Small Space Living

Tip 03// Disguising cables

There’s one thing that comes with Mr. Debtist’s love for techy things that I absolutely have difficulty embracing. Cables. A motley crew of them, tangled, multi-colored, snaky things making their way into our rental properties, and now, into our home. I remember the first day I stepped into the boys’ house back when we were all in undergrad, young and carefree. You could say that their cables were of the same nature, a mangled mess, running from the downstairs to the upstairs and in between bedrooms. Even after grad school, their first house that they shared together as working men involved a number of wires and Wi-Fi receptors thrown onto the walls and ceilings, framing doorways, finding their way into boyish loves: computers, TVs, consoles, etc. Complain as I might, there is just no separating my darling husband from his love for video games and reddit, just like there is no separating me from my books. He deals with my books, so I will have to deal with his cables.

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Off course, dealing with the cables can insinuate a whole slew of solutions. The most aesthetic also being the most expensive. Ideally, we would wire the cables within the walls, so that they can snake around, unseen to guests and residents alike. Unfortunately, that would require a permanent solution to the living room, which I am not ready to commit to. We are still living with the hand-me-down couch from my college roommate, a couch that has been in my life for five years. It isn’t perfect, but we are all about making do for now, while we tackle the student debt. But you know how it is. Without the perfect couch, I won’t know the orientation of the room, which means I won’t know which wall the projector will face, which means we don’t know where the speakers will go, et cetera. So the more permanent and ideal solution will have to wait.

I have also considered buying some of those cable covers. The boxy kind that houses pesky wires and run along baseboards, better disguised. We actually had such a thing at our rental, which wasn’t so bad. However, I did not want to buy any more said cable housing knowing the solution is temporary and that it would require creating more plastic waste, not to mention spending.

So along the lines of our daily mantra, “make do with what you’ve got”, I grabbed a stapler and left-over paint from the can sitting in the closet underneath the stairs. I took the wires and stapled them in horizontal tracks along the baseboards, trying to make their way as neatly as possible from the audio box to the projector. I then painted over them in white, LA apartment style. I took a step back, and admired my work.

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It’s been about two weeks since I’ve done this project. To be frank, I have forgotten about the wires. It isn’t so much that they’re disguised completely. They’re only slightly less horrid than before. But there are more important things than worrying about how wiring looks against your baseboards. No one has commented on them, which means no one is really looking at them. Or if they are looking, maybe they approve of the city-style chic my painting over them has tried to mimic. Maybe it feels a bit more New York, emitting the older loft-like vibes of a more mature taste. We look on the bright side of things around here, always.

 

Small Space Living

Tip 02// There is ALWAYS room for a loved one

When we tell people that we are not ready to have children at this time, their next step is usually to inquire about the likelihood of us owning a pet. A feline friend or a canine, perhaps? To which we have shot them down with equal fervor, choosing our own privacy, space, and time over additional responsibility. Why would we want to complicate our lives after everything we’ve done to create space? What we didn’t know was that the universe had plans of their own, and decided that if we were not going to search for an animal to love, I suppose it was going to dump one on our laps, or rather, in the midst of our nightly walking path. I guess it’s a way to fill up the space that we’ve purposefully made room for, with things of meaning and value. After all, that’s what this life we created is all about.

As you can probably guess, we have added a new member to our home. Which begs the question of how to even begin thinking about bringing in an additional breathing being into small space living. The answer is simple and easy. Which is that there is always room for another loved one.

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We were still renting at the old loft and were doing our usual mid-summer night’s walk through the neighborhood, when this orange ball of fluff appeared out of nowhere, and approached us. He didn’t approach with hesitation or signs of fear. Boldy, this little guy walked right up to Mr. Debtist’s bare ankles meowing and literally head-butted him, an obvious indication that someone needing some pets. Mr. Debtist knelt down and gave him a little head pat, which was invitation enough for the fellah to continue purring and head-butting his way into our little hearts. After getting a minute’s love from Mr. Debtist, he came after me. Nudging me with his little ears and rolling over to get some belly pats, it was easy to see that he definitely was an affectionate little creature. Once ten minutes of giving him attention passed, we got up to continue our walk home, and he followed us for a ways, meowing his farewells.

After our first introduction, we started visiting him every night. He was reliably  found in front of the same door, which made us think that perhaps he was owned by someone else. However, the occasional interview with the neighbors taught us that he was a stray cat that appeared around the time we first saw him. One neighbor let him into his business front every morning for the entire day while he was working. When he left for home, he would put the kitty out. Another neighbor would feed the cat when she got home from work. When I asked her why she only fed him wet food, she told me it was because he was toothless, a dagger delivered straight to a debtist’s the heart. A third neighbor took the liberty to name him Tucker.

