This I Believe

Jonathon - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on July 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: environment, hope

I believe in the allure of small things. Not to be confused with the “little things” that constitute life’s simple pleasures, or that strange joy people get from bafflingly tiny electronic gadgets. Nor is it anything sexual, or even about artistic minimalism: It’s too pragmatic for that. No, I believe in the allure of everyday things that take up little space: The physically small. In an age when “ginormous” describes what “gigantic” or “enormous” simply cannot, I find that such a belief can leave you feeling a bit out of place.

As a child, I must admit, I adhered to the cultural norm “the bigger the better”. Extra large ice cream? Sure. Sibling death-match for the largest bedroom? Definitely! What kind of sucker would take the small room without putting up a respectable fight (or at least a good pout and some whining to Mom)?

But with college I learned that 18-year-olds ritually leave behind airplane hangar-sized bedrooms for ones roughly the area of an iPod Nano. Even worse, it’s usually split with a stranger, who conveniently enough is often a giant weirdo.

Space instantly became hypervaluable. With my peers, I joined that uniquely Freshman tradition of rushing the campus store for overpriced Tupperware that manages to stack, hang, and roll, but somehow has lids that are patently uncloseable. Yet, stacked underneath the bed, they did save space, even if it sometimes seemed like they were specifically designed to grow dust bunnies the size of sheepdogs.

As an Upperclassman, I was among the minority of my class electing campus housing. While the cool kids signed for spacious off-campus apartments, I hefted boxes to the tops of old buildings with names like “Rich Person Tower” to claim my meager room. Smaller than the iPod Nano, but all mine. Into it went small things: lightweight computer, narrow bookshelf, beverage mug requiring just a thumb and forefinger, not a full-fisted grip. To fill a hospitable corner, I opted for my dad’s old wooden captain’s chair instead of an over-stuffed recliner. I grew accustomed to having many of life’s essentials within steps of my bed, with room to spare.

Now, with the great space crunch of college behind me, I find that the allure of small things is stronger than ever. While I can better afford a bigger apartment, a flashier TV, or a Brontosauras-sized automobile, I am even less wooed by the prospect. As energy costs rise, it’s harder to ignore the correlation between the mass of the things I plug in the wall or fill at the pump, and the consequences for my bank account and beyond. And, of course, the purchase cost of big stuff can loom compared to the small version, which so often suffices. Fortunately, I usually find the small version more stylish anyway.

Am I the only one lured by the greatness of small things? I expect not, and that even among ginormous lattes and shadow-casting everythings, there is hope.