The Importance of Having a Space You Love

I’ve lived in Austin for 5 months now but I didn’t officially move in until a few weeks ago. How, you ask? By being very determined to live on such a small budget that really, it could be more accurately described as “making do.”

I moved here with only the things I could fit into the trunk of my 4-door sedan. I was only allowed the trunk because my entire nuclear family turned my move into a road-trip taken at breakneck speed, so the only items that were really of any use—other than my clothes—were my coffeemaker, which broke down after a month’s use, one lamp, a entertainment center setup, my rice cooker, and slow cooker.

The only thing I absolutely need to buy is the mattress. No box spring, no headboard. That’s it. On a $1000/month, the moving process is intimidating. I think I’m still paying off the charges I racked up during that first month, scrambling to throw together a lifestyle.

For three months, I knelt in order to approach my bed, taped together some boxes and stacked them on top of each other to form a table for my entertainment center, and would conduct business no greater than 3 feet off the ground. Back then, my room seemed huge (because 90% of the air real estate was unused).

Cat: what is this shit?
Look at that dinky little entertainment center

I would’ve loved to been able to tell you that I came to my senses one day, that I realized bedrooms aren’t supposed to be a tic-tac-toe game played with mattresses and dirty dishes. But I can’t. If you left me as I was, I would still be without this glorious room that I call mine. I would still be sitting cross-legged on my bed, cracking my back for the 5th time because that near-ground life wreaks havoc on your posture.

What really catapulted me into action was that roommate of mine. You remember him. One day, I heard a knock at my bedroom door and froze, breathing as quietly as I can. I do this thing where I pretend I’m not home so that people will leave me alone; maybe I’ll write about it one day. 10 minutes later, a note slid under the door.

Hey Michelle, I have an extra queen-size mattress if that helps. Just tell me and it’s yours!

- Bacon-Sex Man

Obviously, he didn’t sign himself BSM. But I thought about it for a minute—really, only a second—because this was one of those moments when, after convincing yourself so well that you really didn’t need something only to discover that when offered it, you wanted it so badly. So badly that I went and knocked on his room and held a 5-minute conversation that gave me a queen-size mattress. What was I going to do with a queen-size mattress when I already had a full-size mattress? Use it as a box spring.

It looked a bit weird at first, having a full-size on top of a queen-size. I briefly wished that I’d splurged and gotten a queen-size, but here I was getting all greedy. Instantly, my room shrank to about 1/3 its original size. And now, I was faced with another problem: all the makeshift furniture from before were at a level that assumed I was going to be no more than 3 feet off the ground. Now all of it looked tiny and doll-like.

So, obviously, I bought a chair, some mood lights, and jersey bedsheets instead of the -300 count cotton sheets I had before that felt like sandpaper. If any a time “that escalated quickly” needed to be used, it would be in regards to how quickly I surrendered my hard-earned money to Target my room became something I loved.

Of course, I went through my typical paranoid period of panicking about forgetting the possibility of bedbugs—how could you forget?!?!—before completely accepting it into my life.

Importance of Having a Space You Love

^what my room looks like now. Squee.

Having a space that you love to come back to is so important. Not only somewhere that you spend most of your time, like I do, but somewhere that you put a solid effort into making it yours. I know there’s this whimsical, romanticized image of living sparsely, but nothing beats the feeling of having something other than a bed on the ground.

I immediately noticed a difference in my mindset coming home each day after work. Whereas before, I would find any excuse to spend time outside of the house, now I am completely content in spending an entire day in my room. While this may seem somewhat counterintuitive to having a healthy social life, it was actually helping me have a healthier relationship to the apartment.

You need somewhere to retreat to

You see, before the complete renovation of my room, I was beginning to view the apartment as the opposite of a safe space (buzzword of the year). I’m not particularly close nor sometimes do I even like my roommates and with the addition of the third one, that feeling escalated. Without somewhere to retreat to, I felt anchorless and almost lost in a new city, aching for the familiar comforts of my room at home.

Without somewhere to call home, you’re forever a transplant in a new city. Because you’re constantly outside of what is supposed to be home, your energy to explore further will quickly diminish—you won’t stop craving somewhere private and alone until you become either an unhappy hermit or until you make something your place.

It encourages creativity & productivity

Before, I was feeling wildly uncreative and unmotivated. There’s something about sitting on a ground that emphasizes you will amount to nothing like no other. It’s so hard to motivate yourself from a bed, where the most comfortable and sensible thing to do is have unlimited Netflix marathons, that what you set out to do usually doesn’t get done.

If you’ve noticed and are a star reader of my blog (brownie points for you), I became a lot more active mid-November and on, about the same time that I acquired somewhere to sit with a backrest. Although I cheated somewhat in that my chair is the comfiest chair ever, it’s still much more productive than using the wall as your backrest. I’ve read 95% of my January reads (list post coming soon) in this chair and I attribute 100% of that to the angle of this chair. First of all, I know none of us sits at exactly a 90 degree angle for optimal comfort.

