– and where family members’ needs determine the use of space
Pretty spaces versus OE accommodated living
This evening I’ve been busy cleaning the area around my bay window. It sits at the end of my living room, which is approximately 20m2, and it’s the feature I like most in this house. I love how it frames the green outside and how the flowers and candles make it look so cosy. I also really love how welcoming it seems from the outside, so enticing to anyone at the front door peering in. My physical space is important to me. When I was single, many moons ago, I would keep my house clean and fairly tidy, always organised in my own eclectic way. Becoming a parent with a family seriously challenged this ability of mine – I have never once in the last seventeen years managed to maintain a house that lives up to ideals of “house proud”. This has partly been due to being an overwhelmed kind of mum, especially when my children were small, then later due to the fact that we home educated our children and the house was full of projects. But even after the kids started going to school, I continued to prioritise self-expression and freedom over a tidy house. Later, and especially during this last year, another factor became clear to me: as individuals in our family, we each have our unique preferences and needs which are intrinsically linked to our overexcitabilities. These very much determine how each of us uses the space in our home at any given time. It has now become clear to me that I have lived in a constant dichotomy of how a house is “supposed” to be used, and how I have felt about us needing to use our home space in order for us all to thrive as much as possible.
Imaginational family camp fire
Both my children have minds that struggle to rest at night, driven by imaginational OE cinema-like entertainment in their brains, so co-sleeping has been our choice of creating safety and easy access to our support with winding down techniques. I guess, in the end, it also just became another lifestyle of ours. It has just felt natural to settle down for the night around the imaginational camp fire.
This has, of course, meant that I haven’t had a traditional bedroom set up, even though I would love the conventions of one of those, with its bed and bedside tables, a serene tidiness, and a cosy space with matching blankets and cushions, dim light and soft energy to help me drift off to sleep. Instead, we’ve always had extended double beds that could accommodate every family member that wanted to fit in. No place for bedside tables, and the colour scheme can be simply described as “clashing” as every member of our family has their own sense of beauty, their own preferences for different textures and numbers of layers due to sensual OE. When the children were small, the bedroom was also the gym. Every single night we had an hour-long session of jumping, rolling, catching, giggling and snuggling, as their psychomotor overexcitability required a regular outlet.
Diving explorers and kitchen craft workshop
The bathroom has over the years functioned as our daily winding down pool, with goggles and bath paints scattered around, just like the kitchen has been a food technology, science and craft room with half done projects scattered all around…the idea of starting and ending something within the same day proving far from reality in our house. I do love that as my children grow up they enjoy the bathroom for its spa-like quality like I do, but I can’t help feeling nostalgia for the now missing diving sticks and Peppa Pig foam left on the side of the bathtub…..
Art studio in the living room
About two years ago, I decided to use the bay window in the living room as an art studio for my youngest because she loves arts and crafts and it was just lovely that she could create next to the rest of us in the living room. The window provided a beautiful studio feel with lots of natural light flooding in. This meant that my beautiful bay window now was filled with a table laden with paints, brushes, old papers, crayons etc, but I loved watching her creative expression unfold. Then lockdown came, and this proved to be a really good use of space as we all needed to feel safe and connected in this unprecedented challenging time.
Crowded, cosy or connected?
With lockdown came even more challenges than I had foreseen, and this last year has taken the creative use of space to a whole new level in our house. In March 2020, I caught covid and as the months progressed this turned into long-covid. The first 4,5 months I was stuck on the second floor for most of the day. I would walk up and down the stairs to get food, but at some point I realised that the use of stairs was impairing my recovery. So I moved a mattress into the living room and, as it happens, my daughters decided to camp with me right there. So by this point our 20 cm2 living room didn’t just function as a living room with TV watching, game playing, book reading, knitting, social media perusing space as well as an art studio for my youngest. It was also a bedroom for three people, and I must say that it was a really helpful way for me to be able to stay connected with my children at a time when I couldn’t do very much. Much better than being two floors apart the whole day….
Ebb and flow
The unconventional use of our home space has been a choice of mine throughout the years. I have still had constant inner battles between our lived reality and the way a home “should” look, so it hasn’t always felt easy. I also can’t say that I have felt very house proud, especially this last year when my illness has made it hard for me to tidy up properly. Three people living in such a small space just creates untidiness. I packed away my daughter’s bay window art studio, as she had suddenly outgrown it and was ready to move to her own private space upstairs where she can leave projects out undisturbed. As I was doing this, it suddenly came to me: what a blessing it has been to be forced to break down my inner schema of how to use a house over these last 17 years, because throughout a big part of lockdown the three of us have been able to live closely together. Despite illness, despite countless self isolations, despite the lack of external distractions, we have been able to stay close and enjoy each other’s company, helping each other through a severely stressful time in life.
Life is a constant change between ebb and flow. And as a new life force flows in, we await to see how the next stages of our lives affect our use of space.
My hope is that sharing my story empowers us to follow our own gut instinct despite social expectations.
© Tine Landy 2021
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