The Room of Requirement – What Started It All

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Our empty room, the original Room of Requirement.

I often hear people talking about not having enough space in their homes. They buy a bigger house, then fill their house with a lot more stuff, then need to buy another bigger home in order to hold all their new things. I know this has happened to me in a more subtle way. When I was younger my family moved into a larger house than we had had before, and ended up not having enough furniture to fill all the rooms. So we ended up with one room, a ‘living-room’ of sorts, that was completely empty. Which, as a little kid, I loved. I could blast the radio and slide around on the wooden floors in my reindeer socks, singing and dancing away. I loved it. The room would reverberate with the sounds from my old stereo. I could feel the beat pulse through the wood beneath my feet and into my toes. My mom and I used to sit on the floor in the morning with coffee and orange juice and listen to music, or do yoga. I would put on plays in there with my friends, or throw a bouncy ball against the walls for our rambunctious cat. We used that room for everything. But slowly over the years we started filling that room with ‘things’. First came 12’x8′ rug, so I could only slide around the edges of it in my socks. Then the couch. Then the large arm chair. And the three tables. And the bookcase. And computer desk. Pretty soon that room was meant for sitting and sitting only. No more dancing around, or throwing the ball around for the cat, or putting on plays. That room had a new purpose. Then pretty soon we were grumbling about how we didn’t have enough space. It’s ironic, yes, but it’s also understandable. We live in a very consumerist culture where emptiness is not valued. Yet because the social pressure to fill empty spaces is so pervasive, it has become difficult to wade through at times. There are ads everywhere telling us that we ‘need’ this or that, and that our lives are incomplete without them. So we buy into it, so to speak, and bam, no space. So what do we do?

Way before I’d heard of tiny houses, I had a conversation with Drew where we talked about what kind of house we’d like when we move in together. I was spouting off things like, “Ooh, I want a really big living room with a huge window. Oh, and a yoga/meditation room! (Then I really started going all out.) And a dance room with mirrors on the walls-like a studio, and a large dining room with the ability to seat at least 8 people, you know, for family gatherings and such, and, and…” Dream big, right? Well Drew liked my ideas, but we soon realized that the house I was describing would be about 10 stories tall and meet the zoning requirements needed for a castle – as in way out of our budget.

And that’s when I remembered the Room of Requirement from the Harry Potter series. I thought it was interesting how one room could serve multiple purposes and change when needed. How cool would that be? With that idea, we could just have one room for a house and change it into whatever we needed at the moment. “So, say you needed a bathroom…”

Then I thought about what all I had been looking for in a house. A large living room with a huge window. And a yoga room. Well technically I could do yoga in the living room. That is if the furniture wasn’t in the way. But a mirrored ‘studio’? And a huge dining-room? There’s no way. So I started back from scratch. How can I make this work? I thought back to my living room as a child, and had an idea. I looked at Drew. He read my expression with clear apprehension. “Oh, no, what is it,” he said. “What if we combined all the rooms into one?” He gave me a disbelieving stare. “No wait,” I said. “Hear me out.”

Then I explained. We start with a blank room. Nothing in it, just a large, empty room. You know how rooms always look bigger when there’s nothing in them? Lets consider this room the Room of Requirement. So I want a large dining room suited for 8 people, right? Well there’s no way we’ll be having that many people over every single day. So if we want to have a large dining room, say, for Thanksgiving, we can turn that room into a dining room for that one night. Bring in a table (perhaps from another room, or a collapsible one from a storage closet) and set it all up. That way, during the week we aren’t scooting around the table sitting in our way, or having awkward dinners where we’re each sitting at distant ends of the table across from each other like they do in movie castles. I don’t want a castle, I just want some clear space.

During the week, we can bring yoga mats into the room. If we decide to have a party, we can set up some lights, a buffet table, and still have room for a dance floor. Drew and I are also filmmakers, so if we ever want to have a small film premiere or maybe just a movie night with some friends, we can throw down some cushions on the floor and set up a projector facing the wall. When we are finished, we put those things away and have a clear room for our next venture. It’s a multi-functional place for whatever we need whenever we need it.

Some of you may say, ‘Well, yes. You have free space, but what about storing all that stuff? You need a place to put that kitchen table when it’s not in use. Or the yoga mats, projector, or whatever else you put in there.’ I can see your point, but if you plan well, I think it’s a better option than letting that same stuff sit in the way all the time when not in use. Instead of having a dining room and a movie room, we have both in one whenever we need to. Instead of having a movie room with the single purpose of watching movies, we can set it up here and save some space. This also plays into the lifestyle of living simply without clutter. Drew and I don’t plan on having many things when we live together, so the things we do have will be multi-functional. By having our Room of Requirement, it would encourage us to live simply and to question our possessions and their use. For example, instead of having both a dining room table and a buffet table for parties, we’ll have just one table used for both. Instead of having a both a giant screen TV, DVD player, and cable box, we’ll use a computer and a small projector, since we’ll have the computer anyway. These objects, too, have their own multiple uses, just like our room. We won’t be able to throw something in the corner and forget about it, because in this bare room it would be noticed.

I feel that a room that has multiple purposes leaves room for all kinds of creative uses. If I wanted to be a painter I could set up an easel, put some newspaper down and paint a masterpiece only my loyal, color-blind dog would love. By having nothing, I’d in a way have every possibility available.

This is how Drew and I came to value the idea of a tiny house. Since tiny houses are only a few hundred square feet, we are basically living in one large, multi-purpose room. This lifestyle encompasses everything I was looking for so many years ago – I just didn’t know where to find it.

So, let me know your thoughts. If you weren’t living in a tiny house, would you be interested in having your own version of a Room of Requirement? How would you personalize it? Each room setup is individual and unique to you and your needs, tastes, and interests. The type of room I’ve described would work for Drew and I, which may not work for you. It’s however you would like it to be. After all, this is just another way to live simply.

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