Small spaces have always been my jam. When I was little, I would empty the toy chest that we had and then turn it into my own personal cave. It was perfect for doing so because it was as tall as a small bookshelf and deep enough to hold a small person, but it also had the best feature ever, a.k.a, an angled door/lid combo that would slide close. This was a win for my parents because, if we actually put our toys away, you could shut the slide-behind top and not see the chaos it contained. Those same magic doors had chalkboard tops so we could draw and practice handwriting on them which was super cool, but again, the really beauty was that I could then crawl inside this masterpiece along with some blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals to make my own little contained nest by sliding the doors shut from the inside.
As I got older and too big for the toy chest, I turned the floor of my closet into my go-to small space and would do the same thing, just on a slightly larger scale (but not much; I grew up in a beautiful old farm house, but one in which it sort of seemed like closets were an after-thought, not a main feature of the bedrooms which were big and airy (yay!) but without a whole lot of built-in storage (bummer)). I would again pilfer pillows and blankets from my bed, grab my latest library book or book order acquirement and settle in to read as long as I could. In hindsight, I have no idea if this bothered my parents or if there were ever concerned about where I was when I was holed up in these small spaces, but I’m guessing they probably knew I had my nose stuck in a book and weren’t too worried about my choice of reading locale. Also, there was no light in my closet, so….how did I do this exactly?!
Since early childhood, I haven’t had a reading nook or nest. Eventually I stopped shutting myself in the closet and chose to read just in my room or the car or wherever we were/I wanted. As I added more activities and homework in middle school and high school, there wasn’t really the time or need for such a space. Same for college and early adulthood; even though I may have wished very much to have a space of my own (I had some great roommates in college and grad school, but also, communal living was never easy for me), that wasn’t really something I could create in a dorm. Even living in a shared apartment with my own room still didn’t give me a little hideaway like I had as a kid.
Then, after motherhood began, my time and space really shifted from being my own to being constantly shared entities. I spent nine years growing and nursing babies, with a combined total of about five months off from both of those things entirely mixed in there, which meant next to no time for curating my own space. That or I was just too tired to do so, which is also understandable given all the growing, feeding, and raising of children happening during that time!
As we grew our family (and then, after Wilson was born, shifted focus only to raising our crew), we played around with space in our house a lot. In the nearly 11 years (at the time of writing) we’ve been in this house, we have moved bedrooms and furniture more times than I can count as we are always trying to make the space work just a little bit better for us than it had previously. As a result, I’ve had many spaces in our home that have been useful to me that I have also loved, but it was just this summer that I accidentally came full circle and finally created my own small space (in part because it was the only place left in the house in which to do so!) in a closet.
The driving need? A work space where I could organize and lay out my adjunct/teaching materials, but also organize PTO and personal files and papers, too. For several years I’d had a standing desk in our living room but that corner always bugged me because it meant I could always see my work. The sunporch was also a sort-of office space for me, but again, without a door to keep my stuff safe from the kids plus the lack of consistent temperature control, it never worked as a long-term solution.
Enter: The Cloffice. A.K.A. Closet + Office which is an idea I totally stole from the internet and one my favorite writers/moms, Glennon Doyle, who started her writing career from her very own cloffice back in the day.
Because our current home is like the one I grew up in (i.e. old but with lots of character that we love), closets are again kinda hard to come by and not very big when you do. That left me all of one space left to create the cloffice of my dreams – our front entryway coat closet. Naturally, it also required giving the boot to a bunch of winter coats, lunch bags, canvas totes, and random shoes and sports gear (not the boot as in getting rid of, but rather, had to relocate which was tricky but possible). Then all that was left to do was paint, put up some pretty peel-and-stick wallpaper (spoiler alert: that stuff doesn’t work with old lath and plaster walls so we had to buy some adhesive less than 48 hours later to make the stuff actually stay on the wall), install a little countertop remnant turned into desk top, and hang some shelves/filing devices/pretty things, and Ta Da! It’s a Cloffice!!! Thankfully it also comes with an overhead light run by a light switch, the bonus of a window for true natural light, and adorable pocket doors that I can just about close completely (minus where the extension cord needs to squeak through since the one thing the cloffice lacks is an actual electrical outlet).
And just like that, I’ve turned back into a small child, finding great joy in small things and in particular, small spaces that are just mine. I may not have pillows and blankets in my cloffice just yet, but I love that this little nook is a space just for me where I can work and write and think, which I now do, even when I have the rare moment that no one else is home and I technically have the run of the whole house. Turns out it’s the cozy little spots from childhood that I’ve missed the most and still like the best.