Sanctuary: How to Create “Me Space” in a Small Apartment

Living with someone else often means losing some independence and alone time. | Photo courtesy of Nicola Holtkamp.

It doesn’t matter if your roommate is your best friend or sibling, a stranger, or even your significant other. When you live with someone else, you inevitably lose some sense of “sanctuary.”

You compete for shelving space in the fridge. You wait in line to take a shower. Your bathroom is littered with someone else’s dirty towels. Your living room turns into a sports arena, in which you compete for the remote at primetime on Sunday nights. You may not even have a bedroom to yourself.

How can you take time for yourself to avoid feeling overwhelmed and smothered? Here are a few tips.

1. Declare Your Territory

Carve out a spot in your apartment and claim it as your “me space.” No one else — not even your significant other — is allowed to use the space without your permission.

This spot might be a small chair on your patio or a pile of throw pillows in the corner of your living room. Just pick a spot where you can catch a few moments of peace and quiet.

After you choose the perfect location, make it a bit more private. You can use a three-panel screen, hanging curtains, or a bookshelf to block off the area. Next, stock your hideaway with your favorite things: scented candles, the latest bestseller, your iPod — anything that will help you achieve instant bliss.

Remember, your “me space” should be used for relaxation. Don’t morph it into a work area or clutter zone. The point is to enjoy a special place away from your roommate (no matter how much you love him or her) and find some inner peace.

2. Try a Temporary “Me Space”

If you lack the room to transform an area of your apartment into a permanent “me space,” claim a communal space temporarily.

If you share a bedroom, ask your roommate or significant other to plan a “guys night” or “girls night” without you. Transform the room into your own space, just for a few hours, by closing the door, putting on your headphones, and listening to your favorite music or watching a movie on your laptop.

Even a shared bathroom can double as your sanctuary. Ask your roommate if you can “reserve” the bathroom for an hour in the afternoon or evening. Create a private oasis by locking the door, drawing a hot bath, lighting some candles, and imagining you’re at an expensive spa.

3. Do Unto Others

You probably aren’t the only one in the apartment who misses alone time. Make a pact with your roommate to ensure that he or she also gets a dose of “sanctuary time” each week.

Create a schedule and agree on a specific time when each of you gets the apartment to yourself for a few hours. Use the time to catch up on your favorite Netflix shows, work on the novel you’re writing, or even organize your shoe collection. Do something that makes you happy or that you’ve been putting off due to a lack of free time. Relaxed and respectful roommates are happy roommates!

4. Enjoy Life Outside Your Apartment

“Me space” and “me time” doesn’t have to be limited to your apartment. Find a location outside where you can unwind.

Practice yoga in the park. Enroll in a cooking class. Start running. Join a book club. You’ll find that you can experience a sense of tranquility even in public settings. Enjoying a cup of coffee alone in a cafe or going for a casual bike ride in the park can sometimes be the perfect prescription for disconnecting from the world, since everyone around you is caught up in their own little worlds.