The Things I Carry

Before tiny living was a thing, I moved into a 185 square foot studio in downtown Portland, OR. My kitchen is the size of a closet, I can open my refrigerator door from bed (but not too much because when the bed is fully engaged it partially blocks the door). My life is the definition of minimalism.

I have two forks, two knives and two spoons. A pair of wine glasses and another pair of mason jars (that serve as juice glasses and measuring cups). There are also two survivalist house plants. I am the Noah’s ark of apartment dwelling.

When preparing to live tiny, I researched (i.e. Googled) tips to live minimally. Over and over again, articles stressed that everything in the home must have a purpose and provide extra storage. Thus, my microwave is where I store my dry goods and the stove is where the pots and pans go. My couch has extra storage and is also the bed (I swear, it’s comfy!).

So, there’s not much room for sentimentality. Long ago, I took the giant photo albums my mother painstakingly arranged, tore out the pictures and created a photo box to save room. I have very few books, really just my favorites that I can read again and again because that’s what libraries are for, right?

The tattered quilt my grandmother made? Gone!

Baby clothes (mine and my brothers’)? Trashed!

The hope chest passed down to me from my mother? Given away!

But there are some things I keep. The things I’ve carried between jobs and relationships and cities and states and moving and illness. They are not useful, they do not have value and they definitely don’t have any extra storage.

I keep my mother’s wedding dress. She died when I was five and was thin and I am not. Nor am I believer in the value of marriage or more accurately, weddings. It is mostly lace and not pretty/stylish by today’s standards. It is yellowed and hangs, in a very dating-but-not-wanting-to-get-too-serious unfriendly way, prominently in the closet area of my tiny home.

It makes me giggle at the thought of bringing someone home to see, in my neat and ordered apartment, this 1970’s era lace wedding dress hanging from a tall hook on the wall of my closet which she would have to walk through and by the dress to get to the bathroom. My closet also has no door on it so from basically any vantage point in the apartment she could see it. Just hanging out – a wedding dress (no pressure or anything, I’m not looking to run down the aisle, right?).

I also keep this small paper mache coin dish that I made in the second grade. My second grade teacher hated me. This was confirmed by the fact that even though I didn’t have a mom in the second grade, she made me participate in a class assignment to make this paper mache coin dish to give to our moms on Mother’s Day. And I messed mine up because I’m sort of a messy person in general and I was in second grade so my hands were not steady and could not paint the tiny asterisk like design around the rim. The supposed-to-be-asterisks actually look like weirdly shaped impressionistic human bodies. Then I left the white paintbrush in the red paint by accident and my teacher yelled at me.

At the end of the week I brought home this messy pink/red/orange/white coin dish to my dad and gave it to him for Mother’s Day. I told him how sorry I was that it was ugly and messy and he said it was beautiful. He said that it was the perfect size and shape to keep his paper clips in at work and he would put it on his desk on Monday morning. When he retired, he brought it home and would empty the coins from his pockets into it every day.

And when he died, I asked my sister to send it to me if he still had it. Turns out, it was a thing he carried.

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