It's 3 a.m., and my partner (Lord Kitchenless) has a 7 a.m. call time on set. Quietly, he rolls out of bed, careful not to disturb my slumber. He takes a shower, gets dressed, and gathers his kit in the dark, using his phone flashlight to find a pair of socks and his stopwatch. As he heads out to catch a cab to the set, he absentmindedly shuts the front door with a slam, and I wake up.
This is life in 250 square feet.
Lord Kitchenless and I will be celebrating our fifth anniversary next month, a testament to our ability to coexist in such a small space without killing and devouring each other. He is a freelance script supervisor for film and television, and I am studying telecommunications engineering and was recently hired for my college's help desk. We first met in an IRC channel for the TV show "Daria," when he was 17 and I was 26. I was such a jerk to him at first; he would message me with something he thought I would find interesting, and I would reply with something churlish and soul-crushing like, "Leave me alone, kid, ya bother me," or "You probably fap to Tubgirl."
Eventually I stopped being a crappy person, and we became friends over the years, adding each other on Facebook and congratulating each other on our respective university graduations. A few months after I had dumped my ex-boyfriend, he messaged me with, "I'm sorry you guys broke up, but I can't say I'm THAT sorry, because I've had a HUGE crush on you since I was 17. Wanna give it a shot?" We began Skypeing nightly, I saved up a bit of money, and flew to Toronto (where he was attending film school) to meet in person -- it was turtledoves and unicorn farts immediately. I packed up my things and moved to Canada to be with him, and we began looking for a place together shortly thereafter.
Our home, dubbed Microtopia, is a carriage house/loft above our landlord's detached garage, and is an amazingly private, completely self-contained unit with all utilities included, even Internet! The day we signed the lease, I promptly sprained my ankle falling down our landlord's front steps -- an auspicious start to our life together.
Neither of us came to Toronto with much. Lord Kitchenless is from St. John's, Newfoundland and I'm from Portland, Oregon; we were able to furnish our place with IKEA furniture based solely upon our home's dimensions. I planned everything out to the millimeter, but the most difficult part was figuring out how to arrange the furniture to create several distinct spaces while minimizing wasted space.
We may live in just 250 square feet, but we live VERY comfortably. We have a portable dishwasher on a rolling kitchen cart and a washer/spin dryer that hook up to the washroom sink, a hot/cold water dispenser, and a small chest freezer. Microtopia came with a microwave and a mini-fridge, and our "kitchen counter" space is an IKEA cart. We have several wall-mounted and free-standing shelves for storage, a corner desk for Lord Kitchenless' work space, a cedar chest that was my 18th birthday present (which doubles as guest seating), and a queen size bed. We live in a wonderful neighbourhood just a short walk from three major grocery stores, and make small grocery runs every week with our foldable trolley. We hardly ever see our landlords; we pay our rent via online money transfer several months in advance and rarely ask them for repairs/maintenance. They replaced our air conditioning unit last summer with a more efficient version that also serves as a heat pump; we didn't have to turn on our baseboard heaters at ALL last winter.
The only real drawback to living in Microtopia is that our hot water heater is very small. I mastered the art of the efficient shower long ago and Lord Kitchenless usually has enough to shower right after me, however, it's almost never the case if I shower after him -- I have to wait a few hours for the hot water tank to heat up if I don't want to shower in ice cubes.
Coexisting in a small space with your significant other requires patience, mutual respect, and most importantly, a sense of humour. There is no room for passive-aggressive drama, and you REALLY have to communicate so that one person doesn't feel like they're doing the lion's share of the housework. Lord Kitchenless and I split household chores based on who is home at the time. During the days when he isn't on set, he is usually at home, so he runs the dishwasher and does laundry, and I do the grocery shopping and most of the cooking. Now that I'm working a night shift, we have had to alter things a bit. I usually cook a heavy lunch before work and bring in leftovers, and then make a light supper when I return home.
Cooking in a kitchenless space takes an enormous amount of creativity and ingenuity. We started our rice cooker cooking experiment while Lord Kitchenless was living in his college residence; his dorm room had a small kitchenette but no stove, so I had the brilliant idea of using a dinky little $10 rice cooker to cook stuff in.
I soon found that there were very few recipes specifically for rice cookers, but few which could NOT be altered to be prepared in one. I have made everything from paella to lentil soup to Navratan Korma, and with the addition of the countertop oven, bread machine, and slow cooker, an entire new world has opened up before me. We have friends over to eat frequently; this year's luau-themed Thanksgiving supper was epic: kalua pork with Hawaiian bread and choriçou stuffing. Fried eggs are really the only thing I have ever failed to cook properly in the rice cooker. In fact, you can make amazing meals that will be the envy of your friends and family with kitchens.
Do you live in a tiny space? Do you cook without a kitchen? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. (And let me know if there are specific recipes you'd like me to share, too!)