we might be ready to publish our results.

A preliminary look at the data: As Big said this morning. “The Fun Apartment is basically a hallway.”

Another data point: A friend of Little’s, who attended our birthday extravaganza in the crystal palace/vacant apartment across the hall, remarked, “Your apartment has that small room with all the toys.” Alas, that small room with all the toys is our apartment.

Thus far, the data also supports my promise to myself that this will be the only time I make a major life decision for a reason as flimsy as tax purposes.

Fun Apartment Floor Plan

 

Don’t get me wrong, we still believe in micro apartments. We still believe in living small–it’s New York City, after all. For a kindergarten teacher and an architect, there is no living large. But there is living in two bedrooms. With doors. And new towels. And, maybe a new couch. We can take all this fun with us. It will fit.

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Ready for some football

Once, we lived in a castle at the top of a beanstalk. Another time, we were overrun by dinosaurs. We were slaves to Pixar in the “World above Cars.” We drifted in and out of staterooms on the Titanic, miles below the surface. We built a place on the outskirts of Lego City. We lived long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.  You see, at the Fun Apartment, we don’t just like things. We LIVE them. These kids drill down deep.

And now, we live at Lambeau Field.

The latest Fun Apartment obsession is Green Bay Packers football. (Really, is there any other kind? I’ve not heard of it.)

That’s right, these boys bred in our tiny matchbox live, eat, breathe, and (occasionally) sleep a sport that requires 120  yards to play it properly.

To be fair, I opened the door to this by letting them watch Packer games with me and teaching them what I could about the game. But it didn’t take long before my admittedly casual knowledge was outstripped and they were explaining things to me. Really, how was I to know about the “no forward passing past the line of scrimmage” rule?

And this new love of football incorporates other favorite activities: wrestling! and tackling! And because we live in New York City and it is winter, most of these games happen indoors. Happily, being knocked to the ground can only improve most of our possessions. Or we play in short spurts in our neighborhood playground. That was where I earned my five game suspension for chop blocking. (I did feel very badly about the fat lip. But it went away in a few days.)

It’s changed our discipline game around here, as well. Now transgressions like using our bodies to hurt or not being a kind brother earn the accused received a ten yard penalty and it’s an automatic first down for the injured party. Oddly, this is way more effective than the traditional time out in the bathroom. I just have to carry around a yellow flag.

That’s right folks, it is football all the time around here. They are never off the field. Many games occur on the sidewalks of 8th avenue—which is way better than those corporate dome stadiums. And the beer is cheaper.

Because we never bothered with cable or any other complicated TV business, we often end up watching the game in our local watering hole around the corner, where these guys have become regulars. Once a Buccaneers fan offered to watch them while I ran across the street to switch the laundry. It takes a village, people.

When it’s not game on, it’s still go time. Yesterday I caught the Quarterback standing in the middle of the living room, well middle of the whole apartment, really, with one arm raised in the air. “Umm, what are you doing?” I asked. “Practicing holding the Vince Lombardi trophy,” he answered as if it were the most obvious of answers. Such thoroughness is to be admired.

Another favorite part of these games: instant replay. That is when they decide that something about the play has gone wrong, so they must play it out again. So they do it again. r . . e . . a . . l . . l . . y     s . .l . . o . . w . . l . . y. This is how they do it in the NFL, right?

There is also commentary, which, though influenced by game announcers is still very kid-like: “Here’s the snap and pass is caught by my brother in the most best play ever!”

One side effect of watching too much football is that these kids can now pretty much recite ads for trucks they are too young to drive, insurance they don’t need, food they won’t eat, beer they can’t drink, shows they aren’t allowed to watch and internet service that they don’t understand. Way to hit the demographic sweet spot, advertisers. Money well spent, I’m sure.

There’s an awful lot more testosterone around here, too. I mean I know I’m surrounded, but it hasn’t been quite so locker room-like before. Now, when these yahoos celebrate anything, say correctly identifying their own socks, they throw out their skinny chests and thump them.

However, this was not the ideal year to embrace fandom. Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone stunned us all. And the meager offerings the rest of the season gave some insight into what being a Packer Fan in the 1980s must have been like. Still, the future quarterback and wide receiver remain undaunted. And the weekly requests to relocate to Titletown persist.

(Hey, I bet we could get a huge place there. After the Fun Apartment, any average-sized Wisconsin home would feel like Lambeau Field to us.)

What’s funny about this latest obsession is that our entire apartment, including all the fun, would fit inside the area on a field between the zero and one yard line. And yet, this has not affected the scope or scale of these kids’ ambitions. To them, every pass is a hail mary, every run is 80 yards, every kick is into the wind, and every game is the super bowl.

You are all welcome to join us at the Fun Apartment’s Super Bowl party. But you have to sit on our bed to watch the game. And our tv screen is a whopping 14 inches wide.

And after the game is over, we won’t be mourning the end of the season. We’re still playing. There’s no offseason at the Fun Apartment.

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Survival of the Funnest

You may well be wondering “Hey, did you guys survive the bedbugs? Or have you been carried off by the invading swarm?”

Well, both, in a way.

