I have two sisters and believe it or not, we didn’t always get along all the time. I remember one long road trip across the country when I was around 12 years old which would have made my sisters around 7 and 10. I should have been old enough to ignore their not-so-subtle attempts to drive me bonkers, but full of pre-teen angst and raging hormones, I felt affronted each time one of their fingertips reached into my seat space.
Tired of the shrieking, our dad pulled out his best tool… duct tape. Soon, the boundaries between us were clear – cross the line of tape separating your section from your sister’s and there would be (good natured) hell to pay.
Those boundaries mattered. The visible representation and clear distinction between my space and my sisters gave me a feeling of control, a way to feel secure in my little bubble, a sense of ownership over my domain.
At home right now, where many of us are sheltering in place, those boundaries might not be so clear.
The kids need the kitchen table for school work yet that’s also where the family meals happen.
You need to take a conference call but your husband is on a sales call on the couch next to you.
Where you found quality time for yourself when you went to the gym after work each night, your roommate is now counting your reps, thinking she’s motivating you but really, she’s just in your space.
Setting, and sticking to, clearly defined boundaries couldn’t be more important right now. Even in small spaces, where marking out separate sections might seem ridiculous, it’s not more ridiculous than Dad using duct tape on the seats of our car. And that worked.
Identify and create zones in your home, designated places for activities or tasks or just hanging out. You could use tape or pillows or a table and chair – some visible indication that the space is designated for something specific and when you’re in that space, anyone else needs to be invited in, if you so choose.
Be clear when setting your expectations for the space. Stay kind and compassionate while also firm and confident that you’re serious about the intention for the space and the consequences for crossing your boundaries. You get to find a sense of control, some agency over your domain which will help to reduce anxiety and the feelings of overwhelm that are sneaking up on us these days.
The tape boundaries frustrated my sisters and me. Where we’d previously been rebelling against our boredom of being stuck in a confined space for too long, now we didn’t have that same outlet to release our frustration. I imagine it’s the same for many of us in the confined space of our homes. The transition from freedom to cross boundaries to establishing the consequences of crossing those lines may not be comfortable for everyone in your household and the transition period might be hard.
Good thing we can do hard things!
The boundaries will give you a new place to focus, a sense of control in our uncertain world right now and a place where no body is invading your personal space for a while.
This particular hard thing will be totally worth it.