Organizing your home requires you to be able to set and honor your own boundaries as well as respect and honor the boundaries of those around you. For many people, setting and upholding healthy boundaries can be really hard, especially if you grew up in an atmosphere where good boundaries weren’t modeled, if your boundaries were constantly invaded, or if you are a survivor of any other kind of trauma or abuse. Having poor boundaries can lead to feelings of resentment, low self-esteem, and disappointment. If you want a more organized home, it may be time to practice creating stronger boundaries for all sorts of reasons. This is a big topic! The first step is to start to recognize which boundaries need some help. There are many different types of boundaries. Boundaries can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual, spiritual, financial, material, and can be about time. In this post, I’ll talk about some different examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries so you can help yourself identify which types of boundaries you’re good at setting, and which ones need some work.
Healthy boundary: Although it can be hard to approximate how much time something will take, you feel like you have a good respect for your own time as well as other people’s time. You know how to prioritize the things that are important to you, and you make sure they get done.
Unhealthy boundary: You let trivial interruptions sabotage your time, you waste large amounts of time doing trivial things, and/or you are constantly late.
-Commitments to other people
Healthy boundary: You say “yes” when someone asks you to do something and you also have the bandwidth and desire to do so. You feel comfortable saying “no” when you don’t have the capacity or interest to do something. If you’ve committed to something that you can’t follow through with, you clean it up by letting the other person know that you acknowledge that the promise you made is not something that you can fulfill.
Unhealthy boundary: You are afraid of saying “no” so you over-commit your time/money/energy. If you can’t fulfill your commitments, you will either deny ever making the commitment, you’ll get defensive, or you’ll blame someone else for why you can’t follow through.
-Breaking commitments to yourself
Healthy boundary: You do what you say you’re going to do, or if you don’t, you acknowledge it.
Unhealthy boundary: You often say you’ll do things and then don’t follow through. You get defensive for getting called out on things. You don’t acknowledge when you’ve let yourself down with the promises you’ve made on yourself, or if you do, you’re overly harsh on yourself.
-Being too agreeable
Healthy boundary: You know how to compromise and are ok not always doing things your way. You feel comfortable with negotiating a fair trade off. You know what you want and need, and aren’t afraid to ask for it.
Unhealthy boundary: You don’t want to upset anyone, so you go along with anything, even if you don’t want to. You may not know what you want or need. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, and you are obstinate, and can’t be convinced to do anything that’s beyond what you had planned.
-Letting people walk all over you
Healthy boundary: You have a sense of humor, and you can also stand up for yourself without tearing someone else’s head off.
Unhealthy boundary: You either are too much of a doormat and don’t stick up for yourself, or you get overly defensive for any perceived dig at your character.
-Saying “yes” when you mean “no”
Healthy boundary: Saying “no” when you mean “no”. You can say “no” with a kind confidence, and you don’t get overrun by guilt when you do so. You have a big list (either a physical or mental list) of easy and/or creative ways to say no, so that you don’t do things you don’t want to do.
Unhealthy boundary: Saying “yes” when you mean “no”. You are afraid of disappointing other people, so you end up doing a lot of stuff you would rather not do.
Healthy boundary: You are generous with your giving and give within your means. You love to give gifts of all types to people and organizations that you care about, but you know your limits.
Unhealthy boundary: You give beyond your means, and feel guilty for keeping things for yourself. Or you may be an under-giver and never give anything away.
Healthy boundary: You allow yourself to receive gifts, love, money, and compliments with grace and ease.
Unhealthy boundary: You manipulate or steal to take things that you think you deserve.
Healthy boundary: Conversations with other people are balanced, and vulnerabilities are exposed appropriately.
Unhealthy boundary: You may dominate the conversation, share too much about yourself too quickly, or share things other people have told you in confidence.
-Accepting “gifts” that you don’t want
As a home organizer, I have heard lots of people tell me that a lot of the things they have they don’t want, but they have to keep them because whoever gave them to them will be upset if they get rid of them.
Healthy boundary: It can be really hard when someone you love has a hard time parting with their items, and so tries to loop you into their struggle. It takes lots of patience and compassion, but a healthy way to deal with this is to be kind but firm, and be consistent with your boundaries.
