Small House Lessons...
I live in a very small house. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. The main house has 1200 square feet and just one bathroom. My kids and I have lived in it since 2016 together, me and two teens, with one bathroom. And it has been lovely. Really. We have never all had a stomach flu at the same time, so I can still say lovely and have it be true.
I built them each studios in the back so that they could have their own space. And when I look at the property, I can see the evolution of us. The three of us. When I bought this tiny home, my son was living with his dad. So it was just my daughter and I. So the space worked. But once my son moved back, it was instantly too small. I thought about selling, but knew that I just didn’t have another move in me. I had to figure out a way to make it all work. We did. Happily for the most part.
I love my house. I love the inside. I love the outside. I love what I have been able to create in both spaces. I love that we get to live in this place that is both beautiful and curated. My house was a blank canvas when I bought it. The outside, ugly and neglected. Nothing made sense. Now, it flows and supports, my kids hanging out in the backyard with their friends. The California living room...which is really a backyard.
There are so many things to love about my life in this home. But there are also things that I do not like. I wish I had more land for the animals. I wish that I was not in a neighborhood with neighbors right next door. I wish that I had more space...
And right there, that is today’s real topic...space. The final frontier. Interior and exterior space. And of course, I am no longer talking about the house.
My friend posted on our communal thread that she just got a dressing table. And sent a photo. I love it! I have wanted a dressing table for a really long time, a place I can sit and do my hair, some where not standing in the bathroom. But I do not have the room. I mean I could give up my desk in my office, but then where would I work? I was filled up immediately with a sense of gratitude for her, that she was able to have that in her house, while simultaneously coveting it and wishing I could have the same. And immediately, I became dissatisfied with my space. I suddenly needed more of it, more bedrooms, bigger rooms that were not built in 1939. And for a moment, I was caught again in that age old trap of me wanting, and not appreciating.
In a flash, my house was too small. I didn’t have what I needed. I was unhappy with my current digs. Because what I clearly lacked was space. But after a moment or two of quiet reflection, I saw that in reality, what I lacked was gratitude.
I have a lovely home that really has plenty of space. What I have too much of is crap. And if I really wanted to, I could have a dressing table, I could get rid of the couch in my office and put a dressing table there. It is a complete fiction that I do not have room. What is true, is that I have the room but I would have to make some changes to accommodate that want. And I am frequently, like now, unwilling to do that. So I don’t REALLY want the dressing table. I could have it if I wanted it. But I don’t. I want things to be as they are, the way I have made them, but I want the never ending space to add more shit to my life without sacrificing the shit that I already have...
I want what I want when I want it.
I just went through a major purge but if you come to my house, you wouldn’t notice it. Like at all. My closets are still way too full. And I have four of them. Albeit that they are tiny and were likely roomy in 1939 when people had like twenty items of clothing to include shoes. But in today’s largess and excess culture, it takes four closets to hold all my stuff and that results in me being thankful that I do not have more space because I would just fill it up with more shit that I do not have time to wear. Seriously, how much is too much? Look at my fucking closets and you will see. Right there, the living testament to too much. And yet, I buy more all the time. Clothes and shoes being my downfall. My vice.
But what I really want to talk about is space. My exterior space. My interior space. I am one of those people whose exterior space has to be a certain way, otherwise my interior space is a total wreck. I mean, I am a mess if the house is a mess. I can’t handle it. Ask my kids. I need the controlled order of a clean, clutter free house in order to function in daily life. If a fur ball rolls across the floor (and they do, daily, because I have three dogs and two cats) I immediately have to clean it up. Otherwise any peace of mind I have is gone. Like I am immediately disturbed. And yes, I know that this likely means that I have serious OCD. But I don’t care. I do not want to change. I do not see it as an issue, well, I do, but I have no desire to change it.
There is something that happens to me internally when I am capable of controlling the exterior world. I feel safe. I feel ok. I feel happy. I cannot tell you the level of elation I have when the house is clean and everything is put away. It is as close to Nirvana as I will likely ever get. I mean it is the same feeling I get after completing my daily mediation and yoga practice. I feel so fucking good. Like so good. Like it should be against the law kind of good.
What I have come to know about myself is that I need a lot of space but there is such a thing as too much space. Because the more space I have, the more I have to control it. Clean it. Declutter it. And that takes time and effort and will make me super stressed out if I have too much of it.
I have always been this internal/external person. I seek to calm and quell the internal with the external. Like if I can get control of what is out there, then the in here will be ok. And I know, I mean I fucking know that it really works the other way around, when I control the internal, the external kind of takes care of itself.
This is why I am likely going to die in this house. It is perfect for me. I have spent so much time, working, fixing, arranging, to finally have it reflect me, what I want, what I need, what I love. And even though it is small, it makes my compulsion to control it manageable because if I had a 5000 square foot house, I would be a shitshow. I mean I had a 6 bedroom, 4 bath house two houses ago, and all I did was obsess about it, plan projects around it and drive myself and everyone I lived with nuts about it. It was too much space. Too much for me to control.
So I see there is this nexus between space and control for me. I see that this need for there to be external order for me to have internal order, likely messed up and something I need to work on. But for today, I see that this is just a need of mine. Just what I need, and I can give myself that. I have worked hard to provide this home to myself and kids and I can, relax and enjoy it, as soon as it is all cleaned up.
I told my friend the other day that I clean up dog poop, blow off the back deck and water every day. She looked at me like I was crazy. And we all know I am. But I love doing those things. I have learned to find so much peace and contentment in the caring for things I love. For the house that I live in, for the people I gave birth to, for the animals I have collected, for the plants that grace my home and yard. This living curation of my life, lived moment to moment, one space at a time.
So yes, there is a part of me that wants more land. That wants a bigger house with more space. That sounds lovely, except that I will be there and I will immediately launch into high gear, attempting to control and change the exterior so that my interior is serened. And that, I have learned, does not bring or lead to serenity. That leads and brings dis-ease. A constant and unremitting dis-ease with my life.
My tiny house is a daily living lesson, forcing me to examine, review and own that I have issues with enough. Like don’t even see it until I am swinging past it on my way to the next excess. But because of the smallness of size, I can, and do get the chance to review, to assess and to ask myself the hard, hard question: Do you have enough? And if the answer is no, then just where in the hell do you think you are going to put more? And how will that make you feel?
Controlling. It will make me feel controlling. And that is what having a small 1939 house will help you see every single day of your life...that while in today’s world, I can determine that I do not have enough, but if I look at the world from my home’s eye, I have more than enough, in fact I have way too much.
So my home, brings me back, back to myself, back to my ongoing, sometimes hourly inventory of all the things that I think that I lack, that I am sure that I need, and lands me squarely in a place where I am sure that right now in this moment, I have more than enough, I am more than enough and I am truly grateful for all that I have, and all that I don’t. Like a dressing table. And in this process I can be so grateful that my friend has this and I do not. I can be happy for her, without insisting and demanding and controlling that I be given, or acquire the same.
I am not sure what inner peace really looks like because it is so changeable and constantly evolving, but I am sure today that it looks like not having a dressing table. Even though, my head tells that my life would be better if I had one. I can see that today as just another fiction of my life, that when believed takes me away from all that really matters and lands me in the middle of the vast nothingness I have lived in for way too much of my life. Small houses, for me, create manageability, some structural guard rails if you will for someone who, at least so far, really needs the exterior of my life to be manageable, in order for my internal life to make sense, if only to me.
What mine would look like...
What my friend's looks like...we are different in taste but have a shared love of similar things. Love you Nicole!