Hungry for empty space

So apparently it is very difficult for four people to live together in a small apartment that was just the perfect size for two people. Who would’ve imagined?

It has been a long time coming, but a decision has been reached that this particular family of four must move. Believe it or not, it is not primarily a space issue. It is first and foremost location, location, location.

The eldest scalawag will be starting primary school in the fall. We have settled on a bilingual (French/German) school on the other side of town where we would like to send him. This school is also home to a kindergarten where teaching takes place exclusively in the regional dialect. Can you imagine that? A little American kid speaking a regional French dialect?

We must move to get closer to this school or I will spend my days taking boys to school, coming home, picking them up for lunch, coming home, taking them back after lunch, coming home and going to pick them after school and yes, coming home. This would represent not far from four hours a day in our current configuration. So yeah, if I want a little Alsatian speaker, we need to move.

Es ìsch güet, as they say. (It’s pronounced “seshkwett” and it means, it’s all good.)

We visited an apartment this week. It is well situated, less than five minutes from their school. The apartment could use some refreshing, but it has two bathrooms (one of which I would be sorely tempted to put “girls only” sign on the door) and a bedroom for each boy. The apartment’s most appealing feature is the amazing amount of built-in cabinets, not to mention the unfurnished attic which, if we were willing, we could have finished and turn into another room or two (ooh, is someone fantasizing about a crafting studio? No! Never!)

So here is where all of this has led: I am so excited at the thought of built-in storage because it means I can get rid of nearly all my furniture. My soul is humming at the thought of empty space. No more dressers with broken drawers because they used to be filled too full. No more bins shoved here and there to hide the toys.

We have no under-sink storage because…Playmobil

I am starving to have limits for our belongings that do not depend on mismatched furniture that is falling apart or emptying out my under-sink cabinet. I am starving for swaths of empty space on the floor: to have a puzzle set up that we don’t have to move it off the table so that we can have dinner, or a Playmobile/Paw-Patrol/Play-Doh worksite that doesn’t get underfoot while I am doing the dishes. (Although, I am certain they will find a way to set up right where I need to be. It’s scalawag science.)

As I have been mentally projecting myself into living somewhere else, I had one strange little thought which I need to tease out: You won’t become someone else just because you live somewhere else.

In my experience, stuff expands to fill the space we have. Having a more spacious apartment means, according to my acquired wisdom, that I will either collect more stuff to fill it, or that the stuff we fill it with will find a way to spread out throughout the space anyway.

We have signed no lease, no bank paperwork yet. As with any thing that I get my heart set on in the Cycle of the Imperfect Life, I must actively remember that this one thing, in this case, a more spacious apartment, will not fundamentally change who I am. Unless I am continually working on becoming who I want to be, even in less-than-ideal circumstances like our current living arrangements, I will find myself dissatisfied and searching for the next fix.

Here’s to hoping that experience really will give me wisdom!

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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