Untethered: In Defense of a Messy Bed

I think I’m regressing.

There’s a certain kind of comfort to me in dishevelment. A staged space with everything in its place does not say “home” or even “safety.” And often, the people who have occupied said spaces haven’t been too safe, either. Now, a matchbook from a trip decorating a windowsill, a trinket my dead grandfather gave me, a tube of lipstick on a dresser or a binder slung over the back of a chair make me feel like the space I’m in is reaching out to kiss me. It’s not about a lot of garbage or a dirty kind of mess, but there’s a certain love affair I have with seeing little reminders of who I am sprinkled through a living space like glitter.

It’s been two months since I moved back into my bedroom. Before that, I spent the spring and summer sleeping on a camping mat on the floor of my office. When I moved back into the bedroom, I washed the bedclothes and re-made the bed. Started putting items into trash bags, moved my night stand back into the room and placed it on the side I’d never slept on before. At first, the bed was neat, just for sleeping, the way it has always been in coupledom. When there are two people in the bed at night, there isn’t much room for other things to creep in. People with pets, I am sure, can attest to the fact that even adding a cat to a bed with two people in it starts to complicate the situation.

But over the past two months, I’ve started dragging things into my bed with the same energy as a gremlin collecting Neat Trinkets to decorate my lair. Maybe it’s that the weather’s gotten colder and The Bed has grown in its cozy appeal, so sometimes I’ll spend a good amount of time (that I never had before) reading or writing or watching a movie in bed. It was odd, not having a bed for so long. When I returned to it, I almost wasn’t sure how to relate to it. If I used to lie in bed to relax instead of just sleep within the context of a relationship, those memories are distant, fuzzy.

But what I do remember are my teenage years when drawing supplies and books sat on my bed with me, my early twenties when there was the same with the addition of a laptop. A bed was an all-important multi-use piece of furniture, intimate, and while sometimes shared, belonging, always, just to me.

In the winter during my last couple years of high school, my best friend and I would climb under the covers of her bed after getting high somewhere outside in the cold. We’d drag snacks onto the comforter and put on a movie like Rocky Horror on her TV with the VHS player built in. Her room had red walls and red bed covers, and with the only light coming from the glow of a TV, we were ensconced in something like a womb, a space safe from any drama, where we could enjoy the things we liked without the boys in our friend group talking over us.

There was something about sleep hygiene, or still is, where I kept hearing that beds are to be reserved only for sleeping and sex, that one should have a sleep routine where you wind down before bed, put your phone away. But the world is burning and I live alone in a haunted house, and considering that I regularly fall asleep mid-texting conversation or to the dulcet ASMR whispers of Jocie B (have you seen their Halloween videos?), I really don’t think my phone’s keeping me awake.

It’s the memories that make it hard to fall asleep sometimes, the intrusive thoughts, the agony of not knowing what’s wrong at three in the morning. On nights I can’t sleep, no amount of not having worked on a short story in bed earlier would have solved it. But it does help to be able to snake my arm out across the bed and pull a book toward me, or to find a writing implement and a pad of sticky notes to take down whatever radical or rancid idea I’ve come up with while groggy, which will only be up for further evaluation when I wake up with the sticky note adhered somewhere on my person.

To let my bed grow messy with objects, replete with books from my ever-evolving to-be-read pile; to use it not-just-for-sleeping, feels like a return to a kind of youthful solitude that I didn’t think was open to me any longer. It’s a kind of space-as-utility that rejects space-as-class-presentation, space-as-aspiration, space-as-who-we’re-supposed-to-want-to-be, space-as-queer-assimilation. If I’m “regressing” it’s because I’m not attempting to move from something messy to something tidier, from someone whose most intimate spaces are my own to someone whose every space is ready for commodification and display, from something that is “youthful” to something that is “adult.”

This is Untethered, a new column by me, a person who has basically never been single in their whole adult life. Herein, I’m publicly committing to, above all else, dating myself and building community around me not based on the relationship escalator — for the indefinite future. I’m curious about what that looks like, genuinely, and hope you’ll explore that with me!

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Nico Hall is Autostraddle's and For Them's Membership Editorial and Ops Dude, and has been working in membership and the arts for over a decade. They write nonfiction both creative and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 226 articles for us.


  1. It’s winter and I love my bed people who say their only to sleep in have either a dope living room or have never known the joy of reading in the afternoon. That’s for beds. Reading writing feels so much better

  2. Definitely an interesting read! I’ve never spent much time in my bed or bedroom, but many of my teenagers do, and a bed and bedroom with their stuff strewn around does seem to be a comfort to them. And so my only request is that they try and limit the food trash in their rooms so we don’t get pests, and that they bring their dishes back to the kitchen eventually.

    I love your description of a lived in house! With a house full of kids mine is never picture perfect, but it is lived in and cozy, full of love and comfort.

    I’m really enjoying this series!

  3. I swear you’re writing from inside my head. The abrupt change of moving from my college apartment, where my bed was basically my entire room, into spaces with my (now ex) partner, where the bedroom was literally only for nighttime, was something I didn’t really reflect on until after everything blew up and she moved out. Over a year later, I’m still working on making that space feel like “my” room, but I’m making progress. Love this series!!!

    • Hahahaha maybe I AM writing from inside your head! I love knowing that you’re on a similar journey and am going to take some comfort in the fact that over a year later, you’re still working on it. It means it’s okay if that winds up being the same case for me. <3 Sending you love!

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