Claustrophobia… or How Living In A Tiny Space Feels Right-Sized To Me, the One Month Progress Report

by / Thursday, 01 August 2013 / Published in Small Space Living, The Journey

Claustrophobia

I’ve been mulling this word, “Claustrophobia,” around in my head for quite a while now. When I made the choice to move into 466 sq ft and felt like I had “more” than when I lived in 2000+. When I stay in either of my family’s homes that are not overly large, yet make me feel out of sorts. When I get into a motel room, the cleanest, least expensive I can find, and I feel relaxed. When I get into a large hotel room, mostly because its a score on Priceline, and its more than I need.

Its weird that the word claustrophobia keeps coming to mind. After all, that’s the fear of small spaces or being closed in. Yet, that is pretty much what I feel when I am in a large (interior) space. Is there a good word for that?

Defining Space

If you’ve met me in person, you know that I have a very small sense of personal boundaries- the amount of space one person feels is necessary to keep between them and another person, without feeling like they are being invaded. Jerry Seinfeld might call me a close talker. I’m quick to give a hug, touch an arm, sit right next to you when we are talking, even if we just met 10 minutes ago. I lean in to conversations. I’m a loner by nature yet can strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere. So I certainly don’t suffer from Claustrophobia in the true meaning of the word.

A Murphy Bed and a Castro Convertible Table (and a micro dog) are just a few of the pieces that make compact living possible

A Murphy Bed and a Castro Convertible Table (and a micro dog) are just a few of the pieces that make compact living possible

As I moved into my Brooklyn apartment, the statement I heard over and over was “Wow, how can you live in such a small place? I couldn’t do it.” I generally smile and tell people, “You see, the thing is, with a place this small, you don’t live in it, you do most of your living outside of it.”

Besides, I think the architect of our building made a ton of stupid choices and there is actually 150+sq feet of very wasted space. (I’ll write about this another time)

Right-Sized

Living small is the right size for me. It affords getting out into the world, spending time in public spaces, exploring, adventuring, relaxing and dreaming. It brings new people and new places into my life at a regular clip. Without having a wardrobe that requires an entire floor of a house anymore (yes, I truly used the third floor of my Buffalo house as a closet, it was 800 square feet) it’s easier to get up and get moving. Less choices to make every day means more time can be spent on living my dream life.

As much as I try to live consciously in terms of environment and waste/usage, this actually isn’t a motivating factor for me. But I do notice the waste all around me and it drives me to make choices to mitigate my own part. I can live with less. But I don’t preach that you need to. Make sense?

The Test

Saddlebags and a 42L Topcase contain just about everything. Add a fun cooler and we're all set!

Saddlebags and a 42L Topcase contain just about everything. Add a fun cooler and we’re all set!

This trip wasn’t meant to be a journey of self-discovery. I’m a pretty self-actualized person already. But, secretly, it was a test. My personal shake down run for all of the things that have kept me awake at night for too long.

Could packing just what fit onto the Vespa be really all I need? Would I miss having a choice, for example, of 5 colors of my favorite Angelrox wrap and be satisfied with just the black one? Would leaving my fabulous high heeled shoe collection behind for a while make me feel less feminine? Did I really get a tiny dog for all the right reasons? Could my relationships be sustained more through social media than in person interaction?

One month in (plus the test trip the week before) and most of those questions have an answer. I’d like just a few more clothing choices, and at least one pair of non-practical shoes, but I’m about 90% set with my belongings. I’ve had more fun chatting with friends through Facebook and texts this past month than I’ve had in a while, and renewed some friendships and made some cool new ones. Purl was an indulgence 5.5 years ago (my first non-adopted dog)… but probably embodies what I had been coming to in my life more than anything else. I truly can’t ask for a better companion for this life of mine.

And, for the first time in quite a long time, I don’t have that sense of “claustrophobia” about having too much space… even though I quite literally now have all the space in the world.

Adjustments and Announcements

I’ve received an offer that came by surprise but isn’t out of line with where my head has been going. If you follow my tastes on Facebook, you know I have a tiny home/ trailer obsession. And anything vintage lights my eyes up. The very day I had come to the realization that I’m totally fine with the amount of “stuff” (plus a cute pair of heels!) I have with me, but am just not loving the packing and unpacking every day, the Universe must have been listening.

“Hey, Jill, if I want my fiancé to become my wife, I need to get rid of Piggy. She really, really hates it. Interested?”

Piggy is a 1978, mint condition mini-motorhome. Basically a stretched out van conversion without screaming “creepy person who lives in a van.” Its a rock solid, self-contained, parking space-sized piece of Americana. And I love it.

From the practical side, it also has a Class 3 rated hitch, which means it is capable of hauling the Vespa easily as a “toad” (rv language for towed vehicle, or second set of wheels), on a rack right behind.

Yeah, I’m interested!

Details to follow, but in the coming few days, I not only retrieve Bruno, my two-wheeled love, but also Piggy. I can already feel the claustrophobia slipping away.

I’ve hedged the questions for the last couple of weeks from my NYC friends and family, “When are you coming home?” Now you know why, I think home may be where Piggy and Bruno, and Purl, of course, are, for a while at least. I’m going to Costa Rica for a business-focused retreat (so excited!) and then a week with my Mom while my Dad takes a bike trip in September. But other than that, no location-based plans.

We’ve covered 3800+ miles this month. The pace won’t be quite as brisk, but we’ll still be on the move. Purl is doing amazing and adjusts to every new situation, as long as she has one of her balls to play with, of course. Along the way, we’ve acquired a great new account/ client and have kept a steady stream of work coming in. I also have a marketing push coming in the next week that will keep me busy enough for quite a while. My apartment is occupied, which pays the traveling expenses.

So now, we are Vespa + Laptop + Tiny Dog + Mini-Motorhome. And all the space in the world. Thanks so much for tagging along on the journey, stay tuned for so much more!

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