What happens when a 55-year-old woman moves into a 220-square-foot micro-studio alongside 47 college students?
That’s what my friends all wanted to know. I started this blog to record my thoughts, but I hope to also spread awareness of the growing number of micro-dwelling and co-living options, to connect with others who might like to live this way, and to encourage the development of many more micro-dwelling opportunities in the United States — for all ages and types of people.
In addition to chronicling my own life, this blog will include accounts of other micro-dwelling communities and situations, some of which I’ll be exploring with a local group I have founded. And shortly after I began the blog, Eugene was declared #1 in unhoused residents per capita in the nation — ahead of LA, San Francisco, and New York City, among other places. So I will be exploring why this is, what the solutions can be, and why they havent been implemented yet.
How did I get here? That’s not such a happy story (but the blog will be).
I’m an only child. From 2002 until their deaths in 2006, 2015, and 2017, I was responsible for the finances and health care of my mother, my father, and a childless aunt.
All of them lived to be in their late 80s or early 90s.None of them had made plans for their later years.
My mother and aunt suffered from undiagnosed clinical depression. My father was a legally blind, disabled hoarder who happily lived in ant- and rat-infested filth. The home where I grew up was ultimately condemned by the city as a fire hazard. (I ended up selling it to Habitat for Humanity as is; they carted what was usable to their ReStore, hauled away the rest, updated the home and added energy-efficient features, and sold it at market rate to fund more of their work. I consider that a win-win.)
After devoting thousands of hours to my elders’ affairs, and making countless difficult and thankless decisions, upon their deaths it fell to me to dispose of all their possessions.
Before my aunt and father died, I undertook stages of stuff-disposal on their behalf. I moved both Aunt Pauline and Dad from their homes to smaller homes, downsizing their possessions each time. My aunt refused to participate in any way (“Just get rid of it all!”), while my father was psychologically incapable of discarding anything. For both of them I had to decide, item by item, what would stay and what would go — and then I had to figure out how best to dispose of the castoffs.
After their deaths, I spent many months searching for a way out of the morass my own neglected life had become. I realized that I not only wanted but needed my remaining years to be simple as possible — simpler than in any lifestyle I had yet experienced. And when my time came, I didn’t want anyone presented with the burden my elders had foisted on me, of having to post-mortemistically dispose of mountains of possessions that had no meaning.
Discovering this microhousing community, this privately run dorm, this nouveau rooming house, saved my life. It showed me that a modestly paid, single freelance writer/editor could have an intellectually and culturally stimulating life in America, with all basic needs taken care of, in a way that is affordable, simple, and nearly stress-free. I seized the last room available, having discovered it in a random web search, and made optimistic plans to move in a month later. (It took two months, at the end of which I had to reluctantly rent a small storage unit to house my Unfinished Business for six more months.)
After I put down my deposit, my downsizing began. With my 220-square-foot target in mind, I kept the essentials, along with selected items special to me, and distributed the rest to a motley collection of friends; acquaintances met through Craigslist, NextDoor, and the neighborhood Buy Nothing group on Facebook; and local thrift shops and agencies serving low-income people and the unhoused. What a small joy each time something was matched with someone who would use or love it, and what a feeling of liberation every time something departed! It was a bit like overseeing my own funeral, but then being free to go on living. It still took three or four car trips, by me and various helpful friends, to get everything to my new home. And now I have spent a pleasant year here, and have begun to reach out to others.
Microhousing communities are still quite rare in the United States, especially outside of major cities, and those offering meals, like this one, are even rarer. Having lived in 220 square feet for a year, more than ever I want this lifestyle to be available to everyone in America who wants it.
Of course I know that micro-dwelling and co-living isn’t for everyone. Many Americans want, or need, or feel they need, a multi-room home, a chef-worthy kitchen, appliances and cookware that they alone control, a backyard for children or pets, gardens to tend, and a fence ensuring privacy from neighbors.
But an increasing number of people — of all ages — have embraced the sharing economy and have come to feel that less is more. They sense that having fewer rooms, possessions, and household responsibilities can leave them with more energy and time for pursuits they value more. If this describes you … join me on my adventure, and let’s learn about micro-dwelling together.
Tags: affordable housing, microhousing, co-living, downsizing, personal