Unhealthy boundary: Letting your house get overrun by someone else’s gifting is not healthy for you or for them.
-Giving “gifts” to people who don’t want them
Healthy boundary: When someone says “no”, or has requested “no gifts”, or no gifts or a particular sort, you respect that. Just because you feel like you need to give someone a gift, if they have asked for “no gifts” for whatever reason, you can respect that.
Unhealthy boundary: Despite someone’s request for “no gifts”, you can’t help yourself, and you give them something anyway.
-Worrying about other people/evading personal responsibilities
Healthy boundary: Caring about someone’s well-being is normal and kind, but you know that worrying about someone is a negative prayer. You respect and honor other people’s choices, and trust that if they suffer consequences, they will be better off in the long run.
Unhealthy boundary: Your thoughts are preoccupied with thinking the worst about the outcome someone might suffer. You may even chronically pawn off your personal responsibilities to tend to someone else’s problems.
-Knowing your limits with what you’re putting into your body
Healthy boundary: You can hear and respect your body’s need for nutrients. You allow yourself to indulge occasionally, but not to habitual excess.
Unhealthy boundary: You let your inner 5 year old make all your nutrition decisions. You eat too much junk food. You may also have a challenged relationship with alcohol or other mind-altering substances. You might also rely heavily on caffeine to make it through the day.
-Knowing your limits with spending
Healthy boundary: You have a healthy relationship with money. You happily welcome funds to come into your bank account and investments, you allow the interest to grow, you don’t spend beyond your means, and you also aren’t afraid to make a big purchase when the time is right.
Unhealthy boundary: You are either really stingy and never want to let money out of your clutches, or you perpetually spend beyond your means every month. You are plagued with a feeling of “not being enough” and so you try to use money to try to fill the void.
-Taking on other people’s emotions
Healthy boundary: Many people who like to read these types of things are very empathetic. Some may even refer to themselves as “empaths”. People with a high degree of empathy can feel other people’s emotions, but healthy empath’s know how to not take on other people’s emotions. Healthy empaths know how to keep their vibe high while at the same time acknowledging someone else’s challenges, so that they can be a shining light for themselves and other people in their lives.
Unhealthy boundary: Unhealthy empaths drop their energy when they are amongst other people who are unhappy, struggling, or are in need of support. They don’t know how to separate their emotions from someone else’s, and so let themselves dip in an effort to not outshine others. This is actually quite dangerous and detrimental to one’s health to take on other people’s emotions.
Healthy boundary: People with healthy mental/intellectual boundaries feel confident sharing about their beliefs and values. They are curious about the beliefs of others, and can listen to them with non-judgement. They can have open and honest conversations without attacking someone for differing opinions.
Unhealthy boundary: Signs of unhealthy boundaries here are when someone is dismissive of what someone else believes. They are invalidating and intolerant of differences. They tell other people what they should do and how they should feel.
Healthy boundary: You spend an appropriate amount of getting to know someone and let your guard down over the course of time. You aren’t afraid to speak up about what you like and don’t like. You also respect other people’s wishes.
Unhealthy boundary: You either don’t respect someone else’s personal space, you don’t honor someone else’s no, you are too permissive with your own body, or you are completely closed off, and don’t let anyone get close to you.
Healthy boundary: You believe what you want, and you’re not afraid to share your beliefs with others. You also respect the views of others, even if you disagree with them.
Unhealthy boundary: You believe that your beliefs are “the only right beliefs”, and you may try to convert other people to your way of thinking. Or you tell other people that they’re crazy (or worse) for whatever they choose to believe.
Healthy boundary: You respect the space you have to store things, and can weed out unused items to make adequate space for new or more important items.
Unhealthy boundary: Your rooms, cabinets, drawers, and closets are over-full, and this is impeding your quality of life or is impacting the relationships of the people who you share your space with. Or conversely, you are overly uptight, your home is totally sterile, and no one is comfortable in your home including you.
The list of boundaries is almost infinite. It would be impossible to include every single boundary scenario in this list. Hopefully this list will help you identify some of the places where you’ve got great boundaries, and other areas where you might be too ridged or permissive. You might also be able to identify scenarios that aren’t on this list and you can practice articulating what healthy and unhealthy boundaries are for those scenarios.
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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