House Swap: Small Things That Make a Big Difference

This is the kitchen in the place where I'm staying during my House Swap. Notice anything odd? If you're European, probably not, but if you're American, your first thought might be, where's the refrigerator?

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The refrigerator is hidden under the counter!

Americans consider this typical for a minibar but, for Europeans, it's a pretty standard sized model and not just a design choice (although it's a great space saver in an open plan kitchen like this). What it means is that I can't go to the grocery store and buy a week's worth of groceries; I have to do my shopping every few days. There's also the fact that I walk home with my purchases rather than piling a week's worth of shopping in the car, like I do in Los Angeles. It means I've already been in the grocery store three times this week. The grocery store clerks and I have a nodding acquaintance. That small thing, the small refrigerator, has changed the way I think about eating and meals; it also changes the way I structure my week and my days.

Coincidentally, I had a similar, though opposite experience, when I first moved to Los Angeles. Everything was big! It came in big packages! I drove to the grocery store and I could drive home with two, three or more bags of groceries! In New York, if I needed to do a big shopping, I knew that I would spend the afternoon at home, waiting for the groceries to be delivered. In LA, I had a dining room table and that meant I could have dinner parties.

It's the small things, the size of a refrigerator, and how you get to and from the grocery store, that have a surprisingly large impact. I'm curious to discover how differences in the other basic parts of life make a difference in the overall rhythm of my days.

Images: Abigail Stone

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