We came through it. We walked Bloodsucker valley and lived to tell. We’re still moving around the city, and we’re not scratching persistent itchy bites. We pass through the nights unmolested. Ten years from now, I might be cautiously optimistic that the process has worked. But we also seem to have been carried off, replaced by new, stronger more bad-ass people. We were made new through bedbugs. And even the Fun Apartment was made new. Even though it’s pretty much still the same.

It was 26 days living with the bags. Twenty. Six. March of 2017 is now just a charred piece of paper on the family calendar.

It was only supposed to be 24 days, but the exterminator decided–twice!–to rearrange his schedule.

And perhaps I should thank him, because it was those extra two days that did it. Those were the days that showed me that things couldn’t be the old way anymore. I knew on those two days that we were–or at least I was–going to be different people at the end of those two days. Those were the days I said all the swear words.

Happily, at the end of those two days, Mr. Fun Apartment and I were different people still married to each other, so that’s a plus. And I was a new person who just did whatever felt good. And didn’t feel bad about feeling good. I dyed a pink streak in my hair. I threw out at least a third of our stuff, but decided that we really couldn’t live without a giant squid costume.

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Eyeballs the size of dinner plates!

I went to a fancy party–on a Monday night–and drank ALL the champagne! I made cereal and called it dinner–to great applause! We started watching Looney Tunes! The Mr. bought some shorts! (Well, he’s got the legs for it.)

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Push the Sky Away.

I got interested in a band* and then actually went to see them play–like an actual real person does! We went camping and ate ice cream sandwiches for lunch! At this point, I fully expect the boys to come home with tattoos. I’m cool with that, as long as they are anchors with the word “Mom” over them.

So now, apparently, I’m a person who says “Yes, why the hell not?” to almost any proposition I get. But I warn you to use your power over me wisely: I’m very susceptible to suggestion. Yes! The answer is yes! Unless you’re the PTA, in which case the answer is “Umm . . . maybe next year?”

So does all this newness mean that I’m ramping up for a big blog-name-changing announcement? No. Not yet.

But we’re asking ourselves a lot of questions that begin with “When?” and “Where?” I think we’re pretty set on “Who?” I’m afraid that “How?” will just have to sort itself out later. I’m too busy saying yes to things.

So, for my mom and the realtor she’s been secretly emailing, we’re not packing up yet. But we’re opening the lens wide. We’re putting on shoes, but no pants.

Why the hell not?

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*One of the in-house music critics insists on referring to the band as Nick Cave and the Bad Nuts. Hey, I’m pretty sure Nick would say “Bring it on.”

 

 

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Sleep tight. . . .

Remember when we got the huge new bed? And remember when we were overrun with sea monkeys?

Well, those two things have kind of come together in a horrible way for us. It’s another infestation, but less friendly, more plague-y. That’s right: we found bed bugs.

Can you hear me screaming all the curse words, even from where you are? Good, that means I’m doing it right.

Go ahead and take a moment to glance around, itch everywhere, and then send us a text cancelling our next social engagement. It’s all right: everyone does. We grow accustomed to it.

How did we get them? Beats us. You can’t exactly interrogate the little m-f-ers, so it really could have been from anywhere. But where it is now is under the kids’ bed. (New bunk bed with all metal frame currently on requisition.)

So what did we do? Well, the exterminator suggested we go stay somewhere else for 14-20 days. This brought a fit of grim laughter. If we had somewhere else to live for that long, don’t you think we’d already be living there? And let me tell you, even very nice people aren’t eager to accept our kind of refugees into their homes.

Because the moving out option was not open to us until our summer staff retreat, and because the exterminator implied to Mr. Fun Apartment that waiting that long would constitute child abuse, we got instead the more complicated, larger pain in the ass option of “bag and bomb.” That essentially means that we have packed ALL of our stuff into large plastic bags. Then, the exterminator dropped what is hopefully a very lethal and effective pesticide into each bag and sealed them up.

But did not take them anywhere.

That’s right. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more fun, the Fun Apartment stuffed itself into (at last count) 57 awkward and somewhat fragile plastic bags. That number does not including the ones in the bathtub that hold the clothes we are allowed to wear over the next two weeks, and then take to the laundromat for some 40 minutes of fun in the hot, hot dryer.

And it’s two weeks of this, not counting the four extra days when the exterminator couldn’t be bothered to come by. So 18 days. Oh, and the extra 6 six days he suggested, while he tries to wrangle up the stragglers who did not deign to go inside the bags, but instead continue to wander about the apartment in search of luxury living spaces in Chelsea. (Location, location, location!)

And after 24 days of living like refugees in our own house, another fun time awaits us!: putting everything away again! It will be like moving in! Again! Except not into a new, bigger place. Into the exact same place.

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Climb every mountain.


In the interim, we’re camped out among the bags, all carefully stacked to the heavens. But we can start to see the bones of our old home reemerging. Today, after some rearranging, our little guy gasped with delight “We can have a couch?!” Upon receiving confirmation that, yes, we could indeed have a couch, just like regular people, he positively glowed.

And to show that we’ve been visited by not just any ordinary bedbugs, but ones with incredible senses of irony: I was counting the days until we can slice open the bags and move in again, and as I was tapping the days (10), a bed bug wandered across the calendar.