Having a space you love also applies to your workspace at home or in the office. It makes you want to have your shit together.

It makes you happier

What other reason do we need to cultivate a space that we love other than the simple fact that it makes us happier? No longer did I shy away from showing people my room, no longer did I apologize every time someone came to visit and had to squat to even sit. And, the moment one facet of your life is organized, you start to want to get your shit together in all the other facets.

For example, once I organized the hell out of my room, I suddenly wanted to be a Pinterest superstar and become Racheal Ray (I know her name is spelled weirdly, I just don’t know the right weird for it) and make my own gluten-free bread or something. And then I realized that just because someone prodded me to get my life together in organizing room doesn’t mean I have an ounce of the drive needed to become one of those Pinterest fanatics. Ah, well, another time I suppose?

I’m a little upset that it took me this long to realize the necessity of a space like this. I spent about the same amount of money I would’ve spent, but I would’ve loved it more a long time ago!

What does your space look like? Share some photos! Or, alternatively, what does your dream space look like?

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  • Marianne

    Can’t tell you how nice it is to hear there are people other than myself who pretend they aren’t home to avoid having conversations with housemates (even ones that I like!). I totally, totally agree on the necessity of having ones “own space” and to make it your own. I love spending time in my room so it’s important that it feels like it’s mine.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha YES! I do this thing where I leak strange details like that about myself and hope to god there’s another blogger out there that understands. I do it so well, my roommates are like, “I’ve never met anyone more social! You’re never here!” Ha. Ha…. nothing against them, of course… it’s just sometimes you need to be left alone haha :p

  • Lani

    I’ve moved frequently, so I understand the importance of making the space your own. I used to jump right in and spend money wanting to make it perfect, but then I’d change my mind or realize that I should have waited. So then, I learned to wait and would slowly figure out how I wanted to decorate and where to put what. Sometimes, I’d just sit in the living room and wonder what I wanted it to look like. Being into feng shui helps me make decisions :P

    When I moved abroad and was roaming around with friends looking for apartments, I remember distinctly my friend Nali saying, “I need a view.” This was the most important requirement and she was right. Being able to look out at something nice helps you feel like you are not just in a little box.

    I’m glad you figured out how to make it a nice space. And for what it’s worth, I think we’ve all done the boxes/box as table set up ;) Question: can you move the mattresses so they are both on the floor, then you can have a super-springy bedroom floor and just roll around all day. :P

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Ah! The other side of the coin! I’ve never thought about it that way, but now that you bring it up, that sounds like exactly what would happen to me hahah. I believe knowing how to decorate a room is a life skill! Especially with smaller ones. You have to know how to make it work, so props ;)

      YES. Or for me, a balcony!! Somewhere you can lounge outside without leaving the comforts of your home. Hahahah!! I’m trying to be MORE productive, Lani, not less :P but I love that idea. Maybe I’ll line all the floors and walls with them.

      • Lani

        Think of it as your own personal insane assylum! Or playpen if you prefer a more saner word…

  • Van @ Snow in Tromso

    So true!! I couldn’t wait to finally get out of student housing and setting up a room after my own taste. I feel much more “at home” in Tromso now that I live in a “real” flat!!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I know! After a while, student housing starts to seem like hell. You’re never really home! Yay for flats :)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This

    Yes, I totally agree! My room in London has been my little safe haven BUT I am about to be ‘spaceless’ for about 4 months while I finish up work/bum in London/travel around a bit.. not sure how I will handle it!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha, ah! Where are you going to put your things while in this “spaceless” period?? Wishing you all the luck :)

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee

    Totally makes all the difference. The first thing I got to work on in our new house was decorating our spare room and my office, as I spend most of the time in it. Once it was looking nice I actually became more productive! And I love being in it now instead of dreading spending the day on the computer.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha you were smart about it! It’s weird how much it impacts how productive you are… it’s probably why I can’t get anything done in the office…

  • Kerri

    Have to admit, I really hate the idea of spending money on our apartment knowing that we will eventually leave. I didn’t want to buy anything for ages and ages, but then I realised we would stay here for 4 years minimum and more than likely 6 years… that’s enough time to warrant buying some bits for the house. I think. It’s definitely nice to come home to an actual home that just a mattress on the floor.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I KNOW. Sometimes you start out by justifying how little time you’re spending in the apartment. And then you realize that you glorify how exciting your life is… because you do really spend most of your time in the home haha. 4 years minimum and you didn’t want to buy anything?! Girl. But I’m glad to have some actual dimension to my room now, rather than rolling around ;)