House Rules…. Living Close to Family (Again)

“We have freedoms and boundaries; we just have a great family life.” – unknown

“A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.” – Dalai Lama

“Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life.” Oscar Wilde

The holidays are here and many of us will be packed in for holiday dinners, and maybe a few card tables annexed to the dining room table or kids tables back in the kitchen.  But what is life like when you bring a friend or family member closer permamently?  Does it always look like this:

When asked about rules for living close to family, often the first answer given was to respect each person’s physical and personal space. This is a broad answer and all-encompassing answer, though. What does it mean to respect another’s space – especially if it is your family member?
Respecting Each Other’s Physical and Personal Space:
By respecting each other’s physical and personal space, many people can successfully share one relatively small area. For example, we visited meditation centers many times over the years and it was quite normal for eight people to share a room that was about the same size as a two-student college dorm room. There were usually four double deck beds – two on each side of the room. You would not think it would be possible for 8 people to quietly get along in such a small space, but it was usually extraordinarily quiet. It was an amazingly experience. How was this possible? Because each person made a conscious effort to respect each other’s space. Hospitality is actually a spiritual practice. “Treat others the same way you would want others to treat you.”
Physical space is the space between and around you and others. If your grandmother is sitting on the couch watching a television show, she should be given the space that she deserves to watch her show without disturbance – especially if it is her home. In virtually all cultures – particularly Eastern cultures – elders are unquestionably given the greatest amount of respect.
Communicate Frequently with Your Family Members:
When living amongst several family members, it is extremely beneficial to communicate in a healthy and positive manner. Whether you have extended your home and hospitality to others or whether others have extended their home and hospitality to you, communication is key. There are bound to be some miscommunication lapses and misunderstandings. Approach each other with respect. Your parents may have a more difficult time adjusting to their newly crowded home than you. It may sound trite, but if everyone is on their best behavior things will tend to work out better.
Like a Blade of Grass in the Wind – Learn to be Flexible.   Successfully living with others is both an art and a skill:

• Learning to become flexible is actually a great personal and spiritual practice.
• Learning to remain centered in one’s own inner space of calmness is actually a highly advanced state. It takes practice to master. What better time than when you are in the midst of all the commotion at home?
• Keep your sense of humor! Learn not to take everything so seriously! Practice laughing when the going gets tough.
• Being flexible does not mean that you give up your rights or needs. It does suggest, however, that they be respectfully communicated.
Discuss Home Rules Prior to the Move:
If you can have a meeting with all family members before the actual move, you will have the opportunity to create some healthy ground rules and to express your needs and concerns. For example, if you want greater quiet in the house after your bedtime, voice this. Family members can learn to whisper and to keep the volume of the TV low. It’s really not that difficult – it’s just a matter of setting your priorities and having respect for self and others.
Practical Rules from Accessory Dwelling Neighbors
• Visits: Treat each house as a separate home and respect the other as a neighbor, not an extension of your home. This may mean calling before you come over (especially for family)
• Parking: define who gets the best driveway spots or is it first come first served?
• Laundry: Is it ok to just put someone’s unfinished laundry on top of the dryer?
• Entertaining outdoors: We can design two homes to be just 4’ apart but completely separate visually. Sound travels around corners so music and fun might need a curfew.
• Smoking: Thankfully we have gotten to the point where smoking upwind is no longer acceptable. But if you must smoke, then where is it most acceptable?

Please share any ideas or lessons that you have learned and we will keep the list updated.

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