When telling friends and family that I was moving to southern California for school, people’s first question was often what I was going to do with my horse. To me, Simon has been one of the easier obstacles. Once I get settled, I’ll look for a barn in CA and ship him in. Though there are still a lot of details to work out for Simon, I was more concerned with finding housing for me and the dogs than I was finding him boarding.
Luckily, the area where my school is located is more affordable than other parts of Southern California. About an hour outside of LA, it’s safely tucked away from the worst of the housing and traffic crises. It’s not as scenic and lovely as San Diego, so finding a place to live wasn’t as insurmountable as it would be in other places in California like San Francisco.
Still, let’s be real — very soon I’m going to be a poor ass grad student. Though the funding for my school is very generous for a liberal arts degree and I’m extremely happy to have it, I’m going to be making $7,000 a year for the first year. Right now I make… not that. Not that by a significant amount.
When I started to look for apartments, I quickly realized that I had three options in terms of housing for me, Eliot and Pascale:
- Blow past my budget by a solid $500+ a month in order to rent a very nice, spacious apartment
- Blow past my budget by about $200 a month to rent a crappy, spacious apartment
- Stay on my budget and rent a crappy, tiny apartment
Having the huge drop in income and general insecurity that’s involved with this attempt at a career change has me pretty cost conscious right now, so I decided on option 3 — teeny tiny but very close to my original budget.
After a month of waffling and looking at complexes, I decided an extra $150 a month was more important to me than square footage. $150 can buy a lot of things when you’re in grad school. That’s a set of horse shows. That’s an entire month’s entertainment budget. That’s a pair and a half of Kate Spade shoes on sale! Okay… I can’t buy Kate Spade shoes in grad school… but damnit I’m going to miss you Kate… love you forever.
At the end of last week, I locked myself into a year lease on a 400 square foot “Junior Bedroom” apartment near campus. It’s essentially a studio with a wall to split the living and dining room. This means my living space will decrease by 1,250 square feet — which is significantly bigger than my first home.
Since signing the papers, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what that kind of lifestyle change is going to mean for me and the dogs. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say, I think it’s cruel to keep large dogs in a tiny apartment!, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone commented as such here. But the place I rented is on the ground floor, which means it has a private patio. I have known from day one that Pascale is going to need a lot of outings, and have plans to entertain her that don’t involve a giant backyard. Eliot is almost twelve, and his energy level and dexterity has greatly slowed down. Now in our big house, they don’t spend much time in the backyard without me. Instead, they follow me around the house from room to room. As long as I promise to get Pascale a bed that’s big enough for her and I both, she’ll be happy.
The bigger challenge is stuff. I’ve got a ton of things to go through and hard decisions to make in regards to my possessions. Last weekend I had a moving sale, and unloaded tons of decorative knick knacks, kitchen items, crafts and small furniture I accumulated over the years. While I do love me a good William Sonoma decorative bundt pan, I just can’t take it with me.
I also went through now what has been round 3 of “slowly letting go of Tim’s things.” I opened a drawer in my dresser last night, and found some of the shirts I couldn’t bare to part with a year and a half ago. A mardi gras long sleeve polo, two zipper hoodies, two generic Target t-shirts, and a NCSU longsleeve athletic top. I can’t tell you why I couldn’t stand the thought of getting rid of these, but I threw most of them in the Goodwill pile. Letting go of his items happens slowly, and it’s never absolute. I kept a hoodie and the NCSU shirt, which is as rational as keeping his reading glasses… but some things I can’t force out of my hands.
For the next month and a half, I’ll be perusing small space design blogs and continuing to downsize the items in my home. I’m super curious if any readers have gone through a similar housing shift, or if anyone has tips about stuff and organization or making a big move like this.
Part of the reason I’m not upset about the small apartment, is that it’s a very visual indicator of a life change. Sometimes, even in the Austin house that Tim never saw, I feel like I’m still living part of his life… just without him. The furniture is mostly from our past. The spaces are empty of so many of his things.
I think starting completely from scratch in a new space, in an entirely new way, will be beneficial to me. I think that living in my new, 400 square feet box will help me analyze what’s really important in my life right now.
That’s what I hope, at least.