When my husband Glen and I moved to Vancouver BC in 2012, we downsized from a two-story house with a finished basement to a 900 sq ft condo. By purchasing our new home near to English Bay in the West End, we satisfied the most important principle of real estate: location, location, location. But did we meet our space requirements?

Arriving with few belongings in a rented U-Haul, we went about buying size appropriate furniture for our new home. We set up my office in a corner of our open living space and turned a den — 8′ x 8′ — into a guest room. I’d read about adapting to small spaces, the key being to get out, often. Vancouver easily meets this requisite given its geographically blessed setting, plus lively cultural and café scene. Still, six months later I felt claustrophobic. We went to Scottsdale AZ in November for the winter of my discontent — with our confined quarters.

One day, recalling Virginia Woolf’s powerful feminist treatise, “A Room of One’s Own”, I experienced an epiphany: the lack of my own room, not the reduced square footage, was causing my regret. If we could redesign our condo to create a woman cave, all would be well. Thank you, Glen, for solving my problem. Through online research, he found a horizontal wall bed and a portable desk that would allow the transformation of my cave into a bedroom when necessary.

We made the change in 2013, not anticipating the imperative of sheltering in place seven years later. Being in extended isolation with our loved ones can strain relationships. Turns out a somewhat indulgent refurnishing has become our safeguard against a ‘covidivorce’, a new word from the pandemic.

  • Aromatherapy. My first activity: light an incense stick. The fragrance of burning incense stimulates a mild boost in mood.
  • Musical interludes. We know the many benefits of listening to music. When the rich voice of the divine Sarah Vaughan fills the air in my cave, I almost feel, well, divine.
  • No porn surfing occurs, but I do engage with my desktop computer. In addition to looking after finances and mundane tasks, I ‘work’ on pleasurable projects such as my blog. Recently I became part of a committee to organize a 50th reunion of high school friends. Reconnecting with my distant past has flooded my mind with memories, a welcome distraction from the current crisis.
  • Games. I confess to playing 7 Little Words, Bridge, Scrabble, even Solitaire on my iPad. Playing Chess against my young grandsons in March renewed my interest in it. In quarantine I started at level 1 and have graduated to 5 (of 25).  My aspirations? I hope to continue beating Henry and Charlie. Oh, wait. Charlie already put me in checkmate in a gruelling hour long game.
  • Reading. My cave in Scottsdale accommodates a comfortable recliner. Early on in the pandemic, I set aside These Truths, a fascinating tome about U.S. history. Why feel dismay in learning George Washington perpetuated slavery through his inability to emancipate his own slaves in 1789 when he became the first President? This book’s better read in better times.

Before emerging from my cave, I take several minutes to relax, breathe consciously and don a smile — to present a good self to my life partner.