Woman relaxes on a couch in her living space

Whether you’re a homebody or consider yourself a jetsetter, it’s tough to deny the simple pleasure of having a comfortable and healthy living space. But when your home becomes your gym, your office, your day-care center, and more … well, it can be a lot to handle.

Without clearly defined spaces, work files pile up on the coffee table, you stub your toe on a hand weight left on the floor (again), and it feels like your living room has turned into a catch-all for all of life’s activities. If we’re describing your home, it’s time to think about hitting refresh on your living space.

By getting creative, rethinking, and refreshing the room you have and setting a few boundaries — literally and figuratively— you can designate spots for all your activities and make your house (or apartment) the haven you look forward to spending time in.

Turn a walk-in into a workspace.

Clothes hang in a closet next to an armchair and laptop

Working from home can be tough, especially when you don’t have a designated office. Add kids to the mix, and it may feel like you’ll never be able to take a phone call in the quiet again. That’s where a walk-in closet can come in handy. Of course, you don’t want to spend all day cooped up in a space that might not have any windows — but adding a comfy chair and small writing desk (and a big mirror that pulls double duty for getting dressed and making the space feel bigger) can transform a closet into a private phone booth or noise-free writing nook when you need a little privacy.

Hide the home gym.

Ditching the gym to opt into at-home workouts can be a great way to save some cash every month. But when you live in a small space, it can be tough to find room for burpees or Pilates. When it’s go time, make space by moving your coffee table or other furniture out of the way and unroll your yoga mat where you have a clearing. When you’re not training, try storing weights and other equipment under the couch until next time. 

Divide and conquer.

Open floor plans are totally in, but sometimes a little separation of space is just what you need. Use pieces of furniture as makeshift walls to block off a piece of a room.  For example, if you set up a desk in the corner of your bedroom for working, place a bookshelf or a decorative screen next to you as a barrier to create a more enclosed area. You could also hang a decorative piece of cloth or a set of antique doors from the ceiling to create privacy.

Set alerts with sticky notes.

Three sticky notes say Do Not Disturb.

As barriers go, sticky notes are pretty flimsy. That doesn’t mean they can’t be used for boundaries, though. If you often get distracted by roommates or family while working at home, try sticking color-coded sticky notes on your computer to signal how busy you are. Think: Green means “I’m open to chat,” yellow means “I’d rather not be distracted,” and red means “Do NOT disturb.”

Maintain a schedule.

It’s easy to lose track of time or pick up your laptop after hours when you WFH. While it may not be a physical boundary, the clock can be a powerful tool to establish boundaries between work life and home life.  Set clear hours and stick to them to help build a balance between the workday and the rest of the day when they both take place in your house.

Switch up seating.

Do you have trouble being productive when you’re sitting on the couch or at the dinner table? Try sitting in a new spot. While it might not sound like much, scooting over a little bit from your favorite comfy couch cushion or sitting on the opposite side of the table from where you usually eat can give you a new perspective and help you better focus on the task at hand — plus it will help differentiate between work and relaxation time.

Let your doors do the talking.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but when you need some alone time, don’t be afraid to shut the door! Use doors to establish healthy boundaries in your home by communicating that shutting the door to your room or office doesn’t mean you’re angry — it may just mean you need a peace and quiet or a little privacy for a minute.

Find your own retreat.

Yoga mat and weights on top of a garage floor with a wrench and hose

Everyone should have a spot they can go to for a little me-time. Whether you love to recline and read in bed, soak in the bath, bake in the kitchen, or work out in the garage, it’s important to have a place you can retreat to once in a while. And you can create boundaries by letting others know when you’re engaging in a certain activity, that’s your time to pop on some headphones and tune out the world.

Separate space in a studio.

When you live in a tiny apartment, it can be tough to differentiate between different spaces — especially if your bedroom, kitchen, and living room all reside within 500 square feet. But with creative furniture arrangements that break up the room and by clearly defining each portion of your apartment, you can make even a small studio feel like it has separation.

Create quality conversations.

You want your living space to be somewhere you can enjoy all the fun, relaxing, and good times. But everyone knows that sometimes you’ve got to deal with less-than-enjoyable moments at home, too — whether it’s having a tough conversation with your kids, roommates, or partner. Consider establishing a comfortable and neutral spot in your home that’s private, yet fosters open communication to have those more difficult discussions.

Find room for financials.

Desk covered in bills, paperwork, and a laptop

It’s important to create a space where you can handle things like discussing finances with your partner, or other financial activities like budgeting or filing taxes in a safe and comfortable environment.  So, you might want to designate a certain spot for these activities. For example, all financial to-dos should be taken care of in the office. Or you can set boundaries to keep things out of certain areas, like no money talk at the kitchen table or in the bedroom. Having small guidelines like these can help you contain the stressful vibes and separate weightier tasks from everyday life.

Related: Check out these 6 questions, which help you have “The Money Talk” without freaking out.

Having a home environment that makes you happy and comfortable — and doesn’t induce stress — is important whether you live alone or with others, have a big house or a small apartment, or if you work from home or not. By setting healthy guidelines in your space through open communication (and a few physical barriers) you can stay productive, feel excited and inspired by your surroundings, and keep the vibes positive in each and every room.