Being cooped up at home for the past five months has created myriad emotions in many of us. Some positive, others not so. It has also led to a consciousness of what home means to us. Home is an important place where we create daily rituals, a metaphor for where we belong and the repository of our belongings and memories. It is so much more than a physical and private shelter from the outside world.
For psychoanalyst Carl Jung, home is a symbol for how we see ourselves: the intimate interior we create and invite only a few select people to share, and the public exterior that we choose to display to others. As we lay claim to our little niche in the world, we decorate it, putting ourselves into the very fabric of the furnishings. The pictures we choose, how we arrange the furniture, and the knick-knacks we strategically place are all messages about ourselves we want to convey both to our inner self and those we invite in.
The experience of lockdown has made many of us reevaluate the idea of what it means to be at home. Primarily home symbolizes a protective space, where we feel safe and secure. These positive feelings also coexist with many negative feelings such as tension, frustration, fatigue and loneliness. As with any opposing force in our lives, if we contract we crave expansion, if we withdraw we crave openness and adventure. We have felt both trapped and cocooned, intensely connected yet disconnected, tethered to one place and yet somehow adrift as the walls of normal crumble. Addressing this balance is key to finding our equilibrium once more.
As a psychologist and a real estate professional, we share some practical tips to help you regain a sense of self and your equilibrium in the “new normal”.
Stay Present: When we are inundated by news and scary information, it’s helpful to tune out the world and focus on nothing more than our breathing, to reset our minds and our thoughts. You cannot be mindful if your mind is full. Consider trying to incorporate some form of mindfulness into your daily routine, even three minutes might help. Carve out a sense of space in your home or garden. A nook with a chair where you add a candle or fresh flowers or perhaps a water feature in your garden. The sense of knowing there is a corner in your home that you can retreat to, in order to connect with yourself, can be comforting. Set an intention to make time to inhabit this nook daily when you need to reset and regain your equilibrium.
Bake for others: The process of baking allows us to feel a sense of calm and control over something. It is also gratifying to produce something tangible. It replenishes our sense of normalcy and provides comfort and connection with those with whom we share the finished product. The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where the family gathers. As social beings we are wired to connect and how we gather shapes the way we feel about each other. Invest in feeding the physical and emotional needs of your family by creating a gathering space in or near the kitchen. Think about how you can add an island, bar section or opening up the wall to the dining room you never use to congregate and share food that nourishes both body and soul.
Embrace nesting: The sudden urge pregnant women have to do a thorough house cleaning is both practical and symbolic. On a practical level it puts everything in order before the impending chaos wrought by a newborn. On a deeper level it is the turmoil we experience with change and shows how intimately entwined our concept of home is with our inner psyche. Redecorating is more than just an indulgent whim; by redefining our space we create new possibilities for ourselves. We often think of decorating as adding something. Instead try to take something away to create a sense of physical and emotional openness. The Japanese embrace the concept of Kanso. Kanso is in essence about keeping your interior simple and eliminating “heavy” ornate objects. Examine each room and look at what feels “heavy” and obstructed. Get rid of junk that fills up your space in order to feel more peace within.
Create balance: Happiness is not best measured by intensity but by rhythm and harmony. Take time to examine your state of mind and how you are feeling. Do you feel pulled too much in one direction, be it work, family or too much alone time in lockdown? Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy on creating balance and harmony within your space and yourself. The essence of Feng Shui is how you allocate your space and be intentional about what you are creating within your home to be in harmony with your surroundings. The most important symbol in Feng Shui is the yin and yang. The duality, counterbalance, opposing elements; where there is light, there is darkness. It’s about balancing the elements, to create harmony. When thinking about space, think about this yin and yang balance, space needs to have both light and dark to achieve a sense of balance. When your space feels balanced, you internalize this balance.
Find connection: Social distancing is an unfortunate turn of phase. What we are doing is physical distancing – social connection is more needed and important than ever. While we may not be able to invite others into our home in the same way as previously, that does not mean that we have to compromise on connection. Investing in outdoor furniture to be able to host bbq’s, dinner parties, cocktail nights, s’mores nights with kids and even intimate dinner dates, with tea lights and fairy lights. Create an inviting space by buying outdoor seating and lighting along with a fire pit or patio heater for chilly fall evenings. Adding a new sitting wall could pay dividends to your property. The soft lighting emanating from the ‘embers’ of the gas fire pit and the table or wall where you can put drinks can enable a perfect evening outdoors to fuel our need to connect with others.
Immerse in the outdoors: Whether you have a sprawling lawn, a rooftop deck, a small balcony or a shared community space, we’re all craving the need to be outside of our homes during the days of summer. We are being drawn to the outdoors as we’ve experienced a dark spring of being shut in. Connecting with the outdoors, landscapes, nature and wildlife provides a sense of tranquility. Be creative. If you have a small porch then add plants, tall ones, wide ones and colorful ones to add texture and dimension to your surroundings as well as being a balm to the senses. Plant shrubs in your garden that will attract butterflies and birds. Buy new colorful accessories that can enliven the space. And, when all your planting is done, consider a hammock to linger and take naps on during long summer days.
The concept of self and house being commingled creates a complex relationship. We want to envelop ourselves in a home which is familiar, solid and inviolate, where we do not feel vulnerable to the pandemic. Yet, when we feel trapped by our unchanging nature of surroundings, we experience boredom and fatigue. The solution is to reimagine our space and reframe our mindset; to allow ourselves to be open to our relationship with our home. Be kind to your home and thus yourself, fluff that pillow, enjoy the gooey deliciousness of a warm baked cookie and the time to sit still in your garden. Investing in your home is an investment in self, helping you to feel grounded as we navigate the “new normal”.
Marisa Paterson is a Chartered Psychologist and Professional Certified Coach. You can contact her at Marisa@wetherellplace.com
Susana Cenanovic is a REALTOR® at Leading Edge. You can view her Corona Chronicles Interview Chat Series on her website .