Until a year ago, I owned a large house with seven bedrooms, a living room, two family rooms, a breakfast room, kitchen, four full bathrooms, two half bathrooms, a two-car garage, and an attached shed. Older, rambling houses such as this are common here in the Midwest, dating from the 1910s and 1920s when people had big families and often live-in maids and cooks. When my husband and I bought this old house, in need of repair and TLC, our two children were young — and we were young — and it felt like a fine adventure to lead our lives in this large space. And it was. We had room to spare for treasure hunts, visits from friends and relatives, sleep-overs, birthday parties. We had one family room devoted to messy art projects and rambunctious playtime.
But here’s the thing: I never felt as if I truly owned the place. I felt like a visitor. A piece of dandelion fluff floating from room to room. Only since we sold the big house and moved to a small rental (with three small bedrooms, a living room/dining room, and a kitchen) do I realize that I was born to inhabit small spaces. I don’t know how else to explain it, but that large house was just too much space for me to possess.
The funny thing is that my dachshund felt the same way. At our old house, he was never happy hanging out in the large backyard. But he will stay for hours outside in the tiny yard of our new house. I think he feels that he can “own” this space — patrol it and control it.
Now in my small studio rental apartment in Villefranche with a bed nook, sofa, small dining table and tiny kitchen, I am once again realizing the joys of small spaces.
Giving up the big house that I loved but never truly possessed has given me the money to travel to this new small space where I study, write, drink wine, entertain a few friends, and eat goodies from the market and boulangerie.