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Personal Space

First-person stories about the uncomfortable, funny, and downright absurd experiences that only happen in a home.

I Miss My Crowded, Messy, and Crumbling College House

The house on Pine Street was a place to gather. Now, home is safe because it’s not shared.

Learning to recognize myself in the bathroom mirror

When I was a teenager, it was the most dangerous room in the house. Today, it’s where I feel most like myself.

I only felt at home once my home disappeared

The further we travel from our life in Germantown, the more it reveals itself as the place I belonged.

The basement where we fell out of love

After the breakup, we created a second bedroom by assembling an Ikea bed in the kitchen.

Living in a hallway made me comfortable with discomfort

I was exhausted all the time, but I knew my temporary sleeping arrangement would serve me in the end.

Learning to love my Brutalist childhood home

The Brunswick’s ugliness once mortified me, but now I appreciate its utopian roots.

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My Brooklyn bedroom has no windows

What originally worried me about the place turned out to be a boon—until lockdown.

My year of free mattresses

I slept on a new one every 100 nights, but I couldn’t scam my way to self-care.

Finding beautiful baby decor in a sea of plastic

I’d been on the fence about having kids, and one of the reasons I’d wavered for so long was the stuff.

The mouse in our house

The arrival of the mouse jeopardized the carefree space we’d so deliberately cultivated.

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Why repainting my apartment was a crucial step in my healing process 

I didn’t have the resources to move out of my home, but I’d finally recovered the strength to transform it

I needed help to sort a lifetime of my mother’s belongings

Moving had been a fraught subject even before my mom got sick. After her diagnosis, we found an organizer-slash-diplomat.

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Thanks to rent control, I finally get to live alone

For the first time in 45 years.

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Building community in an unfamiliar place

Being a regular at a bar offers routine and a sense of civic involvement, but real relationships can only be built at home.

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On our bedbug anniversary, we got bedbugs again

When you have bedbugs, your first impulse is to pick up and move—to a new apartment, to a ranch in Montana to start a new life—but this is the last thing you are supposed to do.

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I bought an alarm system to feel safe while living alone

I am not likely to become the victim of a home invasion crime, but what if letting my guard down just this once invites chaos into the place where I am supposed to feel at home?

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From internet friends to upstairs neighbors

My building lacks the shared spaces that newer, flashier buildings advertise as a hedge against urban isolation, but we’ve formed a community just the same.

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I lost myself within my married household. I found myself by creating my own.

I experimented with the ’70s, with farmhouse accents, with psychedelic rainbow cactus prints.

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I never thought I’d feel at home in my neighborhood—until we got The Slide

The primary-colored eyesore became a community gathering place.

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How buying a house activated all of my anxieties

Purchasing a home means phone calls—and late-night worries about gentrification.

My dad is a real Bob the Builder

I spent my childhood observing my dad at work, but I didn’t understand everything that went into it until we began a project together.

10 favorite Personal Space essays of 2019

Finding furniture to remember a parent, growing up without a fixed address, and more.

I didn’t realize how much our kitchen island stools meant until I lived without them

The kitchen island represented what I desperately craved: normalcy.

My new home came with chickens

Caring for the chatty, social creatures meant I was deep in the long-term of my new life from day one.

My TaskRabbit gig in a stranger’s fancy kitchen 

Watching Tim invest in his home reminded me that right now, my life wasn’t about feeling comfortable or rooted.

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When I became pregnant with twins, my mess stopped feeling cute

I hoped hiring an organizer would force me to take it seriously.

Leaving the houses my father built

After his brain injury, my dad could still build a house—so he began a lifelong pattern of selling a house, building another, and doing it all again.

Learning to make my bed and lie in it

During my past decade of singleness I’ve slept on half the bed, and I’ve filled the other half with pillows, books, and a laptop streaming TV.

The previous tenant left with the kitchen. I made a new one from scratch

My Berlin apartment would be an oasis amid rising rents, but only if I built my own kitchen.

The storage unit that became a portal to my childhood home

In the grip of early grief, I still felt as though my parents’ things kept me close to them.

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Only a duplex allowed me to tolerate my partner’s cat

I wanted to be easygoing and compromising, but I didn’t see a way to share a space with this particular, peculiar pet.

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Choosing to live with my boyfriend—and my sister

It’s not a scenario that would work for everyone, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Rebuilding my home—and my life—after an earthquake

I didn’t fix the cracks that cut through my walls, first telling myself that I’d get around to it eventually, and later actively avoiding it.

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My family has lived in the same house for 72 years

Our generation gap is a flight of stairs.

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How I learned to stop killing houseplants

I grew up among Californian oaks and wildflowers; after the loss of my father, I developed a green thumb in a tiny Queens apartment.

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Making a home in the mansion on my phone

The illusion of agency coupled with an ever-improving digital estate scratches my fixer-upper itch.

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The choice between rent control and pest control

The city’s high housing costs are not just a financial burden—for me, they were also dangerous.

Why I declutter my home via Craigslist

For years now, I’ve been getting cheap—indeed free—thrills merely from regularly giving away my possessions.

Beginning again when a home falls apart

Building and destroying and building again wasn’t as terrifying as I imagined.