Home, but Never Alone – The New York Times

The Four Percent


April Bartle, 19, a student at the University of Michigan-Flint, tried to live with her parents in her childhood home in Sandusky, Mich., when her college switched to remote learning last spring. “It was hard to find privacy, especially at the end of the day when I like to decompress alone,” she said. “They really wanted me to come hang out with them in the living room.”

They interrupted her classes, asking her to do the dishes or other tasks around the house. She was also acutely aware that they could hear every word when she was talking on the phone to friends or making social media videos. “My room shares a wall with the living room,” she said.

So when her sophomore year started in September, she decided to live with her sister and brother-in-law in a different town. “They live in a bi-level, so my room is on the upstairs part, and she and her husband are on the bottom part,” Ms. Bartle said. “My sister respects my boundaries, and I respect hers. She understands what it is like to be younger and want your space.”

Some Americans are finding quirky, previously overlooked spaces in the house to call their own.

Heather Christle, 40, an author and creative writing professor who lives in Decatur, Ga., said her happy space is now a closet. “My closet is protected by a multiple-door situation,” she said. “There is the bedroom, and then the bathroom, and the closet is on the far side of that. It’s the furthest point you can get from anybody else.”

It’s not that she doesn’t want to see her partner, a poet and professor at Wright State University, and her 6-year-old daughter. In fact, when her daughter slipped a note under the door into her closet the other day, she found it sweet and endearing. But she needs a private den to be creative.

The closet — “I don’t know how big it is, but I am 5-foot-6, and when I lie down there is another two feet beside me,” she said — has no furniture; she prefers to sit on the carpeted floor. It also still has her clothes hanging.



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