If you’re working from home and/or homeschooling now, you’re probably realizing that some of your home space is working for you and some really isn’t, for reasons such as:
- The house gets more cluttered and dirtier with you and your family members spending more time at home.
- You and your family members are doing different activities at home that require new uses of space. You’ve also likely brought in some additional things to help you complete those activities–boxes of files from the office, all of your child’s textbooks, etc.
- The separation between home-life and work-life (or school-life for your children) is not as concrete as it once was.
Let’s pause on #3 for a moment.
The good news is “work/life balance” isn’t that great of a term. It’s really about work/life boundaries. We often think of our homes as radically separate from work or school—a place to escape from the stresses of work and school. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Your home is your space. Let it work for you in the ways you need it to right now. Still, to help your home serve as a school and/or workspace, you probably need to build in a few more boundaries. Once you start to establish work/school/life boundaries, concerns 1 and 2 will become a bit easier to navigate.
How can you build work/life boundaries?
One way to start figuring out what kind of work/life boundaries work for your family is to take a day or two and really observe how your family uses your whole home. Ask yourself:
- Where are certain activities happening?
- What space isn’t being used?
- What space is being overused or becoming a pressure point?
Once you’ve taken inventory, try to think about how you would have set up your home if you knew that you’d be homeschooling, working from home, and doing whatever else you’re currently doing. If you could start with a blank slate, what would you do?
Invite your other family members to brainstorm along with you. Think big and see what kinds of innovative solutions you can come up with. Here are some options we’ve brainstormed:
- Moving bookcases to the center of a room to split it into two work spaces.
- Moving one of the living room chairs into an unused nook in another room to create a quiet reading space.
- Grabbing a space heater and creating a bit more of a sound-proof space for calls and virtual classrooms in the garage.
- Getting a rolling cart for each family member so that everyone can easily move around when needed and put away at the end of the work day.
Sometimes, even small shifts can help your body shift between “work/school mode” and “family mode.” You might consider the following:
- If a space is doing “double duty”–like your kitchen table–could you face the window when working and face the kitchen when eating or hanging out with the family?
- Could the lighting change? Could the curtains be open at the start of the school day and closed at the end?
- Could the sound change? Classical music during work hours and then 10 minutes of rock or pop as you transition (or, “commute”) to home at the end of the day?
One space that you might not be utilizing to its fullest extent is your yard or other outdoor space. Try:
- Placing blankets and pillows in a basket by the door to invite family members to create a cozy outdoor work space.
- Set up a tent in the backyard as a kid (or parent) getaway oasis.
- Fill weatherproof containers with craft supplies to turn the patio into an art studio.
- Put your exercise mat by the door to remind you to try doing your workout outside.
Nurturing Your Space
Still, shifting the space doesn’t solve the first issue we mentioned above: The more you use a space, the dirtier it gets. In that vein, now might be an ideal time to rethink family responsibilities. There are more dishes. The floors are getting an additional 40+ hours of use a week. And, then there are the bathrooms! In light of this, consider calling a family meeting. You could have everyone share what they’ve noticed about the house, and its operations. For example, it might be hard to get dinner ready if the breakfast and lunch dishes are cluttering the work area.
Your children might at first bristle at the thought of more cleaning. But, there’s a lot more to nurturing a good home life. They may have a big role in supporting the family. You might not be able to visit grandma right now, but you could make her special holiday cake and send her pictures of the process. You also might even need a hype person to get everyone up and moving for family exercise time or someone to lead morning breathing/meditation time. Those are family contributions, too. For the homeschooling parents, this can be your “Life Skills” class. Now is a great time to teach your child how to sew on a button, understand your house’s electrical panel, or change a tire. Or, consider using extra time in the kitchen to teach about how leavening agents work as you test different bread recipes. Or, talk about how to budget and plan meals.
Having buy-in from everyone in the family is essential to making your space a happier place to be in. As we all know, trying to get our profoundly gifted kids to do something they don’t want to do is an uphill battle. If you haven’t already done so, consider sitting down with them and explaining how you want to make this the best place for them to be right now. Share with them that you value them for the special role they have in your family. Ask them for their help. Would they be willing to step up right now when their family needs their help? By showing them that they can have a meaningful and necessary contribution to making this work for your family, they may be more empowered to give you a resounding, “YES!”