As friends unloaded boxes into our tiny new apartment on the first of August, in the withering heat of summer, I planned my escape. I’d just say something about going to get more cleaning supplies (the place was filthy) and drive away. The gloomy hallways, the strange smelling carpet, the piles of stuff that wouldn’t fit could all fade as I drove off into the sunset. The place was a dump.
Every time I climbed the stairs with another box on moving day, I contemplated leaving. Embarrassed by the mounds of stuff that obscured the living room, enduring the disgusted but determined looks of two ladies who chose to stay and scrub like saints, I just wanted to get away, retreat to our spacious, wood-floored, dishwasher equipped apartment and say it had all been a mistake – we were coming back.
But the last box made it off the truck, my husband and I mantled the bed, and we’ve now notched over 30 days in this hovel.
I still haven’t figured out the shower – its mysterious ways leave me hot and cold, and then hot again. The mice have moved out, after causing me some serious morning shocks as I prepared for work. (I’d creep out into the hallway, turn on the lights and hope for no small grey movements). Two cockroaches have died on the tiled floor, and the rest seem to have retreated in the face of such sudden, shoe-thumping danger. Miniscule ants still populate the bathroom, but they’re so small and rare, it has stopped worrying me. Thankfully, bedbugs are not among our initial roommates, as many Vancouverites are finding out to their horror. (See http://www.bedbugregistry.com if you’d like a creepy crawly experience).
The carpet still lingers in some distant odious past, fresh whiffs of the good old days occasionally assaulting my nose. I billed the landlord for two bottles of Febreze, and intend on purchasing another.
Our clothes spill out of tiny closets, our living room hosts a tower of things without a place, and just this week, our bedroom window lost its will to close properly, leaving us with a constant 1/4in breeze.
Don’t even get me started on the neighbours – suffice to say, if you’re ever banging on a window at 4am for more than 30 minutes, screaming your beloved’s name, chances are, Natalie’s not home.
And then there are the dishes. Once forgotten in the ease of dishwasher heaven, I am at this very moment avoiding the third pass at the single sink as I try to keep the mess at bay.
So why write all this whining? Partly as an update to Moving On, and partly because I am happier than ever about where we live. Our reduced circumstances have actually produced some much-needed light-heartedness, and lightening of our loads.
For example, I’ve gotten rid of three garbage bags full of clothing. It simply didn’t fit. My husband has bravely discarded more of his possessions than he’s ever done “in his whole life” and we’re richer for it. We have more space to breathe, and less stuff to sort.
We wash the dishes together – valuable companion time now that he’s working again – an excuse to connect.
And I don’t have to spend an entire day cleaning the place, feeling guilty about the emptiness, or worrying about all the things we should be doing with such a fabulous apartment: entertaining, decorating, socializing.
Instead, I vacuum, sweep and dust in less than an hour, tidy a little and then enjoy the coziness. I can walk over to my favorite bakery, our romantic stroll down the Drive on our wedding day can be recreated anytime, and getting everywhere by bus is easier than ever.
We live in the back of the building, and this has proved a beautiful trick of the mind, offering a vista of gravel road and two large fir trees that belie the bustling Drive just a few steps away. The sun shines brightly in both our windows, and aside from the garbage truck’s bi-weekly gnashing of teeth, no traffic noise disrupts our sleep.
Our tiny fridge means that I spend less on groceries, and the lack of storage space means that we are wasting less food, instead digging into provisions and cans that have been saved for too long.
And we’re planning a trip to England next summer with our new-found ability to save – spending $500 less per month in rent is a revelation.
I can walk to work in 25 minutes, an activity that has been lifting me out of many a grey morning into alert enjoyment of my surroundings, as well as keeping me fitter than ever.
Best of all, I don’t mind when my saucy two-year old nephew rambles about, spilling juice and cookies on the carpet. Instead of worrying about the floors, I romp alongside him.
We haven’t had any guests yet, other than family, and I’m still working my way up to that day – pictures to be hung, boxes of thrift store items to be gone, a fresh assault of Febreze on the carpet, but it’s looking a lot more like home these days.