Toxic Washing Detergent and Personal Boundaries

What does it mean to set boundaries in real life? What follows is a personal example from May 2018:

In May 2018, me and my partner at this time spent a week away on holidays. When coming back, we had the impression of opening the door to a washing saloon. Some well-intended soul had washed everything she could find in our house, in an attempt to surprise us (since it was cold, she had hung the laundry inside the living room, instead of the basement and of course also already put stuff back into our wardrobes). And a surprise it was… Yet not really a pleasant one. 

Because instead of having used our natural products, she had bought one of the usual brands – knowing that we would not like this, but thinking we would not notice the difference. However, just like sweets seem far too sweet to you once you stop eating sugar, I immediately detected the artificial smell and just could not stand it. I already had a headache from the travel stresses, and the smell did not really help it (rather to the contrary). Thus the first thing I did was to take everything down to the basement, sighing at the prospect of having to wash it all again. And that’s what I did over the following two weeks. It took forever, because once wasn’t enough! Even after three washing circles the smell was still detectable! Incredible how long it lingered!

If you want to read yourself on the toxicity of the ingredients in regular washing detergents, click here. Even the smell is toxic, not just the lingering detergent getting into contact with your skin!

This incident brought up some fundamental issues of boundaries and respect, that we tend to have in this specific relationship. And with that a lot of anger and frustration. Anger about the extra work, anger about the waste of water and the fact, that so many toxic chemicals have now ended up in the water stream for nothing, but especially anger of not respecting my boundaries. I don’t really care what people do in their own houses. If I go there, I simply accept that I will have to spend a few days in a somewhat “toxic” environment and sleep in “fresh” smelling sheets. However, in my own house, I want my rules to be respected. I don’t want someone else to impose their choices on me and intoxicate my house for weeks. 

There are only three possible solutions to just about any situation: Accept it, leave it or change it. 

Since it already happened, I had no other choice than accepting it for what it was. However, that did not mean that I should just stay quiet and “forget” about it. Instead, this was the ideal opportunity to practice the assertiveness formula I had recently re-discovered. This formula is about stating clearly why you are upset and asking for what you want to be done differently next time – without blaming or calling names. It’s about respecting your own truth and boundaries, without crossing the boundaries of others or disrespecting them. It goes like this: “When you… I feel… because…”. So in this case, I said: “When you use cleaning products other than the ones I have in my house, I feel angry, because I get the impression that my opinions and needs are not respected.” 

Of course this is not a guarantee that next time things will be done differently, yet it does increase the likelihood of such an event. If in spite of everything, the person continues ignoring my boundaries, I would eventually have to decide whether it is worth to take more drastic measures (such as finding an alternative holiday cat sitter), or if I just accept the behavior as part of a “package deal”. In any case I can have compassion for this person, because if she cannot respect boundaries, it also means that she cannot set them. 

This is a real life example of staying true to yourself and setting boundaries, even if that might disappoint others. Do you have other examples to share? Let me know in the comments!


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