By Rebecca Alwine
Moving into a new house due to military PCS orders brings lots of possibilities. The kids run to the rooms they want; imagining colors, decorations, and where they want to put their bed. The dog runs around and around and around smelling every corner before deciding precisely where it wants to lay its head each night.
When my family moved into our new house, most things were pretty obvious. Over the past three years we haven’t moved too many things around. The kids now share a room, giving them a designated playroom (with a door!) and opening up the larger living area to include desks for school work. So the kids have their areas, and we should have ours, right?
I mean, the master suite is not exactly the same as a child’s bedroom. My husband laid down a few ground rules about the bedroom décor, but in reality, it’s not a place we spend much time. The colors are neutral, red and black, and we have a gorgeous Afghani carpet runner that we built the design around. So where does that leave us if we are each looking for a space to call our own?
Luckily this house came with lots of space, so we can all have some. We have both an internal and external storage unit, with shelves built into one wall. I claimed the one off the laundry room early on to be my sewing room. I can sit in there, have my own space, and work on projects… most of the time in peace. My husband uses the outside storage unit for his things, and also has room in the garage for his work bench, where he does things to his golf clubs that I will never understand… but it makes him happy.
“Man caves” have been a part of many houses for years. A designated space for the man of the house to watch sports, play video games, or talk about cars. Decorations can be simple and Spartan or intricate with pool tables, posters, or even a bar. In the military community you might find loads of branch-specific memorabilia hung on the walls; swords, plaques, paddles, signs, etc.
Consequently, “she sheds” have become popular in recent years. An outside shed that is a safe haven for women to read, craft, sew, garden, entertain… or to watch sports, play video games, or talk about cars! A backyard escape for women to enjoy whatever makes them happy.
However, in our military life we cannot be picky or even guarantee we’ll have enough individual bedrooms for each of our children, much less a “man cave” or “she shed”, so we quickly learn to adapt. With the exception of our small spaces in our current house, we have never really had designated individual spaces, so I talked to a few friends about what they have done.
“Husband has a room and has had one for several years in different homes. This year it’s slightly less, but he keeps all of his games and everything in there,” says one friend who has four children in her four bedroom house.
“No, but he used to,” says Amy, “We kept having babies so he had to give his man cave up. In Missouri, we had a double garage so he made part of it his man cave. He had a recliner, PlayStation, and all that good stuff.”
My sister put it quite simply, “I have a study and I’m not afraid to close the door.” Similarly my parents had separate areas as well. My dad had his office and my mother had her sitting room. My in-laws also have separate areas for their hobbies.
So with limited space, the constant rearranging of furniture to fit the current house, and restrictions on adding additional space in a rental or base housing, how do you find enough square footage to respect each other’s space and create a “man cave” or “she shed”?
Utilize the Odd Places
Like the utility room off the laundry room I transformed into my sewing room, for instance. Lots of people use it as storage but I immediately saw my space. Do you have extra room in a walk in closet, or a larger laundry room? Is it really a big deal to park in the garage, or could that be transformed? Could you put a stand alone pantry piece in your kitchen and clear out a walk in pantry to use as an individual space?
Make an Area For Both of You
There’s no reason you can’t use a spare bedroom as a place for both of you to enjoy. Two desks in one room; a crafting table by day and a gaming table by night. Or purchase simple room dividers and let each person decorate their own space to their liking. Sometimes, just having a home office to take care of bills, personal projects, etc. can make all the difference in keeping the sanity in your home, even if it is shared with your spouse.
Are your children close enough in age to combine their bedrooms, freeing the other one up for additional space? Is your living room or kitchen large enough to place a small table, freeing up your dining room? Do you use that guest room as often as you wish, or would a sofa bed against one wall work so that you could utilize the space as an office when guests are not in your home?
Wait for the Right Season
With little kids, a playroom will frequently take priority over the desire for an office (or even a clean living room, who are we kidding?) but remember that it’s temporary. Just recently I moved the playroom into a bedroom and was able to make an office/homework area in the main part of the house. But, if finding a space for a “man cave” or “she shed” is simply not possible in your current home, put it on your dream list for the next time you make a military PCS!
While I believe time apart and different interests are important in a marriage, I’m not a fan of designating areas “off-limits” to your other half. While I enjoy my sewing room and my husband enjoys his work bench, there’s no reason to think we couldn’t incorporate the other into the area if they wanted. Of course, for some, having that individual space is essential to the health of their relationship. Marriage is based on compromise, and the arrangement of your house should be as well. Thinking out of the box could allow you both to find a space you can call your own; your very own “man cave” or “she shed”… military family style!
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Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. You can follow her on Twitter at armywife1229 or at www.whatrebeccathinks.com