In mid-September, we closed on escrow! As we were preparing to move, my woes were mostly centered around leaving the loft that was our home the past two years. We started living in that loft before we were even married. We experienced so many moments with close friends and family, and on our own, too. We imagined we would buy one loft just like it in the area. But that’s not where life took us. It took us away from where we first set our roots to grow, and it took us away from that darned cat.

Of all the things I missed most about that place, I didn’t miss anything more than our feline friend. Admittedly, we made some ventures back to the old place for tying up loose ends, and looked forward to seeing his face. Each time, I feared someone else had fallen in love and taken him away from us. Each time, there was a moment I held my breath, in case we found him no longer there.

One week ago, we went on our usual visit, when a neighbor popped up from his balcony and tried to get us to take him home. He praised that cat and really pushed and shoved, but we didn’t budge. We weren’t interested in taking a cat in, or so we said. We would jokingly say, “Let’s take him home,” and look at each other and grin. Mike said he was down if I was serious, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up space in our new home. Small enough as it is, where would a kitty scratch post go? Or a litter box? More importantly, where does it go so that it is considered to be even remotely sightly? Where can it be placed so that I won’t have to gawk at its ugliness, that fiendish plastic bin being?

Then this past weekend came and went, along with it a series of natural events.

It has been so long since California experienced rain, I can’t even pinpoint when it was. Perhaps we missed the rain while we were away on vacation? My memory pinpoints to June, of LAST year. Well, rain it did this weekend. Sunny, 98-degree weathered Friday brought in thunder and lightning in the early evening, along with a torrent of rain drops. Angry rain, momentarily, and then a drizzle until next morning.

I was walking the three blocks it takes to get to work, in the cold, on the wet, and thought about that cat. How was he faring? Meowing his head off, no doubt. Asking for a warm body to hug, maybe? It rained all of Saturday, and that’s who I kept thinking of. I voiced my concerns to Mr. Debtist, who agreed and repeated that he was down to take the cat home. But still, I hesitated.

Sunday was lovely, in contrast. A day well spent with my parents and brother. In between the socializing, Mike and I teetered between going to pick up the cat, or not. Since it was a sunny day, and I was busy entertaining family, there wasn’t anything to push me over the edge.

Monday … Monday was a different story. Providence brought about dreaded Santa Ana winds. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning, and could not go back to sleep. The double-paned windows creaked in misery, singing a sad song that brought my mind to the cat, once again. Darned cat. Trees have fallen over, in surrender. Has that cat, too? My co-worker brought news of a lady who was killed in the morning by the wind a tree pushed over by the wind. Has the cat suffered the same fate? I couldn’t torment myself anymore.

I texted Mr. Debtist to pick up the cat after work. He drove back to our old place, and there was the cat, waiting. This furry creature weaseled his way into our hearts, and now has a warm home, just before the winter months. We took him to the vet yesterday, and we picked up the minimal necessities. Turns out, there IS room for a loved one and his things. Our small space just got a little smaller, but our lives just got much more grand. The cat’s, too.

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Meet Theodore:

  • Age: Guesstimated to be about 4-5 years
  • Physical Appearance: Orange, Short Haired, Green-Yellow Eyed. Has a small tip of his ear cut off, for when the Rescue and Release Program took him in and neutered him in the past.
  • Almost toothless. Has severe periodontitis, so we are extracting what few, decayed teeth he has left in a few months, to make it entirely official.
  • FIV+. Poor guy, must’ve gotten in a fight at some point with another FIV+ cat. It doesn’t mean he can’t live a long and happy life. Only that his immune system is weak and we need to monitor his health a bit more closely. Hopefully, we give him happy days for the rest of his cat life.
  • Personality: Loves cuddles and head scratches, is very talkative, and social. Feels unsure about his carrier, and does not like the way we pick him up. Not a picky eater, and loves to take cat naps.
  • The newest addition to our home.

 

 

Small Space Living: We’ve Joined the Small House Movement!

It’s likely apparently obvious to those who enjoy this space that I have a slight infatuation with decreased consumption, which stems from a cognizance regarding third world countries, from whence I came, and the less-ness that exists (in terms of material goods) in correlation to the comparative abundance of happiness levels. So when the small house movement came into my radar, as I was exploring theories of minimalism, essentialism, and frugality, I was on board like a runaway child on a boxcar train.

The small house movement is embraced by those privileged enough to have an interest in reducing their living quarters to something more practical than the escalating housing  trend in the early 2000s. Technically, small housing is defined as a space less than 1000 square feet (still grand enough for a family of deux), whereas a tiny home is defined as one having less than 400 square feet. The more I browsed adorable photos of RV living and tiny guest homes, the more I thought to myself, “Why don’t we do this?”

