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.
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.