We’ve all had a really bad year and a half. We barely made it through an election nightmare, we’re still battling a pandemic, and we’ve lost friends and family along the way, either consumed by the disease or cut from our lives due to the politics of masking up and vaccinations.
In the middle of all this, I found myself starting over from scratch for the second time in as many years.
Starting Over – Round 1
The first time I started over was early 2019 when I separated from my then husband of almost ten years. We reconciled a year later which involved me moving three hours away to his new home in Tampa, Florida…two weeks before covid lockdown.
I know. Bad timing, right?
We became a COVID statistic – the one monitoring the rise in divorces due to quarantine. Our situation was too delicate to survive being stuck together 24/7. We were emotional and raw and found ourselves fighting as if we’d never separated to begin with.
Starting Over – Round 2
By September 2020 we knew it wasn’t working so, only a few short months after I had arrived, I found myself once again packing my life away into cardboard boxes.
I was starting over for the second time.
Due to the relocation to Tampa, I had exhausted all financial resources and couldn’t immediately afford a place of my own. Thankfully my sister and her husband had a spare bedroom in a new home that I was told was mine rent free as long as I needed.
The room was small, measuring only 10ft by 12ft wide. And with no other option available, that’s how I found myself and everything I owned crammed into only 120 square feet of living space.
For the first few months I was depressed, rarely leaving my room to socialize. During this time the walls felt like they were suffocating me and each day, the untouched boxes crammed into nearly ever corner grew and expanded impossibly. Soon it felt as if the only breathing room I had was on the queen mattresses my sister had given me to sleep on.
I assumed I needed to eliminate even more stuff to stop the sensation of being strangled. But after unloading a few boxes into the garage for storage I realized that awful drowning sensation wasn’t happening to me…it was happening within me.
Emotions constrict more than walls – healing and adapting
It wasn’t the square footage or my stuff that was suffocating me. It was the unmanaged emotions of losing my home, my family, my husband and best friend of ten years. It was the stress of two major moves in less than a year. And it was the fear that I might never be happy again.
Shortly after that epiphany, I finally began to heal. And as each day brought a little more sunshine than the one before, a strange thing began to happen. The walls of that tiny oppressive room suddenly breathed. They took a step back, giving me the space I needed to exist, embracing me with a cozy protectiveness I had mistaken for imprisonment.
During the remaining months I lived with my sister, that tiny room became my oasis. After eliminating some of the useless junk I clung to and adding a little storage creativity, I was able to keep all of the items most valuable to me and still had plenty of room to function.
I wondered why I had ever thought I needed so much space. Could I live like this permanently? I decided to find out when I learned a new studio apartment building was being constructed downtown within walking distance to my day job.
Taking the plunge – giving up space for convenience
So in August it did it. I took the plunge and moved into my own place – a brand new 500 square foot studio apartment, only half of which comprises the open living space. The other 250 square feet make up the kitchen, bathroom and a massive closet. I probably could have bought a small house for what I pay in rent but no house could provide the location and amenities I was looking for.
After starting to purchase the furniture I needed, I began to worry what I was buying wouldn’t fit. But thanks to a lot of preplanning, an awesome app, a killer DIY room divider (with a turntable TV!), and numerous other items and tips acquired along the way, I’ve mastered downsizing to a science. I conquered “small space living” and made it my bitch!
Now I want to help others who may be in similar situations so I’ll be sharing what I can in future blog posts under the category called Small Space Living.
Hopefully I can help someone like me navigate the stress of downsizing and make the impossible feel possible for them. With a little flexibility and a lot of creativity, anyone can do it!