Off course, extreme as I am, I immediately jumped to the thought of tiny house living. I approached Mike with talk of buying an RV, and posting up shop at a parking lot by the ocean. Imagine hanging macrame holding plant pots, a teeny kitchen with an oven big enough to make my own bread, a fold up dining table that double serves as a desk, and still room for a king sized bed. All thoughts of which were resisted heavily by a six-foot-three giant with claims of not being able to stand tall inside a camper. Fair enough. Just because I can fit inside a hobbit home, does not mean that a hobbit home is livable for my tall husband. So there goes that idea.

So then I started looking at homes bordering tiny. I set limitations on my Zillow searches for homes 600 square feet or smaller. Unfortunately, very few searches came up in Southern California, and unless we wanted to co-live in someone else’s backyard, zilch came up in Orange County. Somewhere along the way, I realized that my desires came from something external, specifically, from the appearance of tiny living. The homes that I was searching for did not move us towards the life we saw ourselves living. It may keep us away from over-consumption, out of necessity due to lack of space, but I realized we didn’t need to buy a tiny home in order to do that, too.

Once I saw that, I started to go back to our original idea, which was to buy a live/work loft like the one we were currently renting. The dream is to one day, wake up and walk downstairs for work. To work together doing something that seems mundane, but involves creating something as well, to share with the community. In order to make this dream a reality, we started looking at properties that would set us up for a future business. So that’s what we ended up doing.

We bought a 1,500 square foot live work loft in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. The greatest part of all? We technically joined the small house movement too! Our living space resides on the second floor, and the downstairs is partitioned specifically for a business, or a roommate for co-housing. Since the business has over 500 square feet of space, it leaves us with around 900 square feet of living space on the second floor. I’ll pretend that counts as small house living! It has everything I need and more, but without the excesses of a typical home. For example, there’s not closet on the second floor. There’s not even a bedroom or bedroom door. In fact, it’s an open floor plan, with no doors at all, not even a bathroom one. Minimalist to a high degree, but made even more functional in its sparseness.

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In this new series, Small Space LivingI hope to delve into the pros and cons of living with less. Some of the things I look forward to most about living small include:

  • Increased cash flow – When we were searching for a live/work loft, we had the choice of accepting a counter-offer for $650,000 and a counter-offer for $499,900. We obviously went with the latter. Now imagine if we were going to compare this place to a stand-alone home! Smaller homes might afford you a smaller mortgage, but there is the added benefit of lower property taxes, decreased homeowners insurance, and less maintenance costs. Imagine if you took the extra money you saved to improve on your home insulation or invest in solar roof panels and skylights to reduce energy consumption. Or you know, funnel that extra cash into paying down student debt, or creating the life you want to live.
  • Less Maintenance – Nothing excites me more than the fact that I will not have to spend hours of my days off keeping a large house clean. I recall my mother sweeping the floors day in and day out, and wondering to myself if she would have more time to relax if only we had a smaller home. Cutting down the hours needed to maintain a home leaves more time for enjoyable activities, furthering a business venture, or simply spending time with loved ones.
  • Lower utility bills – It costs less to cool down a small home in mid-summer’s heat than it is to cool down a large mansion, especially in deserty California.
  • Reduced consumption – The thing I love most about limited storage is the limiting effects on gaining even more stuff. Gone were the days when I would go rogue at a shopping mall, and there’s hardly a purchase I make now that does not involve hefty consideration. I avoid the cycle of buying more things, and then buying more storage for said new things. So many Americans use their garages as storage space, and when that isn’t enough, rent out a separate storage unit to store even more of their stuff! What’s the point of owning things that you never use? Currently, I have made a habit of getting rid of something that no longer serves if I need the room for something that adds more value to my life. So yes, I guess you can say I am pretty excited about the limited storage space.
  • More time with family – Have you ever left a family gathering and realized that you never saw Uncle Bob, or didn’t have a chance to catch up with your cousin Joe? Less space means that more room must be shared. When I was growing up as a teen, I thought having my own space was the most amazing thing ever. Now, I realize that we humans are social beings, and there is so much to be garnered from our togetherness. I’m all for a space that encourages bonding over group activities and dinners, strengthening relationships and creating memories. I now know the truth, which is this: Our dreams will end once we achieve them, but our memories will last our lifetime.

Off course, all this isn’t to say that small house living is entirely fantastic, let alone easy. Easier for some, but still, there is the question of where the clothes will go, and how to make do. Hopefully during the journey, I’ll share some solutions, and reveal some tips, that even I have yet to discover. What I do have to say about it is this: thinking about all that we already have, rather than what we don’t, leaves plenty of room for gratefulness to abound. For example, vaulted ceilings and 25 foot windows that grant me an abundance of natural light (and joy). A balcony for escaping, when spaces are not enough. Working appliances, and a roof over my head. An opportunity to celebrate our home with both sets of parents tonight. You know… the basics.