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January 26, 2010

Post-Traumatic Microlofting

Vancouver has a “test case” micro-loft project, a whopping don’t swing the cat or you’ll break its back, 270 sq. feet in the Downtown Eastside. If comments on The Globe and Mail’s website are any indication, space - our right to it and how we get it - is a macro topic.

I’ve lived in a few small spaces in my day. In fact, I’ve only ever really lived in small spaces except when I grew up in New Westminster in one of those big, old three-storey, full basement, two fireplaces, den, window seats, beamed-ceilinged family homes. My childhood bedroom was bigger than the space I currently live in.

I lived for almost 5 years in a bachelor suite in an old building on Haro Street in Vancouver called The King George. I couldn’t see anything out my windows except the sky and the neighbour across from me whose windows were no more than 20 feet from mine. I kept my blinds at the proper angle and so did he. Not open, not closed. It was all good, except for the time we were entertained by his date’s 20-minute 3:00 am  stereosound orgasm. I opened the blinds just a shade wider the next day.

Last year I lived in a cottage  on Salt Spring Island that was about 750 square feet with two decks, a hot tub, surrounded by forest. It was nice. Friends descended.

Now, a scarcity of coin called for a change and now I live in less than 250 square feet. I live in a room in the basement of the home of an elderly woman and four nights a week I sleep upstairs in a bedroom beside hers in case she needs some assistance. No financial exchange takes place between us. I have stopped saying “it’s free.” There is a cost. It's called sleep.

I’m typing this at my 4 ft x 1.7 inch table sitting on my 12 inch-wide stool in my less than 250 square foot room. It has my double bed, a dresser, a bookcase, two living-room style chairs, a kitchen table and two chairs. There’s a stove and a sink and a bathroom. The fridge didn’t quite make the cut, it’s in the adjacent unfinished room which doubles as my storage area. Now that I think about it, my junk actually has more room to move around in than I do.

Luckily, I'm an Aquarian who lives more in my head than in the world and as long as I have my computer and my bed and it's warm, I can handle it.

Yesterday, because I like to keep my options open, I went and checked out a cottage here on Salt Spring. It was owned by a greedy Vancouverite undoubtedly trying to pay off two mortgages at the expense of his humanity perhaps. Note to owner: It’s not a cottage actually; it’s a box on your deck. Okay, so it's not a cardboard box. It’s made out of wood. It has one tiny, square window.

If you’re going to live in less than 500 square feet, windows are an absolute necessity. If there are no windows, or just one, check to make sure you're not in jail or that there wasn't an intervention  by your family that landed you in detox.

My less than square feet has a lot of windows and an expanse of golden field to look out on. His did not. His had no closet. His had no storage. He was charging $550. Good luck with that. If I were you, I’d just use it as your man-cave, the place you need to go when it’s your turn to sleep on the couch.

I don’t mind small spaces. You can always find your corkscrew in small. It’s perfect if you hate housework. Not so good for parties. Loud sex? Nope! Any type of socializing with people over 6 ft who weigh more than 200lbs, forget it. In 250 sq feet, your home truly is your private getaway because it works best when you're alone. There's no leeway for screaming arguments that end with your shrieking "Mother f...er!

Every day is a lesson in non attachment. You try to go out a lot when you live small. You talk quietly and inevitably you catch yourself whispering to yourself and signing (using American Sign Language), very emphatically, "I’m gettin’ the hell out of here!"

PS: I've always thought size matters. Still do.

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