Can I still respect myself if I sleep on a shelf?

By Emily Feldman  | April 26, 2011 - 11:01AM

My apartment has very high ceilings. Whoever constructed or renovated the place took advantage of this by building a series of enormous loft-like shelves. The shelf in my bedroom is big enough to fit a full-sized mattress, a few storage containers, and me, as long as I don’t sit up all the way.

It's true that in the six months I’ve been living here, I’ve found some endearing qualities about sleeping on a shelf.

My room’s arrangement—a mini-living room set up on the main floor, mattress on the shelf—is like a suburban home, where bedtime means getting off the couch and going upstairs to my room. My bird's-eye view makes me feel secure. I like that there’s no reason or practical way to make my bed, beyond folding my comforter and plopping it down. I like that my bed’s out of sight so I’m not tempted into a nap when I enter my room with work to do, on a rainy afternoon.

But it's hard to make peace with the fact that I’m 26 years old and sleep on a shelf.

What makes it even less defensible is that I’m not living this way so I can afford to live in a trendy neighborhood. I actually live in a semi-industrial part of Brooklyn, on an unattractive, noisy street. And I don’t sleep on a shelf so I can afford to live close to work. My commute lasts 50 minutes each way and usually involves strangers’ bodies pressed up against me.

No, I live in a bird’s nest because I just spent a year-and-a-half in grad school, spending money instead of making it and I haven’t quite recovered from the financial blow.

I’m too broke to afford to rent a spacious bedroom in a share, not to mention my own apartment that offers a separate living and sleeping space.  If I were just of out college, I might not care so much. I might flaunt my weird living situation as a badge of youthful New York pride. But I’m not 21 anymore. I’m 26, fully employed with a master’s degree in journalism and quickly becoming the last of my friends who can’t throw a proper dinner party or invite people over without fear of being judged.

I know that genuine friends won’t think less of me because of my financial/living situation, but I fear that those who don’t fully understand my circumstances (or the cost of living in New York) may look at my bedroom and conclude that I haven’t tried very hard, planned very well, or that something I did wrong has landed me in a tree-house. 

I know this is temporary. I know it could be worse. I know that my salary will increase. My student loans will disappear. My life will go on and I won’t live on a shelf forever. But in the meantime, let’s call it a loft, shall we?


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