When 650 Equals 450

Closets and boxes and crap... oh my!

Closets and boxes and crap… oh my! (Old apartment flashbacks)

I have learned a schwack of lessons during our recent move. (Yes, a whole SCHWACK!) I am still processing the adjustment of everything on an energetic level (which partly explains my dire absence from the interwebs lately). However, while my delicate chakras continue to digest everything that’s happened to us in the past month, allow me to shine a light on a very particular lesson that I must have learned simply so you don’t have to. Read on and learn, dear friends– read. and. learn.

Two years ago, when we left our beloved winter cottage on the lake and came back into the city to rent something “basic and cheap” for Harbour season, we stumbled upon our ghetto apartment in the heart of Victoria. It met our sole criteria– “basic” and “cheap”– so we signed our names on the lease and thus ushered in an era of Pain and Suffering for ourselves. (That was Lesson #1, by the way: “In the future, craft a more extensive/less pathetic list of criteria for winning apartments”. CHECK.)

Anyway. Right after* (*yes, not right before) we had signed our souls away for the low, low price of $650 per month, I asked our landlord what the square footage of our glorious new residence was. I needed this information for tax purposes, and our landlord didn’t skip a beat when she answered “640 square feet”.

Okay– 640 square feet. Small. But manageable.

Since I am a mathematical genius and have a keen attention to detail, I proceeded to take the measurements of Marty’s studio space manually. I needed to know the percentage of Marty’s work space to our whole apartment (yay for home office deductions!), so I wielded the Measuring Tape, divided the size of Marty’s studio by 640 square feet and voila! I had a number I could plug in to the tax forms come tax time.

Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space! Yeesh...

Aaahhh… Welcome to our bike room slash art studio slash plant storage space slash recycling depot! Yeesh!

During the next two years, we did nothing but complain about our 640 square foot apartment:

Yes, we have a lot of stuff in here, but gee– it feels so cramped in here!

It would sure be nice to live somewhere with 2 million square feet! At least! Then we could fit all of the art supplies, bike stuff, books, etc.

By golly, 640 square feet sure feels small!

(This wasn’t even factoring in our other complaints, like having elephants for upstairs neighbours and that time when the building leaked, flooded our apartment, and ROTTED OUR MATTRESS!! But I digress.)

For nearly two whole years, our apartment felt supremely tiny. We were horrified at the thought of having visitors there, so nobody was allowed to enter unless it was 100% essential. (My mom never actually saw our place, despite coming to Victoria several times during our lease. Cough. And when we needed to have a friend water our plants while we were away on holidays last year, I probably spent about three hours blathering about my supreme embarrassment before permitting her to even cross the threshold of the apartment.)

And then I needed to e-mail her helpful photos from afar, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE

And then I proceeded to e-mail her helpful photos like this from Arizona, so she could locate specific items that could technically be ANYWHERE on our jam-packed shelves.

Needless to say, when I saw a listing for a much, much larger suite on the top floor of a heritage house, I lunged at the opportunity to jump from our microscopic ship. So we packed. We cleaned. We unpacked. We cleaned some more. And just before we had our final walk through in the old, tiny apartment, I decided to measure the whole place, just for kicks. (Yes, I am a nerd.)

I whipped out Ye Olde Measuring Tape for the last time there, calculated some lengths and checked them twice. A few days later, I plugged the numbers into my trusty adding machine and was stunned to discover that they yielded 445 square feet total, not even close to 640. Thinking I must have made an error in the basic length x width formula, I calculated all the areas again. And then again, when I arrived at the same number and thought to myself that I must have missed a decimal place or something.

Nope. 445 square feet. No wonder it felt so small!

For two years, Marty and I crammed an art studio, a fully-stocked inventory of art reproductions and supplies, a virtual Tour de France of bicycles, and normal things like a bed, couch, and dressers into a teensy-assed 445 square foot apartment! If somebody had asked us out of the blue, “Hey! Do you want to live in a 445 square foot apartment?”, we would have answered an emphatic HELLS NO! If we were methodically checking out places to rent, a 445 square foot place wouldn’t have even made it onto our radar. By a long stretch! And yet we lived in one, quite miserably, for nearly two years of our lives.

LESSON LEARNED: Use a measuring tape and figure it out for yourself.

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED: If it feels small and cramped… it probably is.

So there you have it! Now you never have to live in a 445 square foot apartment unless you’ve made an informed, conscious choice to do so! Aren’t you glad that I learn these embarrassingly simple lessons so you don’t have to? You’re welcome! 🙂

27 responses

    • You caught me, Kathy! I’m just about to whip out my measuring tape and confirm the size of our new place. HA!

      What I can confirm is that it is much, MUCH larger than 445 sq ft. (But thanks for the reminder to get the facts!)

    • Hey Cindy– I feel like a queen getting to stretch out and even have some empty spots in our new place. Empty spots: Imagine that!

