Shared bathroom down the hall

Telling friends about our move to Beacon Hill Friends House, we described our interest in community living and our enthusiasm for the lifestyle change awaiting us in Boston. But a few of those conversations snagged on issues that some of our friends and family regarded as show-stoppers:

  • Moving into a single room
  • Sharing a bathroom with others

Especially that second one.

Most of us have endured those circumstances at one or more points in our lives: Growing up at home, surviving dorm life, crowding into co-op housing as twenty-somethings.

But would it really work for a couple of sixty-somethings?

First, a confession: We’re really living in a three-room apartment. It’s just that our bedroom, living room and office are all contained within the space of the 16 by 18 foot room described by Carol in her opening post.

We got the idea of rooms-within-the-room from another couple in the house. So far so good.

Not to say there aren’t challenges. Given the nature of Carol’s work, she has phone conversations she doesn’t want me listening to. And given the nature of my work, I have conversations Carol doesn’t want to be listening to herself.

But temporary banishment from the room is hardly a hardship.  Head down a single flight of stairs and there’s a library stretching the length of the house. Another flight down is a music room and parlor with comfy chairs.  Climb down one more flight and there’s a kitchen with housemates hanging out or raiding the fridge. And if you’d rather avoid the stairs, there’s a vintage elevator with almost room for two.

Sloping floors demand sophisticated stabilizing.

Sloping floors demand sophisticated stabilizing.

Our biggest challenge has more to do with the slope of our floor than the size of our space. It’s no surprise that a building constructed more than 200 years ago is afflicted with the occasional sag. The Stanley Level app on my iPhone records an incline of less than two percent. But that’s enough to sustain a steady slide of our desk chairs — and the slightly unsettling shift of our bed.

I’ve fixed the first problem. Working on the second.

But about the toilet. We share it with the couple in the room to our right and the single guy in the room to our left. A rock on the floor props open the door when the room is available.

At 6:30 this morning, the door was closed. So was door to the bathroom on the other side of the third floor. But hiking down a flight to the second floor bathroom didn’t kill me, even at dawn, and my knees will probably thank me one day for the exercise.

The larger question about life at BHFH goes to purpose, of course. A recent segment of Talk of the Nation on NPR explored the so called “small space living” phenomenon. Host Jennifer Ludden summed up some of the reasons people give for choosing such circumstances: “So this is good, perhaps, for people who… want to make it, haven’t made it yet, are sacrificing for some dream.”

I doubt we fit the category of people who have “made it,” but neither have we made this choice as a sacrifice for something else.

We just like it for what it is.

16 thoughts on “Shared bathroom down the hall

  1. Now, in addition to looking forward to reading a few more pages each night of my current bedside book, I am looking forward to reading snippets of “Bill and Carol’s Excellent Adventure” – thanks for including us all in your small and slanting world.

  2. Love hearing from you. What an arrangement! Different from Takoma Park, but closer neighbors and friends. Sharing the bathroom? Hummmmm…..

  3. I an excited to explore the idea of “small space” living, not that I see myself adopting “single room” living, Rather, I want to learn how to downsize without tossing over a lifetime of memories. I hope you’ll explore the idea of privacy and other social norms that come into play in your new abode. Exciting stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    • Good topics, Howard. We hope to describe how we’ve been working through them, and look forward to your continued feedback.

  4. Aw, Bill! I want more details! In what kind of contraption do you carry your bathroom gear (soaps, shampoos, razors, etc) or do you (gasp) share with your bathroom mates? Does your place ever run out of hot water? Who cleans the tub? Do you have that ghastly spray for folks to use after they make a stink? I know, I know, there will be more blog entries to come and I eagerly await answers.

    • Always happy to provide more details, Susan! No need to carry gear back and forth to the bathroom. The five of us who share it each have a shelf. I’ve not had to wait for hot water but it’s been hot enough that maybe I haven’t noticed (and I supposed it could be more of an issue when the weather turns. The five of us rotate cleaning duties. And no ghastly sprays (the open window seems to take care of things…)

  5. What a TREAT, to be vicariously living your experience. And 288 sq. ft is small!

    You definitely will be inspiring us, as it is has been almost nine years since we moved into our co-housing community (1,080 sq. ft condo), and I don’t think we have thrown ANYTHING away yet. It’s time to begin.

    Keep up the inspiration! (we, also, of course, have heard about Vicki, et al’s experience of eating in your community. We all thought it was a classic Bill Mitchell joke).

    Hope we can get there before too long!

    Love, Joan (& Ed)

  6. Sounds fantastic–what a good way to redefine and expand your comfort zones again.

    Brendan’s cousin, wife, and 6-year-old live in 210 square feet in Greenwich Village. We visited them, and they’d made it quite nice, with a stand-up desk, a loft area and bed for the 6-year-old, and a small kitchen. Our 650 square feet seems enormous by comparison.

  7. While you’re on the subject of bathroom etiquette, Bill, it occurs to me as your cousin that this could be a golden opportunity for you to share with your new housemates a bit of ecological wisdom passed down through generations of Mitchells, which seems to me in line with the Quaker ethic, namely, the art of Irish origami: precision toilet paper folding (in the interest of preserving our forests). I’ll leave it to you to explain….

  8. Pingback: 100 Days: What’s working, what’s not, what’s changing | A Year in a Room

  9. Pingback: Time for a re-set: A new year, a new room | A Year in a Room

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