by Carol C. Wheelock
I recently have had several consultations and received questions which all revolved around the same topic, although it might not appear that they are all related at first glance. Here is a sampling of the questions and situations:
I am planning to open a massage business in my home. What guidelines can you give me?
I am self-employed and my business is in my home. I am not as productive as I would like to be. Where is the best place for a home office?
We have a large family room that is filled with our son's toys. I like the idea that he is near me when he plays, but he also has a bedroom and a playroom that are filled with toys. I need help organizing his space so I can have some space.
I always feel that people take advantage of me.
The common theme in all these situations and questions is boundaries. There are all kinds of boundaries and the word may conjure up different meanings to different people. What is the first thing that comes to your mind? You may think of a fence around your yard, or keeping people out of a particular space. Or you may think of more personal issues.
Our spaces very clearly indicate boundaries (or lack thereof ) on many levels. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines boundary as something that indicates bounds or limits. We are all one with our surroundings. If our surroundings lack bounds or limits, chances are there will be a lack of bounds or limits on emotional and social levels as well.
There are many situations in our daily lives that involve defining spaces and creating boundaries. Think of teenagers who retreat to their rooms and close their doors. Many children draw imaginary lines in their rooms to keep siblings away. Just about all sports involve boundaries of some sort. Most of us have, at some time in our lives, wished for a bit more private space than we had at the time. Then there is the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. There seem to be no boundaries, at least none that Ray's parents acknowledge.
Definition of space goes hand in hand with boundaries. Starting with the outside, is it clear where your yard ends and your neighbor's begins? If you can't tell, you may feel that your neighbors and/or their children invade your yard. In addition, you probably don't have that feeling of being protected in the back and on the sides. Just as it is more comfortable to sit with your back protected when you are inside, it is more comfortable and secure to have the back of your house protected. A few strategically and asymmetrically placed trees can give definition to a space. Fences or walls of trees are not necessary.
People who share an office with other employees often feel the lack of boundaries. This can be particularly troublesome when there is a messy person whose work spills out into the work space of others. Furniture placement, small area rugs, shelving, plants, or other decorative items can all be used to help set boundaries.
Home offices are best in rooms that have doors and can be closed off from the rest of the house. An office in an open dining room or other "public" space is more difficult to work in and keep organized. Because there are no boundaries, others can easily wander through at any time, disrupting your work. It is also difficult to get away from your work, and stress increases. When an office is in the master bedroom, there is no boundary between work and relaxation. If there is absolutely no other place to put your office, then at least use a screen to block the desk and any office equipment.
Some of you have home offices/businesses that clients or customers come to. Is it clear how those people should enter your home? A separate door is preferable. Once inside, is there a short and direct route for them to get to your work space? Avoid having outsiders walk all through your private and family space to get to your office or a bathroom. It is important to clearly define and delineate private vs. client/customer space.
I often work with women who have no spaces of their own for hobbies, relaxation, meditation, etc. Although they may have responsibility for the whole house, they are the ones who end up sharing their spaces with everyone else. It is not always possible to have a separate room for everyone. It is usually possible, however, to create sections of rooms that can be for the exclusive use of specific people. Once again, area rugs, plants, and furniture placement can help define these spaces and give a sense of boundaries.
I have been in many houses where children have no boundaries or limits, and toys consume several rooms, often on more than one floor. It is important that children learn to respect others' spaces, as it reflects their respect of other people. Children can learn to put toys away so others can use a room. They can also play in designated spaces.
Children who share rooms often argue over territory. If a room is too small to divide into separate areas, then find some way to honor individual territory. Even if it is just one shelf, each child needs his or her own space.
All of these examples symbolize another layer of boundaries. A woman whose office was in her home felt that people often took advantage of her. People had to walk through her house and upstairs to get to her therapy room. There were no boundaries to keep them out of the space representing her personal life.
Another woman who wanted a relationship had children who had taken over every room in the house. There was no room for a relationship - no room for adult privacy or conversation. By setting limits and creating some adult space within the house, she opened up space, on many levels, for a relationship.
If you feel that you are being taken advantage of or that others walk all over you, you probably have boundary issues. Look around your home or office. Is there clear definition of space? Do you sit in the command position (see article on www.fengshuivermont.com) so that you are in charge of your space? Remember that you are a reflection of your surroundings and that your surroundings affects you. Boundaries in your physical surroundings reflect boundaries in your personal life.
Are your personal boundaries clearly defined? Personal boundaries are about being clear about what you will let into your life. There is a wonderful exercise in the "Armadillo" section of Medicine Cards (Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Company, 1988.) by Jamie Sands and David Carson. They suggest drawing a circle on a piece of paper. Within the circle, which is symbolic of a medicine shield, "write all that you are desiring to have, do, or experience". This process sets up boundaries to ward off those things you do not desire. "The shield reflects what your are and what your will is to others on an unconscious level." Your surroundings do the same.
Carol C. Wheelock, M.Ed. of Feng Shui Vermont is a certified feng shui practitioner who has studied in the United Sates and China. She practices Black Sect or western feng shui. Carol does private consultations for homes, schools, libraries, and businesses; clutter counseling and clearing; spaces clearings; phone consultations; presentations; and teaches workshops throughout the United States. She also does personal clearings.