Roughly 18 months after a meet-cute straight out of a rom-com — their eyes met across a crowded GO train platform — real life sets in.
And this is what real life looks like: one bedroom plus den, 650 square feet, no balcony, 9-foot ceilings and a leading man who’s 6-foot-2. Jennifer Armel and Jonathan Slobodsky did the right thing, however — they aired their domestic grievances before they packed boxes.
“I’m happy that we spoke openly prior to moving in together about our pet peeves,” Armel says. “As an example, Jonathan knew from the beginning that I didn’t like when the toilet paper roll was left empty … and I knew that he didn’t like seeing dishes in the sink.”
Good strategy, says Toronto couples’ counsellor Tammy Laber. Although tidiness is an unsexy topic, it does turn into a battleground for many of the couples she works with, once a space is shared.
“Spend some time looking at each other’s places when they’re not cleaned up,” Laber says. “Ask, how neat or how messy are you? And then think, can I live with this?”
“And if you can’t live with this, have a discussion about who is going to take over responsibility. Will it be a compromise, or will the clean person take on the burden because they’re the one who cares about the burden?”
Armel calls herself lucky — “Jonathan is very tidy. His parents taught him well and I’m grateful for that,” she says with a laugh. They have gravitated to their own preferred roles.
On Saturday, Armel does the cleaning while Slobodsky does the shopping. That night, they treat themselves to a dinner out. Sundays, they cook big batches of meals in their petite kitchen for the rest of the work week.
He likes doing the morning coffee and breakfast, and she likes hosting and entertaining — he being the primary beneficiary of leftovers. She calls him “quite the chef” and says he would call her “the planner.”
“We don’t really have any rules but we have agreed on dividing up certain tasks — this all happened prior to us moving in together too,” says the communications and marketing professional, who founded TOmillennials.ca. “A key component to a relationship — and of course living together — is teamwork and communication, and we believe that it’s even more important in a small space.”
After about three months living together near Bathurst and St. Clair, Armel still sounds like she’s honeymooning. Complaints about the small space are few. She was concerned her boyfriend would feel “boxed in” as a tall man but, so far, that hasn’t been the case. A kitchen island from IKEA alleviates the shortage of counter space when prepping meals — a big win.
“We go to bed and wake up at pretty much the same time so that helped us get into a good routine early on,” she says. “We’re both morning people too and walk to the subway together. It’s pretty cute, considering we first met on public transit.”
Both in their mid-20s, Armel says her long-term goals are to own some property “somewhere in the GTA” but that for now, the couple loves the city life — even in a small spot. The recent stress of their move-in day has already melted into the distant past.
“We had a combination of rainy weather and horrible movers but we didn’t let that bring us down,” she says. “The first night we enjoyed a glass of wine, or two, and a pizza, sitting on the floor of our new apartment. It felt surreal.
“By the end of the first weekend, we had all of our furniture delivered and set up, and our place was starting to look like a beautiful box in the sky.”
This is part 3 in our series, Love In Small Spaces. Keep watch on Toronto Storeys for our next instalment.
Have you found bliss and balance in a small space? How do you stay sane and in love? Condo or apartment dwellers, and couples living in that GTA shoebox, we want to hear from you. Your story may be featured in our ongoing series. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @torontostoreys, or connect with us on our Facebook page.