Taking a sabbatical from teaching at the university to see my own son transition from high school to college in a foreign country was the best decision I have ever made. Midlife pause, is an opportunity to review and take stock of life’s decisions of the past 20 years. It’s a gift that I gave to myself to linger being a hands-on parent a little longer, to be close to my aging parents (even for a little bit) and to remedy my brewing midlife crisis. Change in the routine helped me transition to the empty nest. I also discovered anew the beauty, love and harmony of relationships within our family whether together or at distance. A small 600 square feet apartment in the center of Moscow, Russia became the backdrop for my daily life with my son for few months. And I could not help but take notice of the benefits and drawbacks of living on a small scale. Here is what I came up with:
1) You will have less to clean, yet you will be cleaning more frequently. Less space to live in equals to less space to clean but it also means that you have to maintain order as things get out of control pretty quickly. In a smaller space your footprint is much more noticeable and entropy always increases (and it is much more obvious in a small space) if you don’t keep things neat.
2) You will embrace your capsule wardrobe, multi-purpose clothing and will have less clutter. You will think twice before getting anything new, nevertheless, things still accumulate and you end up with clutter but no room to store it out of sight.
3) You will have less but perhaps it won’t feel like more. While being minimalistic is a good thing, it comes at a price of having less options. And, if you are obsessed with having order, you are less likely to do hobbies such as arts and crafts in a small apartment as they add to the entropy.
4) You will feel closer to your peoples but it will be a tight group. Small space living brings people literally closer. Entertaining in a crowded space is more intimate but the downside is that you are limited to a number of guests you can comfortably host.
5) You will do more things outside of your dwelling. Overall, you end up spending less time cleaning, which opens your schedule for other things such as exploring outside of your apartment. On the downside, if you like decorating and design, it is limiting and perhaps less fun to play “house” in the limited space.
6) You won’t have yard work to do but you might miss nature. No yard work can be seen as a pro, but the downside is that you feel a bit disconnected from the earth. On upside, you end up valuing nature more. Luckily, most Moscovites have dachas (little cottages outside the city) to where they escape for the weekend to cultivate their small gardens during warmer months.
7) You will have to work extra hard to get your food to your apartment but you will get into a better shape. It is a whole ordeal to go to the store (perhaps a block away) and then carry heavy groceries back to the 4th floor (our old apartment building did not have an elevator). You are more likely to cook easy and multipurpose meals such as soups because you know how hard it is to haul all that stuff back. You also will pace yourself and eat less because you know going to the store takes above-average effort.
It may seem like living in a small space is a mixed bag, however, overall, there are more benefits than drawbacks to living in a small apartment. But to be totally frank, I should add that ideally, each person should have their own bedroom and bathroom (in that order), otherwise, small living is quite cozy. What do you think? What is your optimal square footage of living space per person?
(You can see more pictures on my Instagram @mywellbits)