So, good thing we’re going through all this. It’s going swimmingly. Exactly as planned.

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The Big Sleep

A popular Fun Apartment joke is that some well-meaning friend or relative (Hi, Mom!) will threaten to send me some large item that regular people have in their house, like a dishwasher, a chainsaw, or a throw pillow and I will say “Are you kidding?? If we had one those, we would all have to sleep in it!”

Well, the joke is on me. We just got something so big that, yes, we have to sleep in it. Lucky for us, it’s a new bed. And it’s enormous. Enormous really doesn’t cover it. Our old comforter certainly didn’t.

i mean, seriously, look at this thing:

Bear sold separately.

Shopping for a bed is not something I had ever done before, because quite frankly, I’m crap as an adult, and mattress shopping is definitely filed under “things adults do.” See, I already had a perfectly good bed. The story is this: My mom was trying to lure my little sister, aged 4, into sleeping in her own room, so she bought her a big girl bed. That same sister is now pushing forty hard enough to break a wrist. So, that’s a recommendation for the Sleep Shop in Appleton, Wisconsin. You should probably check them out, if you are interested in mattress longevity.

But that box spring finally gave out, in the prime of its youth–possibly accelerated by the Fun Apartment’s Winter Youth Fitness Plan (i.e. jumping on the bed).

So we had to to mattress shopping. We trooped out, armed with our teddy bear and giant squid to test out beds. We camped out in mattress stores and engaged in a lay down, roll over, get up, lay down, roll over, get up protocol that, it must be said, makes one incredibly sleepy. In fact, when we actually chose one, I didn’t have the stamina to stick around and seal the deal. I needed some fresh air to wake myself up (and the saleswoman was tiring of playing twenty questions with the kids).

Seal the deal we did, but perhaps the soporific effect of mattress shopping may have marred our judgement. This bed is like a land mass–like Pangaea. Maybe it’s just the shift from double to queen, which is very striking. The Man of my Dreams and I are fairly compact, so a double bed had suited our needs. And I’d always thought of the Queen as somewhat diminutive–at least she looks that way in the photographs, but this realm must include the all former colonies and the erstwhile empire. Often I wake in the night  gasping, “I’m all by myself!” I panic, my arm flailing out to barely brush against the Mister. It’s also really tall. Sometimes I rather expect a tiny  dried pea to come rolling out of it. It’s so tall that one member of the family has requested a ladder so that he can join for bedtime reading. You know our philosophy of reading around here, so that ladder might just happen for him.

And are we sleeping proportionately better? Well, the Man of My Dreams is not the best of sleepers, but he reports a certain creature comfort need that is met by the “bedemoth.” And I am pretty much a top ranking amateur in the sleep department so sure, I’ll say yes. But I kinda miss the extra foot of floor space. After all, an extra foot at the Fun Apartment is well, a whole extra foot.

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List of demands

Once again, we have managed to work our way back east from our annual extended staff retreat. And as in years past, I am struck again by the following truths as we stumble in and dump bags of Midwestern bounty on the kitchen floor:
1. The Fun Apartment doesn’t actually seem that small. One would think that after getting our eyes all stretched out with all that space, the place would look more like a dollhouse when you peer in the window. But it never does. Instead it manages to look cozy. It looks like home. (But opening the refrigerator, that’s a whole other thing. That place really is tiny.)

2. Now that we’re home, even doing our normal stuff feels novel and exciting. Our neighborhood playground feels like wonderland! And the Y still has free babysitting!

3. After several weeks of Midwestern-style liberty, the kind where they can go play in outside by themselves, the boys seem to have grown up a lot in a relatively short span of time. During our visit, there were times when, while we were all still technically on the same property, they were as far as two city blocks away from me. So I am wondering how to use new long leash in a New York way. The other day, I applied it to the rather arcane and ridiculous process known as alternate side parking, during which one has to sit in the car for an hour and a half, in case the police or a streetsweeper come wandering by. But mostly one just sits in the car, going nowhere. You can imagine the non-appeal for kids. But can you also imagine how well walkie talkies work from the fourth floor down to the curb? Really, really well.

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Don’t worry, Mommy’s watching!

But, I have also been slowly realizing over the last few years that these boys are just not that keen on city life. Near-natives of the greatest city on earth? Meh. They’re over it. They want to move to the great white north.

Bite us, Big Apple.

So, the suggestion box has been stuffed to the gills with increasingly urgent requests to relocate. When queried further on this, they offered  the following somewhat surprising and specific elaborations on their dream house:

First son, first request: a dishwasher. (Love you, baby!)

Second son, first request: a pantry. “Oh! I know! A pantry! We could put things in it, like beer, cucumbers, anything!” (Really, what more does one need?)

Other ideas: a cherry orchard, with one tree for us, and one other tree for other people. A lake, but not an outhouse. If no lake, then a pool. And a treehouse that we could live in. After those demands are met maybe they could have their own bedrooms. Or even a bedroom that is not part of another room. Or just a treehouse.

Ah well, we live in hope. And–for now, anyway–in the Fun Apartment.

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