You come home from overtime at work tired, looking forward to a restful night to prepare for tomorrow. You take a hot shower and prepare for bed. As you’re about to close your eyes, your neighbor two units away drunkenly staggers along the hallway with friends, bumping into everything that isn’t even in their way. You patiently wait for them to pass by.
Just when you’re about to drift off to dreamland, a brawl starts on the street below you. Even if you’re already high up, the noise gets into your windows and invades your room.
When you live in a multi-residential building, it’s difficult to find peace in your unit. Even if the walls between you and your neighbor are thick, sound seeps through the small spaces of your doors and windows. What goes on beyond your space is beyond your control.
How then can you work on what you control to minimize the uninvited sounds and images? Here are a few things that you can do.
Out of sight, out of mind
We have read numerous articles advising us to keep our desks uncluttered so that we can focus on our work. Well, the principle is similar in keeping a calm mind. What you will see can affect your mood. If you want to unclutter your mind, you need to shut out the outside world. Blackout curtains can be great for your bedroom. Install a double curtain rod so that if you have to get up early the following day, you can use a thinner curtain to allow sunshine to wake you up naturally.
Having the curtains drawn for most of the day might not be a good idea for your mental wellness. That natural light does a lot for your happy hormones. At the same time, you want to move uninhibited.
For living spaces, you might want to install an illusory barrier. For example, having plants on your windowsill prevents people from the building across to look into your room quickly. But it will still give you a partial view of what’s going on outside. Your service balcony can be a great illusory barrier. Fill it with plants so that you can leave your door and windows to the balcony open.
If you’re on street level, which is more prone for people looking in, instead of shuttering your window or with curtains, you can use a simple window film usually used for cars. You can still see out, but they can’t quickly look in.
The difficulty of controlling what we hear
If we don’t want to see something, we look away. Unfortunately, it’s not the same with our sense of hearing. Unless we plug our ears, we can hear all sorts of noise around us. And as sound travels through all kinds of matter, it’s difficult to block. You feel the bass of a boom box several rooms away, even if you shut out the music through the vibrations on the floor. In most cases, you really have to cross your fingers that you don’t have insensitive neighbors.
One of the main challenges of urban living is noise pollution, and despite your indifference to it, it can cause increased heart rate, difficulty in sleeping, and a lot more that can be detrimental to your health. You can still soundproof as much as you can. Make your door and window jambs as airtight as possible. The sliver of space is already enough to allow your neighbor’s off-key guitar practice to destroy your peaceful reading time.
Although minimalism is popular, it’s not a good idea for small spaces in cramped residential buildings. You’ll have the sound of the place reverberating through your walls, floor, and ceiling. Have at least a thick carpet, thick curtains, and plush cushions. These will help absorb the sound. If you can afford to, add a layer to your walls, the one they use for recording studios.
Fight fire with fire. If you really can’t block out the noise, drown it out with your own sounds. Play ambient or classical music if you need to concentrate. Your ears will focus on these sounds nearest you, and you won’t get too bothered with external noises.
It might be that your neighbor loves experimenting in the kitchen, and despite the exhaust hood, there might be wisps of that weird sour-smelling thing going into your open windows. Do you need to sacrifice your enjoyment of the natural breeze to block out unwanted smells? Well, there might be times you need to. But otherwise, you can install additional exhaust fans near where the smell usually permeates. Before it gets to you, blow it away.
When you are in the midst of a bustling metropolis, your sanity might depend on your success in blocking out unwanted images, sounds, even smells. These little things help you maintain your mental health. You want to set a restful sanctuary to come home to and not enter another battlefield of struggling for your peace.