      As far as taxes go, yes, we can re-do them for credit if we like, but the work it will take to do that might not justify the adjusted savings. I’ll double check with our accountant…

  1. o.O

    My first apartment after moving back to L.A. was bigger than that, for solo living! I’m trying to imagine cramming more into that. And, of course, wondering how my son is going to feel about sharing a tiny room (maybe 8×9?) with his sibling when s/he arrives. He’ll find a way, as you did, until more spacious options are open!

    • We all plug along with what we have, Deborah, that’s for sure. I’m just stunned at how effective we were at jamming everything into such a tiny space for so long! We win at being delusional, I guess!

      PS: I’m sure your son will do great with a sibling in his room. There might be a period of adjustment, but maybe it will become something fun or exciting for him! Fingers crossed! 🙂

    • Definitely happier, Lisa. Our old space was feeling pretty toxic for both Marty and I, so any change would have been a great one.

      We are still unpacking boxes and getting things settled into their new spaces, but I definitely plan to devote some blog lovin’ to our new digs. Stay tuned! 🙂

    • It’s really shocking, no? I feel sorry for the poor souls who rented our old place. The 445 sq ft is now being rented out for $725!!!

      (Then again, our good friends who live in Seattle are renting a place that’s about 550 sq ft and have to pay $1595 per month for it! Every time I catch myself whining about how expensive Victoria is, I try to be thankful I don’t have to pay Seattle rents.)

    • And if you hear a deep belly laugh coming all the way from Victoria, BC, please know that I am laughing both with AND at myself! (Full confession, though: it’s only uproarious because I discovered how tiny our apartment was on our way out of that door forever! I’d probably be less than impressed if we still lived there, to say the very least.)

    • Haha, thanks Robin! As I mentioned to Laurie, the only reason why I can tell this story with any lightheartedness whatsoever is because we don’t live there any more. Thank goodness for ignorance!

  2. One the best things about IKEA is getting to go through their mock-up apartments, fully furnished as if the residents just ran out to get a quick bite. They range from spacious to shoebox and even the shoebox one looks, well, pretty spacious. Obviously you were doing something wrong.

    Although, the display apartments didn’t have any bikes, or paints, or paperwork, or shoes, or clothes, or….never-mind.

    • Believe me, Peg, I would LOVE not having to store bikes or art supplies inside the house. Just like they do in Ikea! In fact, a living space that it is devoted solely to LIVING is the epitome of my dream existence. (At least in our new place, we have a separate room where we can close the door on art and bikes. Movin’ on up in this world!)

  3. I’m glad you’ve found a new home. It’s such a stress release and weight off of shoulders.
    Landlords do love to con tenants. It’s such a shame.

    I moved out of the place I was in – largely because of the noisy neighbours and the fact he didn’t care about the problems I was having with the mould (I had to move all my kitchen stuff into the living room as even the plates got mouldy!) I was paying ÂŁ650 for that, and when I moved the next tenant was now paying ÂŁ775! Poor things.

    • Nic! So happy to hear from you– seeing your name in my inbox totally made my day. 🙂

      I didn’t think it was possible to top any of our disgusting mouldy apartment stories, but you just did! I’ve never heard of mouldy plates happening before and– let me guess– this was somehow your fault? (It always seemed to be our fault when things leaked, rotted, or otherwise fell apart. Our former landlords even suggested that our mattress wouldn’t have rotted through if only we had left the bathroom fan on for 3 HOURS after each shower. Seriously?? I’m sure the leaky foundation had nothing to do with it…)

      Anyway, happy to hear that we are both out of those situations now. Thank goodness for moving on up!

      • Awe….. that’s sweet. It’s good to hear from you too 🙂

        It was horrible. It started with the pans, then the plates, then the forks and knives! My dad even worked out where the damp was coming from but he didn’t care. I worry what it was doing to my health. Bah! Like you say, we’re both outta there. I’m currently house sitting in a nice place in London. The instability of how long I’ll be here is unsettling but, it is lovely to be in a big house in London.

        I was thinking of you today. I was making sauerkraut 🙂 I always think of you when I make it.

        When are you going to have international exhibitions, so you can come visit? Eh?

        Sunny spring hugs from over the pond x

        • Kraut = happy flutters of joy in my tummy!

          I can’t even imagine dampness affecting kitchenware. How does mould even grow on glassware, metal, or ceramics? (Anyone? Science?) Were your cupboard doors all mildewy, too? (YUCK!!)

          Anyway. Enjoy your swanky digs while you’re there! London, aaaahhh! (In spite of the uncertainty, at least you can eat off your plates.) Last mould story for now: were you reading my blog back in 2010 when Marty and I moved into (and right back out of) the mouldy, former grow op house? Ah, yes. Memories… Let’s not speak of any health implications, okay?

  4. Mega-delayed comment/re-emergence: You have every right to have been done with the place but you guys did an expert job getting it all in there! With labels, at that.

  5. Hi dana. Just checking in to see how you are. Thought of you recently. If it’s any comfort, we squeezed ourselves plus a baby into a 600 square foot apartment for a year and a half. Things fell apart. I’m now in a 900 square foot apartment and it’s done wonders for my psychological health!

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