For over two decades, I lived in apartments that were all under 500 square feet. Here’s the thing: I wasn’t unhappy.
My current apartment is nearly 1,000 square feet – twice the size of all those apartments I lived in for all those years. Here’s another thing: I’m not any remarkably happier than I was in the smaller apartments.
Don’t get me wrong. My current apartment is fantastic, and I’m very lucky to be living in it. The building is amazing, too. But in the time I’ve been here, I’ve noticed this creeping obligation to acquire more stuff to accommodate this “bigger” life I have in this bigger home.
Today, I have two sofas instead of the one I really need. I have a dining table that can seat six, even though I only need a table for two (or, if we’re being really honest, one). I have a queen size bed where I used to be perfectly content with a full. There are eight suits hanging in my larger closet, even though I regularly rotate about four of them. The four or five ties I love and wear are hanging on a tie rack with a dozen others I never wear. There is an entire cabinet and many shelves in my kitchen that are still empty. The alien urges for bigger and more are nudging my senses of less but better.
I spent so many years training for a carefully edited and curated life in smaller spaces that I’m feeling a little thrown by the unspoken call to expand. This is something that I’ve written about before as a virtue of effective living, and I feel like I’m losing sight of it. I’m currently living in a part of the country where maximum square footage with multi-car garages and giant SUVs and pickup trucks with pristine, untouched cabs rule, and it freaks me out. I’ve been to houses where the garage is so full of junk that a car can’t fit in it. I’ve seen homes where rooms or entire floors go unused. At the end of the day, what is all of this for? I can only speculate, but I do know that I really don’t want to go down that road.
We are living in a culture littered with luxury and excess landmines that blow up in our faces, reminding us that we need (or we should need) a lot of stuff to be happy. We’re trained to want more. And once we get more? More.
On last week’s episode of Big Little Lies, there was a great scene where Laura Dern’s husband nailed it on the head: “We’re creatures of want.” Boom. But unlike animals, we are equipped with reason, introspection and the ability to stop and change – if we want to. Even on the small scale of my own “expansion,” catering to wants, it’s starting to feel unmanageable – like I’m starting to slide down a slope that could get very slippery very easily. So, I’m hitting the brakes on the bloat bus and turning around.
When I started thinking about this piece, I put three of those neglected suits in a box along with a handful of those ties and a couple of shirts for the thrift store. I also have a pair of side tables and a disassembled work table that need to go. There’s more, too. The point is that along with my larger residential footprint came an unintended bigger appetite for more stuff. FUN FACT: The guy with more stuff doesn’t win. And he’s not the guy I want to be.
I don’t need a lot of space. In fact, I kind of prefer less, which offers less concern and less to manage, maintain and clean, giving me the freedom to do things I’d rather do. If I’m going to be rigorously honest, I often miss my small but very efficient and very edited 470 square foot studio in Manhattan. It was totally manageable and all I needed.