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(Un)packing

10 February 202211:00PMlife

The simple fact is that there's an upper limit to how much you can do in a one bedroom apartment with one car bay and no yard.

It was over in a micro-second, but we felt it die bit by bit, area by distorted area, memory by disappearing memory, all kept going until the absolute bitter end by the ingenuity of Mind design, falling back, stepping down, closing off and retreating and regrouping and compressing and abandoning and abstracting and finessing, always trying by whatever means possible to keep its personality, its soul intact until there was nothing remaining to sacrifice, nowhere else to go and no survival strategies left to apply.

Iain M. Banks, Look To Windward.

The simple fact is that there's an upper limit to how much you can do in a one bedroom apartment with one car bay and no yard. Not just in terms of space, but in terms of complexity. You would think the limiting factor would be storage space, but with some clever arranging, that turns out not to be as much of a problem as you'd think. Ikea, Kmart, even Bunnings, will sell you no end of storage solutions that let you pack a surprising - perhaps even shocking - amount into a storage unit and a linen closet and let you line the interstitial spaces over wardrobes and under beds with neatly packed objects.

No, the actual problem - and one that to some extent is masked by the solutions you find to the first - is that there's no room to actually use any of the stuff you've cleverly stored. There's plenty of archival space, but very limited working space. Or, to deploy a computing metaphor, you've compressed all the files on your hard drive and you're feeling smug about how much free space you have, but now you don't have the RAM to unzip - well, anything.

It's subtle, and teasing its effects out from the homebody-inducing nature of the past two years would be almost impossible, but in moving out you notice it. A satisfyingly tetrised storage unit full of things you're totally going to do any day now becomes a spread across the floor in a horrifying admission that you didn't do any of them. Ah yes, I will definitely make some more homebrew, as soon as I figure out where to put the fementer while it's doing its yeasty thing. I'm definitely going to get back into archery, but I'll have to find someone else's yard to practice in, and then borrow the car for a whole day to actually shoot. I'd love to have mates over for a barbecue - although dragging the thing upstairs is a pain, and there isn't really room on the balcony, and I don't even know if we're allowed to. Stoked to try those new PC games and maybe do some streaming, pity I have to run it through a slightly janky remote desktop connection to my laptop, I guess that's in the too hard basket as well.

You only need to make it slightly harder to do some things and slightly easier to do other to have a significant effect on behaviour change, after all.

Living here has been a selection bias against anything you don't have space to do, and you don't have space to do anything. The affordances of the space are stacked against you. And when the only hobby - or probably more accurately, recreational item - you have permanently set up is the television, then that's what you do in the evenings.

At some point, in other words, I suspect we may have become slightly boring.

And maybe you kid yourself that you're making up for it by using the pool in the building or being able to walk to the Local Small Bars And Cafes, and yes, we are going to miss those things, but Having A Pool and Going To Bars is a poor substitute for a personality.

Living here was always going to be a trade-off, and while it was a fun experiment, I think it's time to move on. I don't think we were too big for this place, necessarily, nor do I think we've "outgrown" it. But I do think we perhaps lived a more complex life than we gave ourselves credit for, and were maybe more interesting than we thought we were too, and the compression process to fit in has been... lossy.

Is that something we can reverse? Maybe! I'm hopeful, at any rate. I'm excited for my hammock and my fire pit in my yard, and to put sound absorbing foam and LED lights in my study, and to have a horrible vat of fermenting something in the laundry. I'm excited to steal a corner of the garden my wife is already planning out to grow fresh tomatoes she won't eat that I can have all to myself. I'm excited for our hypothetical dog, and equally excited for our very real cat.

I'm not just excited about the possibilities - I'm excited that, suddenly, again, there are possibilities at all.

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