Painter’s Tape Is the Inexpensive, No-Commitment Way I Gave Myself “Extra Space”

published Aug 23, 2020
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On some level, I’ve accepted that mess is par for the course when you’re living with energetic toddlers. What I didn’t bargain for was a global pandemic stripping my life of any order and boundaries whatsoever. There is no separation now between work and home, parent and teacher, family time and alone time. This physically manifested in toys and books covering almost every surface of my living room.

One day, in an exasperated effort to reclaim some control, I put down a strip of blue painter’s tape between the living room and the small den attached to it and told the kids their stuff must stay inside the den. 

Credit: stnuRRR/Shutterstock

Truthfully, the function of the den had always eluded me. Should it be for entertaining guests, working from home or some weird mix of the two? Now that it seems the only people I will be entertaining for the foreseeable future are these kids, I’ve conceded this space to them entirely. I’ve styled the space to their needs with a play table, kid chairs, whimsical art and toy organization.

As far as parenting secrets go, I’m not touting blue tape as the key to getting your kids to clean up. But what it has done is defined the space for me mentally. Even if it looks chaotic throughout the day, it’s contained to one area instead of the whole house. It’s where distance learning happens, forts are built and countless LEGO models are created. At the end of the day, there is a place for everything to go back to. On evenings when I’m too fried to facilitate cleanup with them, I just scoot their clutter over the blue line and turn off the light. Literally, out of sight, out of mind. 

This trick doesn’t just apply to corralling toys but any kind of clutter that wreaks havoc on your nerves. Working from home but don’t have a home office? Tape off a corner in your bedroom or living room that can serve your needs at the moment. Start with a basic table and chair and then build from there as you feel the space out. Once you’re ready to “leave” work, step out of the space. Anything work-related—papers, laptop, charging cords—remains in that space instead of creeping into other parts of your home.  Just having a visual boundary that defines a space for a specific purpose will do wonders for your sense of calm at home. 

What makes the world situation so stressful, in my opinion, is the uncertainty about how long we have to function this way. Seemingly overnight, we pivoted to doing everything remotely from our homes, which may have not been set up for these purposes originally. So, it’s no mystery that the atmosphere in our homes has been seriously disturbed. Ideally, we would all have multiple spaces in our home to serve our needs. But the vast majority of us simply don’t. What we do have is a roll of painter’s tape and the hope that this is all temporary.