Lockdown in 775 Square Feet

Self-quarantine in a tiny house. Is it possible?

Let’s be honest: are we really talking about possible anymore? Is shutting down an entire country possible? Putting a school system online in three days? Closing the majority of the airport because there aren’t enough flights to keep most terminals open? Cancelling the Olympics? We are far beyond impossible now. My Fellow Humans of 2020, we have all gone through the Looking Glass. On this side, ‘why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

And one of those impossible things is that I would be able to survive for weeks on end without Ever. Being. Alone. Initially I admit that the thought of being on lockdown sounded relatively OK to me. I mean, people were talking about going for days or weeks without talking to another human being in person. As an introvert, I could totally be down with that. Sure, they might be missing the parties, but they were doing things like baking, organising bookshelves, resurrecting creative projects, and taking time to meditate.

Except that lockdown in a 775 square foot (72 square metre) house with three other people doesn’t really look like some kind of urban Walden. I fully sympathise with those who are isolated and lonely during this time, and feel incredibly lucky to be in lockdown with the people I like best. But I’ve never come closer to wondering if leaving behind that big house with a yard in the American suburbs for a chic little flat in a European city was a mistake after all.

Nevertheless, I’ve been surprised with how versatile that little flat can be when put to the test. Consider, for instance, the fact that with two kids in high school, me working and doing grad school, and Tony working full-time, we need a few extra places to sit down and work productively with a laptop.

Fortunately, we did take this somewhat into consideration when arranging things initially. It’s probably no accident that the only person in our house who reliably works at the same workspace every day is Axa, who has this nifty loft bed/couch/desk combo in her bedroom.

And if pre-Hogwarts Harry Potter had a desk, it would probably look something like the one Tony built for Raj in his basement bedroom.

Raj loves his under-stairs hideout, but we’ve discovered that it doesn’t always enable the level of supervision full-time online school has proved to require from his parents. So he’s often to be found doing some permutation of this instead.

This in spite of the fact that I’ve offered him full and exclusive use of my own dedicated workspace, my much-loved corner cork-topped desk.

Another potential option is this comfy armchair, which with the addition of one of our trusty IKEA lap-desks turns into another workspace.

Provided it’s currently unoccupied, that is. Every day these days is Take Your Dog to Work Day.

Tony is the best sport of the family, and usually sits on the living room couch, doing the previously mentioned parental supervision. Although you can see from my abandoned tea cup that this is also the place where I get up to work during my best early morning hours, when everyone is sleeping and I can pretend that I am home alone.

When it is time for conference calls (especially of the late-night, cross-time-zone variety), he good-naturedly adjourns to the kitchen table.

Unless someone is eating there, in which case he might opt for my usual workspace instead; these days I am most often to be found in my bedroom, which–according to an informal poll of Facebook friends I conducted last week–looks like anything from an old-fashioned film house to a fake Zoom background to a boudoir. Perfect for conference calls.

I admit it is with reluctance that I sometimes let Tony have a turn in what we informally refer to as the ‘bed office’.

After all, it is the only room in the house with a locking door that isn’t a bathroom. Speaking of which . . . I do have a wonderful bathroom tray that I use to hold my Kindle/wineglass/snacks (why haven’t I had more time for that on lockdown?). Do you think we are getting close to the point where it becomes socially acceptable in the time of coronavirus to take a conference call in the bath? We are, after all, now living in the Zone of Impossible Things . . .

What do you think?