A room of one's own.

Virginia Woolf once proselytized that a woman needs a place of her own, “a room of one’s own” in which they could think, create and have their own space without outside interferences. The slim book by the same name sits on my To Be Read pile, with the hopes that one day I will have the space of my own (and to finish the damned book!).

I think about having my own space a lot these days, not necessarily my own apartment, but a place where I can go shut off the world, lounge on a chaise reading or writing and basically just having time for me. How Justin and I have existed nearly half-a-year in a 600 sq ft apartment where everything we do is broadcasted to the other is still kind of a minor miracle. How Justin survives with his “desk” actually being the dining room table, no room for his things except for one large closet and a corner by his “desk,” again, a minor miracle. Granted when he moved in, he came with just a carload of things, mainly a box of books, clothes, and some personal effects — but everything else in the apartment is me.

We can’t wait to shed our skins from this dump and get our own place to make “ours,” because everything in our apartment reeks of a mish-mash of collegiate chic and IKEA furniture. While the bed, dresser and couch are less than a year old, they were not first selections or picked out with care but chosen because they were best of the lot of what was presented to me at the time.1

Soft household goods, such as sheets, towels and the like, are carry-over from stuff I purchased over the years. Nothing really matches (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – shabby chic?), but there is no cohesiveness to the mess. Towels I bought a few years ago are starting to go yucky, sheets are starting to get threadbare and there is only so many duvet covers one can purchase before you just have to realise that the duvet itself probably needs to be replaced.

What’s interesting about Justin and I is that our approach to home furnishings is directly related to how we grew up. His family saves everything so he loves minimalism while my family saved nothing so I border on being a pack rat. Things purchased, regardless if they are for personal or communal use, are based on negotiation. Purchasing new shoes for me requires that I get rid of two pairs. Buying new sheets would require ditching two existing sets. Buy one, get rid of two. The paring down of my closets and soft goods has been amazing. However, I refuse to budge on paring down books and media because I am determined to have a library in our (eventual) new home.

When we move next year, we’re getting rid of mostly everything. What we will be keeping will be incredibly minimal. The bed will be relegated to the guest room and we’re purchasing a king sized (He’s 6’6, I’m 5’11.5″ and the pug — we do not fit comfortably on a queen bed). We need a couch that is at least 12′ long to allow us to both sprawl or some kind of sectional were choosing to intertwine our legs is not about necessity but about wanting to touch, so the current couch will be secondary.

We want new furniture, so the IKEA stuff will be sold or donated via FreeCycle or Craig’s List. I’ve been carting around electronics that may or may not work for years, those will be donated or recycled. My TV, which was awesome when it was purchased in 2006, is slowly dying and will need to be replaced.2 But we’ll end up giving/selling for cheap when the time comes because when we move, we’ll not keep most of these things with us and purchase new when we arrive at our new destination, regardless of where that may be. But what is important to both of us is space — lots and lots of lovely space.

There is no room for us to ramble without tripping on the other. Justin gets the advantage that with my schedule, he gets alone time when he gets off of work since I will not be home until many hours later. Typically 2-3 days a week, I’m gone 10-14 hours a day which gives him time to himself, which he finds to be incredibly important. I don’t get that kind of alone time because when I get home from doing whatever, both he and the pug are there – as whatever gym events/errands that he has to run will be done well before I get home. 600 sq ft in some areas (Paris, Amsterdam, New York City, San Francisco) can be considered to be “spacious” if the design of the space is done right but even with the open plan our our apartment, we’re still crowded since we lose so much wall space to floor to ceiling windows and radiators. (This is one of the many occasions where my skills as a Tetris master come into play. Whoever said gaming was destructive clearly did not look at Tetris, Breakout, or Pong.)

This paring down, we’ve often discussed, is a direct result of consumerism — we buy cheap because it is cheap and what we can afford at the time but because of this, we end up spending more because we often have to replace the item. I recently created a Wedding Registry on Amazon so we could, privately, start keeping track of items we’d like to get when we move and I balked when he added salt and pepper grinders that were roughly $120 for the pair. His reasoning is that the mechanism on most grinders were such that after some time, the ground seasoning goes up into the shaft and not on the food. Our current grinder is currently behaving in this manner and we seem to spend more time trying to “fix” the damn thing than get pepper out. He found a set that used a different type of mechanism and shouldn’t have this problem, but really? $120 for the pair? His argument is that he would rather spend the cash on quality rather than deal with cheap and keep replacing, as we have been doing so much of lately.

I get his mentality, but after being graduate student poor for so long and the idea of having a disposable income in which spending $120 on grinders is not really a big deal still appalls me. Recently, I started researching combination espresso/auto coffee machines and it seemed most people were happy with the $100 Mr. Coffee combo than the Krupp’s or other higher end brands. While this was surprising to me, as I was expecting the prices to be much higher, crowd mentality rules, right? A few days later, Justin gave me a link to a coffee “system” that seemingly did everything under the sun, including being programmable via the Internet. The cost for such a treasure? $2k USD. That is not a typo — and I think I visibly blanched. Do I love coffee? Sure, but to spend $2k USD on such a machine, I’d expect it to give me sexual favors and start smoking a cigarette when it was through. I’d rather spend say up to $500 USD for such a machine and bank the $1500 towards something else, such as putting money down for a new car or putting it towards my retirement. You know, something sensible.

But a room of my own and a room for Justin, where we can each not worry about the others habit since it will not be communal space. We’re so freakin’ excited about the prospect of nesting, of getting rid of the old and coming on with the new, that it seems to be all that we talk about these days.

And we’re okay with that.3

1. My family knows someone who owns a local G-Rap furinutre store so we were given preference for stuff from the showroom for a great deal. But since the store is quite small, I had the choice of say four couches and maybe a half a dozen dressers to choose from.
2. The volume randomly doesn’t work when you turn the TV on, but works when you turn it off and then on again. The tube needs to be degaused but we’ve searchd high and low on the web for instructions and can’t find them. The TV has also started emiting a loud whistle that randomly pops in and out. We’ve troubleshot possible causes of the whistling but nothing seems to be working.
3. While we may be okay with it, not sure how Wednesday will feel about all the space. She tends to favor whomever is where she wants to be over one person or another. She seems to get antsy if she has to choose between me in the bedroom or Justin in the dining room.