A Room of Your Own
“Instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.”
This is Virginia Woolf writing about her time at Oxford in the extended essay A Room of One’s Own. It’s now dated in many ways, being set in the era around WWI (although she does have a serious obsession with describing food that outdoes any of the foodies on Instagram today). However, the overwhelming premise is still there…we need both the space and the money to create, whether that be books or our own rich and full life.
Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of Her own was a ground-breaking publication questioning why the life of Napoleonic general was more important than that of a shop girl, why football is taken more seriously than shopping and why women fail to reach the ranks of great novelists (her thoughts were that they lack the life experience as they are too often caring for children.) She also made that famous edict that women need a room of their own and their own income of 500 pounds a year.
Virginia Woolf wasn’t wrong when she said that every woman needs a room of her own. She was talking about this in the context of women being able to write, but it could equally apply to sanity and self-care. Having space of our own is important. This could be a room, a desk, or corner of a room, it doesn’t matter. As I grew up there used to be a running joke among the mothers about the husbands retreating to their garages or sheds for some alone time, mirrored by many sit-coms on TV. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, space of your own is a human need.
However, it’s not just space. Evolutionary psychology often looks back to our hunter gatherer ancestors and talks about our need to collect “stuff”. Yes, this can mean IPads and phone chargers, but in the context of self-care it can also mean that shawl you bought in Havana, those photos of your grandparents, those wooden parrot earrings you wore on your first date with your husband. You wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them now, but you don’t want to throw them away. Stuff that means something.
Of course, if you’re naturally one of those minimalists then you this won’t mean anything to you and you probably don’t have this need. However, if you’d rather chuck than collect, do spare a thought and some understanding for those that like to have their possessions around them. It’s a human need, a yearning. These things are part of the story of who we are and we need space for them. This doesn’t have to mean that they are all on display, just accessible.
Taken further, this personal space is also where we can more easily slip into the silence, whether that’s to think, meditate, plan or create. Claiming some space is a form of self-care and I challenge you to do it. Even though I am currently single and have my own bedroom, I would say my space is the bathroom. I deliberately chose a house with two bathrooms so I can retreat to my bath. Here I read, I light candles and listen to podcasts to Audible books, to guided meditations. I drink tea, sip wine and day dream. I plan, I work through issues. Sometimes I even cry. It’s my own space and I relish being in it.
Wondering how to claim your own space? Start by joining us in the club!