Tiny Flats & Big Houses

This week, I sat down with a brand new journal and started writing out all my options for what to do when my lease is up. As Betty suggested in the comments from last Sunday’s blog, I evaluated each option, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how much excitement it brought when I thought about it. The most logical option, move to the city with the affordable rent where I was already accepted for an apartment, was also the option that excited me least. I gave it a solid 2, and I gave “vanlife” a 4, which is what prompted me to put the van up for sale again.

The thing that surprised me most though was that I gave the option that I thought would be my first choice a 6. There are some things about that option that do score a 10 on the excitement scale – seeing my friend and her family, volunteering for sea turtle patrol, kayaking the mangroves with dolphins, and shopping my favorite Amish market again – but there are also some things that bring the score down. Proximity to the airport is a big factor, given that I actually want to come back to TN to see my dad from time to time, as is the cost of living. There’s nothing exciting to me about having to work more to afford higher rent.

I went to bed that night knowing I needed to make a decision soon, but still decidedly undecided on what to do. Because of that, I woke up at 4:14 AM thinking maybe I just needed to buy myself some time – like maybe I should stay in Tennessee, but move closer to Nashville, for a few months while I sort things out. I even had the crazy thought that maybe I should look into buying a house instead of renting in Florida.

Anxious to see what the options were for staying here, I Googled “short term rentals” and “studio apartments near me”. This led me to a brand new complex that just opened up in the WeHo neighborhood of Nashville in August. The complex is comprised only of micro-apartments and it is what’s called a co-housing community, meaning there’s more emphasis on shared spaces than on individual spaces. Until that day, I had no idea such things existed, but curiosity got the better of me and I had to go check it out.

My first impression was that the building looked like a storage facility, like Public Storage, with the apartments all lined up on each side of a concrete hallway in this 4-story square building with an elevator. When the leasing agent opened the door, my second impression was, oh man! this micro-apartment…it is TINY! The first one she showed me was 167 square feet, the second, only 201. I’m pretty minimal but this is extreme minimalism at its finest. I have stayed in bigger hotel rooms…at the Motel 6. But the price was good, with all utilities included, so I continued the tour.

The biggest drawback for me, besides having no place to sit other than the desk or bed, was the lack of a kitchen in the units. I love to eat (which means I have to cook), so this is a problem. And co-housing, well, that’s kind of an immersion into people, which I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for me. I love people but I’m not the most peopley person. I like quiet, and space, and quiet spaces.

When I got home, I considered the option considered and I tossed their brochure in recycling, along with one I also picked up from a studio apartment nearby. That one had a full kitchen but the neighbors were kind of…well…scary. There’s just no other way to describe it. They gave me the creeps. I’ve lived with creepy neighbors before and I won’t knowingly do it again.

In the middle of my apartment search/internal debate session, my step-mom called to tell me that she got the cleaning contract for a house I helped her bid on. Her realtor friend had called the week before to see if she’d be interested in giving an estimate on this house, which was getting ready to go up for sale. Having seen the amount of work that was going to be needed, I had volunteered to help, so she asked if I was available the next day. And I’m glad I was! Both my dad and step-mom had been sick for a few days and were just starting to feel a little better. About two hours into the cleaning, they were both so exhausted, they asked me if I thought I could clean the rest of the house by myself. Of course, I said yes. I know what it’s like to work when you don’t feel well.

When they left, I queued up my audiobook (Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly) and got to work cleaning this 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that looked like it hadn’t seen a dust rag in at least a year. I ordered potato tacos through DoorDash, cleaned two nasty bathrooms, and switched to the soundtrack from Mamma Mia before tackling the kitchen. When I lifted up the top of the stove to clean under the burners, folks, there was something furry! And I’m not talking mold. There was a dead animal (or part of one) in the stove!! Here was this house that held a family (with two little girls) and there’s a dead thing in the stove! I might understand if the house had sat for a while but the people literally moved out yesterday.

Somewhere between the filth and the dead thing, I made a decision (yay me!). I don’t care where I live, I’m not buying a house. I do not want the hassle. Period.

Somewhere between the reconfirmation of not wanting to buy a house and seeing my parents walk back in to help me finish up, I realized something else. The reason I’m so undecided about all of this isn’t that I can’t make a decision. I’ve made plenty of decisions in my life – big ones, little ones, easy ones, and even hard ones. My indecisiveness is coming from a different place this time.

All my life, I’ve wanted to belong to a family. All my life, my family has been down the street wanting me to belong to it.

It took stepping out of my mother’s influence to see that, and now that I do, I’m hesitant to leave.

Betty posed the question, if money were no object, what would you do? My answer is no different today than it was when I was a child – I’d do it all. Back then, all meant spending the night with my Granny and going to the skating rink with my best friend Karen, all on the same night, but the concept is still the same. I want to be in Florida, where I feel the pull of possibility, and I want to be here too, where I feel the love of my family. Unlike childhood though, where Granny would just pick me up at 10 PM from the skating rink so I could stay over at her house, I can’t be in both places…at least not all the time. So I have to figure out what this looks like and how to make it work. And that thought – of finding a way to have it all – tops the excitement chart at a 10.