When you live in 700-square feet and caramelize onions on the stovetop, your duvet will smell exactly like caramelized onions that night unless you close the bedroom door and wedge a rolled wet towel at the base of the door. Similarly, if you make butter chicken for dinner, there’s a 100% chance that later that night when you shower, you will step out of the tub Irish Spring-clean only to wrap yourself in a curry-scented towel.
When you live in 700-square feet a gas fireplace can recreate Central American climes in about 13 minutes flat. In addition, for ultimate winter coziness, when you have seven foot ceilings, pot lights serve as head warmers. One can feel like a Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken very quickly and easily.
With en suite laundry, when the buzzer signals the end of the dryer cycle, it’s parallel to being struck by a bolt of lightning. Originally designed for basement placement, Maytag dryer buzzers were set to a volume ample enough to alert housewives on the upper two floors of a home or half a block down the road—not ten paces away.
Living in such close quarters means that there is no secret Tostito eating—and a beer being covertly opened can be detected from any point within the apartment. Much like the heightened awareness a cat has with the electric can opener of yore—even when above-mentioned cat is three miles away, about to pounce on a woodland mouse– I run in the same fashion towards the sound of a bottle opener or chip bag. Natural wild instincts despite urban location intact.
When you have 700-square feet in downtown Toronto, only 70 seems to be allotted to the kitchen area. This translates into just enough space for one Romanian gymnast to do a somersault. Two people in the kitchen galley at one time means bacon grease splattered on someone’s shirt, accidental knife jabs and random head strikes from freezer doors or each other.
In special cases, such as mine, a landlord can order a brand new fridge and request to have the fridge door mounted to open from the right side, to create more space, before delivery. However, at the same time, in special cases, said landlord can mis-measure available fridge space and order a fridge too large. This means that sometimes when you live in small spaces, the fridge door cannot open fully to the right due to a wall, even when two inches of the counter top is sawn off. This allows the fridge door to open 55 degrees instead of 90 which requires users to do serious lunging and intensive arm extensions to reach the back left corner. Luckily, here, beers are safe from shorter-armed people. Conversely, the Costco-sized Thai chili sauce bottle is safe from toppling and knocking over the 6-pack of Carlsberg like bowling pins.
I could go on about the former fridge—how I had to shut both bedroom doors to drown out its moaning. It was a vintage model, tired of being cold all the time. In the dead of night it sounded like a half dozen hamsters were running in wheels to keep it in operation. The new fridge is a moderate improvement—we still have to jack up the volume on a movie to account for the background din of the fridge running. And, oh, how it runs. I have been half-tempted to unplug it during movies (and sleep) on several occasions.
When you live in 700-square feet there is no room for miscellaneous anything. One kitchen drawer is dominated by pots and pans stacked like Russian dolls. One drawer is crammed with the likes of Raisin Bran, panko, Schwartz’s steak seasoning, molasses and carefully arranged boxes of crackers. Everything must have a purpose. And sometimes, even with a definitive purpose, items like the Krups panini maker must reside on the shoe shelf. Sometimes, space hog dishwashers that eliminate valuable cupboard space, must be employed as full-time dish storage. All house guests were routinely told not to place dirty dishes in the dishwasher. “No, this is where we store all the clean dishes.” The previous arrangement before our epiphany was on top of the fridge. Which meant all the stacked square dishes and matching square bowls would have to be lifted off in one overhead military press-style manoeuvre to the counter below. Equivalent of 50 pounds and repetitive strain injury to supraspinatus muscle. Thank god for dish storage epiphanies.
More on storage: With two semi-fashionista people with a penchant for hoodies and jeans, closet by-laws have to be put into place. Such as (to an anonymous girlfriend): “No purchase of big, wool sweaters, regardless of how awesome they are until we move.” Kim has two that require a full dresser drawer. When we flew to Charlottetown, her sweater took up the entire overhead compartment of our Air Canada Boeing.
Our shoes are already double-stacked, our jeans wedged to the closet ceiling. No jumbo-sized or double anything is allowed. Especially because the bathroom medicine cabinet height is designed for products that mice might use. Kim’s hairspray has to lie on its side, threatening to roll out and explode on the tile floors on a daily basis.
On top of all this, living below others (a couple who loves wearing their cement-soled shoes and doing laps each morning circa 5 am) means all sound must be kept to a minimum. Yes, it’s like living on a fun reduction. If the cement-soled shoe couple is home (and they usually tuck in around 9 pm), movies are at a whisper-level. Only high dramas with heavy dialogue (bonus for subtitled flicks) can be rented mid-week. Definitely no James Bond or Bourne Conspiracy-types until maybe Saturday night when we can start our movie performance earlier.
Phone conversations are halted and scheduled for seniors hours. My sister has had to suffer because of it. She lives in the ideal time zone (Banff) for my night owl lifestyle (two hours behind Toronto-time), but, due to the sleeping couple above, I have to laugh silently and position myself practically outside the window and speak in hushy tones.
But, sometimes, after living in 700-square feet for two years, you buy a house that is double that size with no one living upstairs. Or downstairs. With a backyard to lounge in (not just look at like a caged budgie), a kitchen that could fit 25 minglers AND a team of somersaulting Romanian gymnasts, space for a dozen wool sweaters for each of us in several rooms, permission and encouragement for LOUD movies (positioned far, far away from the fridge that is remarkably silent—with a fridge door that opens practically 180 degrees), space for time zone-friendly phone calls that won’t disturb the other (where laughter can be laughed LOL-style and not held in like a fart), a separate pantry AND lazy Susan instead of one wimpy drawer, and, best? An en suite AND master bath for towels that will smell like Downy Mountain Mist not Patak’s butter chicken after dinner.