The oddball sibling to the coffee table book is finally getting some attention. You know, that quirky read you keep on top of the broken radiator in the bathroom? If I’m being honest, my rotating bathroom read probably gets more love than any book living on my coffee table. For me, bathroom books are usually inspiring, informative, or funny. Last month, it was a guide to deciphering health via your poo. Previously it was a thrifted children’s science book about lizards. Right now, it’s Friederike Schilbach’s The Bathroom Chronicles. For visitors to my bathroom (and maybe yours, too) this read says a couple of things about me:
- I spend a lot of time in the bathroom (unruly bladder to blame).
- The items in my bathroom represent a personal shade of me.
I imagine a new boyfriend or old friend picking one up and learning a little more about me than they knew before.
This concept, that our bathrooms offer insight into our silliest, most vulnerable selves, is exactly what called German book editor Friederike Schilbach to collect 100 portraits and captions of her friends’ bathrooms. In the forward of The Bathroom Chronicles, she writes, “Of all places, it is here that many of my girlfriends keep things that are dear or precious to them—small objects that hold emotional resonance for them: photos, flowers, jewelry, family keepsakes, vintage finds, books, postcards, vials, perfumes, old towels, little mermaids, rubber whales, hourglasses, creams, vases, plants, ceramic pots, magazines, and lipsticks. This is an intimate space—perhaps the most intimate in the whole home.”
Each minimalist page shows a square photo taken by Schilbach’s friend or famous acquaintance (hello, Lena Dunham) and a short, intelligent description. While reading, I imagined each woman stepping into her bathroom with the task of choosing a favorite spot. Was it obvious to her? Difficult? What did she look at every morning while brushing her teeth? Every evening while taking a shower? For some women, it’s ever-evolving shapes in the veins of stone slab walls, or vintage floors that refuse to line up. For others, a ceramic cat toothbrush holder, a chubby Hauula dancer from Honolulu, a cactus innocently decorated with an OB tampon and colorful pom-poms.
Looking up from the pages (yes, while peeing), I wonder, what is it for me? What do these random bathroom objects collectively say about me? Behind me rests a brown paper envelope addressed from a close friend. Her handwriting makes me smile while I brush my teeth. Under my feet sits a sample sale rug. It was still too expensive, but the purchase made me feel proud and independent. An unusual number of large matchboxes are stacked on top of my hamper for when people want to be *ahem* discreet.
Schilbach taught me a bathroom isn't just about style or functionality. It’s about letting loose a raw version of myself often inaccessible to a passer-by—a space to come up close with my reflection before starting the day. So, in light of my new appreciation for this safe space I’ve cried, laughed, screamed, scrubbed, and danced in, I decided to take a stab at Schilbach’s exercise. It wasn’t simple, as I realized I have a few favorite spots in my bathroom—the perch where my rainbow parakeet sits while I brush my teeth, or the bowl where I plop my jewelry before a shower. But I followed my instinct:
For the longest time this ceramic pump lived under the sink at my childhood home, filled with old lotion from who knows when. It has a chip on the ear. After college, when I was frustrated and still living at home, I’d go on spontaneous purges of childhood crap, but always put this giraffe in the ‘keep’ pile. I imagined it living next to the sink in my first apartment. Now, that's exactly where it sits, a piece of my childhood growing up with me.
So, dear bathroom dwellers, what's in your bathroom? Share your favorite objects, corners, or bathroom reads in the comments!
Larell Scardelli is a freelance wellness writer, plant mamma, magazine editor, slipper lover, and spiritual acne coach. She studies energy medicine, owns way too much tea for one person, and loves a good garage sale. Catch her silly adventures (and rainbow parakeet) on Instagram or read more of her work on her website.