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Can You Hear Me Now?

May 28, 2013

Last week I had the opportunity to be on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” Waiting in the guest area, I hoped Terry Gross or Garrison Keillor would wander by and nod in passing. Of course those NPR royals don’t work out of New York City, but just knowing their voices passed through those office walls was comforting.Image

I was on the show with Jerilyn Perine, the Executive Director of the Citizens Housing Planning Council, the city’s organization responsible for implementing “Making Room,” the small apartment initiative launched last summer to create “small, efficient studios designed for single person households.”  

The topic of the show was about the growing trend of living in small spaces. But it turns out there’s another growing trend: that of people living alone. Today 31 million people – about 1 out of 7 – live by themselves. In New York City, about a third of the housing units are single people living alone. Which is where the CHPC’s initiative comes in. They want to create safe, affordable units for this budding demographic.

During the show, Imagewhich also discussed the pressure that mini multi-units can put on certain neighborhoods, specifically in Seattle, another topic came up: the importance of community. Case in point: during the show a call came from a soldier in Texas who returned home after serving in the Persian Gulf on the brink of suicide. Not sure what to do with his life, he rented a tiny room about three feet by eight feet (even smaller than my 90 square feet) that had a shared kitchen. He planned to stay only a few days, but something happened. Finding himself a part of a community made him feel better and ultimately saved his life. 

I lived in my small space for almost five years for no other reason than I wanted to experience living in Manhattan. I had planned to stay for only one year. But during that time, as I came to love my lifestyle, I realized that it’s not about the size of your home that makes you happy, but rather the size of your community. Your family, friends, neighbors and even the deli guy who says, “The usual?” when you walk into his shop, make you feel a part of something. We may fool ourselves into thinking that being connected 24/7 through cell phones and iPads is sufficient, but don’t be fooled, that’s more of a disconnect.


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  1. Edes Gilbert permalink

    Once again…well said!!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. RJC permalink

    Positively brilliant analysis: “..not the size of your home but the size of your community…’
    and another jaw-dropper: ” being connected with ipads and texting, etc may actually be a disconnect.” Wow!

    Your confined spaces have served you well, Grasshopper..

  3. james nomikos permalink

    very nice especially the part about the disconnect. best, naomi

  4. Jim Kirstein permalink

    Totally agree with you Felice. Human contact will never be replaced by a box.

  5. French permalink

    When I lead (sp?) peer leadership workshops that involved locking 120 high school students in the gym for a weekend to prepare them to do workshops with eighth graders who had concerns about coming to the high school in the fall, I talked about isolating behaviors. Not allowed.

    I cannot imagine having to fight the battle of cellular devices prior to launching one such workshop.

    My sister-in-law has a basket near her front door. She asks that you put your cell device there for the duration of any visit.

    You are right on on this. Some folks are increasingly isolated while believing that they are really, really socially involved.

  6. Hi Felice – this week’s post, as well as some of the already posted comments, remind me of another blog entry you wrote about putting your electronic devices away for a weekend. Marcia’s comments resonated with me on that post, and here we are again. Must be something to this human connection that we grew up with, no? : )

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