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The “I Want My Space” Sofa reflects the need for our personal space vs. the struggle to ask for this.

Creating space for ourselves is an important way of maintaining our well-being. With many of us living busier lives and in ever-more creative and changing living constellations, it can be hard to carve out personal space. In fact, 40% of people, globally, believe that the media never reflects the true reality of sharing a home. So what is it that prevents us from claiming our own space?

Why this is important

We know that when people live together, there’s a belief that common spaces are shared. But even things that are ‘shared’ inevitably get claimed.

The differences lie in whether people consciously agree on ownership or reach agreements in other ways. In our research, we found that some people feel very comfortable talking openly with each other about the “ownership” of certain spaces. As a result, they have fewer frustrations in the home about what, as well as where, belongs to whom.

Paula Zuccotti (author of Everything We Touch) noticed this in her own household:

“When I took a photo of everything my daughter touched in our home, and another of everything my son touched, there was no crossover. You would never believe they were living in the same home.”

Not claiming space causes arguments, especially in unconventional living arrangements. This is especially true when living in unconventional home constellations:

“I’m not going to force this stuff on people.”

This is Celina, hailing from Austin, USA. Her last apartment complex was “super communal.” She thinks it’s great living with lots of different people, but she needs space to express herself too.

Although she owns many things in her shared home, Celina doesn’t always feel like they effectively define a space just for her. Even when sitting on her own couch, it’s hard to make her mark.

“These, that, the rug, the couch, that thing, this. A lot of the stuff is mine, but I don’t feel like they’re really mine… you really can’t argue when people sit in these chairs, that’s just what they do.”

Without a home that she can create with her own taste and aesthetic, she retreats into fantasy and disappointment.

“I’m not going to force this stuff on people … I fantasize about what I would do differently with this house all the time, but I have to stop myself.”

“Game of thrones”

Our research reveals that seats are the most contentious issue, because they have ‘owners’ and they generally take up a lot of space. This makes sense, as Nick Gadsby (anthropologist from UCL) says that people are habitual, and we tend to like our spaces the same way each time.

Seating “says a lot about your taste and your status”. It’s a thing we can mould to us, literally and metaphorically, and when someone else occupies our seat it feels like it doesn’t fit us anymore. This can leave people feeling frustrated, insecure and as though they’re losing their safe haven. So it’s no wonder we argue about it!

“It stays in the living room and I suppose anyone could use it, but they don’t. They know that it’s my chair. It was passed on to me, for me to use.” – Suzanne, Germany

The solution?
Define your space

Choose country

It is really easy to define your own space in our home.

Claiming space makes you calm

The positive feelings associated with claiming personal space in the home are striking. When people claim their space, they do not associate the feeling with fear (4%), anger (8%) or stress (15%), but rather it’s a feeling of relief (27%), happiness (26%) and calmness (40%).

Home Pioneer voices

“I feel as if any space where I place important things, becomes my space. My camera resides on my night table and my husband's guitars occupy a corner of the living room dedicated to his things. That goes for each of my children as well. Both children have their own rooms and I expect all of their things to stay in those rooms unless they are being used in a common area temporarily.” – Jennifer, USA

“You have to find out what is important for you, and spend your energy claiming that space, instead of insisting on achieving consensus about every little thing.” – Christian, Denmark

Having our own personal space within the home is a value that makes us feel ‘at home’. But it’s those who are willing to have a discussion about the ownership of space and things that are more satisfied with their presence and life at home.

Looking for ways to beat the battles at home? Learn from the Home Pioneers here.

Explore the other battles