A Room of One’s Own

My yoga class at the gym was particularly full today. We were just about to fold into the first Downward Dog of the day, when a lone man walked into the room and began to squeeze in between me, and the person beside me. I started to shift my mat and belongings over to make space for him. The woman next to me abruptly said, “This is my space, try over there.” The man shrugged and shimmied in next to someone else. I am not sure I would have said anything if it bothered me (which it didn’t). It’s a gym, not a private space.

As the class wound down, and while I was relaxing into Savasana, I couldn’t find that inner silence. My personal thoughts were invaded by the woman’s comment. What I originally judged as rudeness now wandered around in my head with thoughts about personal/private spaces at home.

Homes are generally shared spaces (so are gyms!). Everyone has different boundaries and needs for privacy and for specific tasks. In my family, my husband has his own separate building for the work office of his environmental consulting firm. He would love a full woodshop for his hobby/side business, furniture making. My daughter, an artist, and my son, a professional musician, might never leave the nest if they had studios to pursue their craft. Given that my office doubles as a coat closet, laundry catchall and pet food dispenser with just inches of floor space, a retreat place to do yoga without distractions (or dog-licks) seems like a distant dream. Can these spaces be carved out in a not-so-big house?

Looking at my own family’s needs for personal space makes it easy to visualize what might be needed and just how challenging it might be for others. There’s the noise factor–the guitars, amps and power tools. Not conducive for yoga. There are space requirements for all the equipment, not to mention the collection of downed trees used for the furniture-making. Natural light would be on the top of my daughter’s list for an art studio. The list goes on.

Wait, stop right there. I see emotional triggers popping up all over my cozy, not so quiet econest. With my disdain for McMansions, and limited funds for multiple green renovations, how can we possibly find personal spaces to fit everyone’s needs?

Architect Sarah Susanka, in her Not So Big House books, designs and renovates houses with energy-efficiency in mind and with an eye to spaces that are both public and private. She challenges her clients to discover the ingredients they need to find private spaces in their home. Susanka claims noise, visual separation and physical distance are the main ingredients to look for in private spaces. “In a smaller house creating the perfect space isn’t always possible, but there’s usually a solution that will meet several of your privacy criteria.”

Where to find a private/personal space in your own home:
• Alcoves: Drape eco-fabrics http://www.nearseanaturals.com/browse.php?category=1 or use a folding screen for privacy.
Window seats: A visually set apart space in a room.
• Staircases: Underneath or on the landing can provide a spot for a small desk or hobby area.
• Master bedrooms. Many bedrooms (not mine) are oversized and have empty corners.
• Formal living rooms. Some are seldom used.
• Guest bedrooms.
• Attics, basements and added lofts.
• Closed doors. When nothing else works.

Obviously, in the spirit of cooperation that is truly unique to families, my own will continue to do its dance towards finding our personal spaces. We’ve toyed with green soundproofing for the room where the music comes from. My daughter has the bedroom with the most natural light and that could be used as an art studio. The garage will need to be tackled for the woodworking shop. My compromise is to continue to go to the gym and work in my makeshift office while my older kids are still flying in and out of the nest. My dogs seem to be willing to wait on the other side of a closed door long enough for me to get into the yoga zone. That is, as long as it’s not near their mealtime.

Maybe I should thank my female yoga devotee at the gym for prodding me to think off mat for space solutions at home. How do you tackle private spaces? Namaste.

Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.


William C
William C8 months ago


W. C
W. C8 months ago

Thank you.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Everyone needs their own private space.

Heather B.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thanks for the article, Ronnie.

Cindy M.
Cindy M9 years ago

The book "The Magic of Conflict" reminds me of this story, & of two things stated in it. An older couple was meditating, or something, as people made distractions outside. The man said if he had powers he could stop it. His wife said that's the opposite of having power. He advanced what he'd do to the point of it no longer bothering him, & his wife said that's when he'd have power. Yoga's about being peaceful & "one w/the universe". Yogis meditate to where the outside doesn't bother them. (Regarding Amanda H's comment here on her bad gym experience, nasty grannies AREN'T doing yoga, & aren't wise.) The book also says to create win/win & not win/lose. In order to win, the other doesn't have to lose, which I don't think happened in this yoga story. & then there's the part of me that needs my own space & I don't desire to change that. I see 2 points to the Yoga story, & am offended by both. The guy shouldn't have tried to barge in, he should've asked & respected the answer. The woman needs to respect her space, but the way she was presented, I interpret as harsh. Perhaps it's just where they are in their lives, but why should I excuse them & feel bad for being offended, punishing myself by ignoring where I'm at in my life by respecting theirs? There's always the question of where we draw the line & "be the bigger person". I feel the lady could've stood up for her space in a nicer way, & that's who I strive to be, or to find a way

Jessica Jansen
Jessica J9 years ago

Mmmm...a good story that makes me think about more things relates to "space". My S.O. and I are actually discussing divorce to get more of a personal space feeling that we find hard to come by in a shared home. We seem to have no or invisible personal boundaries so each of us is all over the place and we do not feel connected to ourselves anymore... This article makes me wonder if we could find a practical way to help us feel more boundaries if we could make them visible to the eye and the mind as well?

Myriah Maston
Myriah Maston9 years ago

I agree with Sylvia, I definitely prefer to do yoga in the early mornings before my bf gets home from work than in a public place like the gym. It is very hard for me to get in tune with myself in a room full of people as I do occasionally have intense emotional moments, which invariably lead to me crying (not always a bad cry, sometimes good crys too) and I feel that those are not things I want others to see.

Amanda H.
Amanda H9 years ago

Your story reminds me of why I stopped going to yoga at my local YMCA. I was like the guy in your story. All the older ladies in yoga had been going for years and I was new. They had their "own spots" where they felt most comfortable and became very peeved & upset when they had to scoot over. They actually arrived early to make sure they got their spot and took up the room they wanted. The yoga room is tiny and people are squeezed in but the way the ladies treated me ruined the yoga. I felt like I was in a junior high school lunch room trying to find a place to sit! I would stew about it the entire time we did yoga. Pretty pointless, huh? Too aggressive for me. I take yoga to relax, not to fight over my mat space.
I guess it can be the same in the home. I suppose people should be less clingy about their space and realize that no matter where they are they may have to share it with someone. We live in a crowded world, after all. Be nice and accept it!

Paul Diamond
Paul Diamond9 years ago

I spent some time in Japan. I lived much of my life in NYC. In Japan I saw efficient multi-use spaces. In NYC I saw innovative modular space use. I am a slightly hard of hearing musician.
A bedroom can have a platform bed w/ a sitting room or office space under it. Foutons can be used for sleeping and rolled up into a closet in daytime. A dining table can be folded away to provide open floor space for Yoga, Tai Chi, playspace, conversation, Etc., Etc., ad infinitum.
As a Musician I use an electric piano w/ Head phones. My wife is country, I am Jazz and classical. I also use my head phones for listening to music.
Proper placement of reflective surfaces often provide natural lighting where there is none.
Often just sitting in the middle of a space and meditating the room will tell you what it can be and you can harmonize that w/ what your needs and desires for the space are.
If you lack that kind of sensitivity. seek out a friend or an acquaintance who possesses the insticts you seek and ask for their guidance. It will help to achieve your desire and make a better friend of someone. Most important... don't forget to include your family in the process. Especially when they roll their eyes and think he/she is flippin' out.
Hope that helps.