In three metaphorical floors, your living conditions can feel more liberating.
The foundation always starts with yourself. Let’s turn on the lights and make this level a livable space.
Something has probably changed for you this year. Adjusting to changes whether they’re good for us or some kind of loss is not easy, and I’m sure you’ve discovered this the hard way. This year has given us the opportunity to test our limits and assess our relations with everything/everyone. From my experience, where I live feels best when its balanced. Balance can take many forms. If your schedule has changed this year, balance is not allowing your home office to extend your work hours. It’s also not making a habit of day-drinking out of boredom. It’s setting some limits for yourself to regulate the changes you’re experiencing. This is also a way of monitoring your attitude towards facing the unexpected. As you attempt to maintain some consistency in your life, part of embracing the changes is noticing how they can work for you. No morning commute could mean an extra half hour of sleep. What have you gained from a loss, and how might it be better for you?
When the days seem to blend together, do one good thing for yourself each day. It doesn’t have to be a real treat or chore, but something simple like making your bed, drinking a glass of water, or changing from the sweats you slept in to another pair. The smallest moves make a mindset. Honor your own time and space. Back in college, I lived in a house with 7 other girls, and it certainly took a toll my mental and emotional health. In that time, I was able to learn what worked for me and what I could have done differently. I would often go straight to my bedroom when I walked through the door. I confined myself to my room to feel a better sense of personal space, but it made living in the rest of the house feel uncomfortable. This was a strong indicator that my living conditions needed to change. Luckily, it was a short-lived situation, but even when there isn’t an end in sight, everything is temporary.
What worked for me was taking walks so I could be alone outside of my bedroom and re-set myself for any interactions I might have when I returned. I took on a hobby by walking to two yoga classes a day. Walks and hobbies worked well when I lived completely alone in a foreign country too. They taught me to enjoy my own company. Having a hobby still counts as my one good thing a day. The significance of personal space and having something of your own is addressed in my post on creating ceremony (and will also come up in Boundaries —coming soon!). As you adjust to changes and feel good in your life’s flow, you are naturally easier to live with and can also learn to enjoy your own company.
The Main Floor:
How can you improve the physical living area? Shifting around the placement of the furniture, re-organizing cabinets and drawers, and doing a big clean of floors and windows all give a fresh perspective. If you can, brighten with flowers. Replenishing them can get expensive, so you could pick wild ones on a walk or gather colorful red and yellow fallen leaves for a display. It’s surprising how physical living conditions affect your state of mind and the dynamics of the social relationships within the household.
Ascend to the floor with the most heat. Watch your head, and don’t step on the deceivingly scratchy pink puffs of insulation.
Assuming you’ve lived with others at one point or another, you may recognize a number of issues that can arise. Although you may like who you live with, the various personalities and needs within the household can sometimes clash. In attempts to avoid confrontation, I found that I would bottle up everything that bothered me. All of the anxiety, tension, and resentment is energy that will take some form either on your health or resulting in an eventual explosion. There’s a difference between letting things go and choosing not to address something. If you have to take a breath and say to yourself “I’m not going to let this bother me” every time something irritates you, all of the instances are still adding up and will continue to do so unless you say something or truly let it go to the point where it no longer bothers you. The behavior may continue even after you say something, but the key is to not let it build inside of you so when you say it, you are able to say it nicely. When you say something while you’re calm, it likely comes out civilly and clearly. The truth doesn’t have to hurt. Passive aggression isn’t a nice way of saying something. It promotes miscommunication, frustration, and unmet needs. Pretending something is no big deal when it is becomes worse for you when the other person doesn’t pick up what the problem might be, and it is annoying for them to have to figure out the problem and prolong an actual discussion. Being indirect is way more effort and doesn’t earn you respect.
When you live with people, you get to know them in a deep way because you observe their habits and are present for their humanly ways: meals, sleep, bathroom, leisure, etc. What habits of yours seem to put your housemates on edge? Practicing self-sufficiency is a very livable quality to have. Self-sufficiency goes beyond doing things on your own and cleaning up after yourself. It also involves awareness of the effects from what you do: Is the floor soaked after you shower? Can the next person expect to find toilet paper/paper towels where they need it? Did you snap at your partner or kids before realizing they’re having an off day? An uncapped toothpaste won’t cause a divorce, but no one likes to nag or be nagged. You don’t have to micromanage yourself or your cohabitants with your awareness. Instead, your awareness helps to present to you the lifestyle you’re living and to be flexible when something about it needs to change.
Aside from taking breaks and establishing your own personal space, you can engage with people outside of your home. My friend who lives far away has naturally kept our video chat date every weekend for over 8 months. We hadn’t planned for any kind of commitment, but we look forward to the time we allot for pulling each other out from our four walls. You could also try to include other people in your home on the concept of doing one good thing a day. This year I had gone from living independently to moving back in with my parents. It has felt restrictive at times, but we have tried to think of ways to make good memories so our living conditions could be more optimal. One idea was to change into formal clothing and have a “fancy” dinner. It would feel good to put in some unwarranted, special effort and change the pace. Sometimes we put on music and have an impromptu dance party. Having a new experience together could perhaps remind you why like you each other and live together in the first place.
You don’t want your home to be another source of stress or to bring out the worst in everyone living there. Too much together time or too much alone time can be helped with some minor efforts of communication, re-setting, and balance to feel good about your lifestyle and home, therefore creating harmony.
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