“Do you like your new house?” Grandmama asked him as he showed her the deck that extends from the Master Bedroom.
“Yes and the best thing is that its OURS!” Little Man responded with a huge smile.
This right here cut straight to the core of my being and I had to struggle not to cry a little when my Grandmother told me what he said. At only 7 years old he has perfectly captioned what this move has meant to us all. My first home, My husbands first home, the place where we will raise our children and watch them grow. This is all new to us, to all of us, even to my parents. The concept of a home that is not temporary or owned by someone else is so foreign to us that my mother’s first question when we showed her the still empty possibility was, “What wall are you going to use to measure your children against?” She didn’t ask where my furniture was going or what colors I would paint until later, the first thing she thought of was that we could permanently measure our children’s growth on a wall and they would see it for years to come.
Just one of many quaint little ideas in my head that have been shaped by years of societal conditioning regarding exactly what a home should be, and honestly, this house has it all. The backyard that backs up to trees and a creek. The finished basement with playroom and workbenches. A red brick fireplace. Garden beds. I am seriously in heaven after a year in that tiny little apartment and so are the kids. There has been this almost magical transformation in our household but there has also been a realization brewing in my head. All of those pictures of successful, happy families living in a clean and orderly houses that have fueled years of perfectionism struggles and keeping up with the Jones’ mentalities are pushed onto people who are not yet ready or not able to have that lifestyle. It did for me and it kept me from enjoying where we were for a very long time.
Example #1: The sparkling clean kitchen.
You know what bugs me about this? The idea that magazines and HGTV make it look like even in a small kitchen it is completely possible to have surfaces that are so clean that your reflection shines off of them and if your kitchen doesn’t look like this well then you must be a lazy slob. Let’s be honest though,even if you do keep your kitchen immaculate it doesn’t sparkle. At least not for any family that is scraping by or living on a budget and actually uses their kitchen regularly. Most families can’t afford shiny, new countertops and so they have the laminate that collects every stain from splattered spaghetti sauce ( that was made in a hurry on a weeknight before rushing off in a hurry), has lost its shininess from constant scrubbing or is barely visible because with only two or three square feet of countertop space between the stove and refrigerator it has to be covered up by the coffee maker and toaster that are used every morning and don’t fit in your already filled cabinets.
Most families with small children are not living in their dream home, especially ones who are trying to make a single income work in this economy and are trying to make what they have beautiful. We have had some places where the sink and countertops were so small it looked like I hadn’t washed the dishes in weeks after one Saturday morning breakfast at home. That’s all it took to make my kitchen look like a disaster but you know what, my family was happy. The children still crowded around me and tried to help out, we still baked cookies (using every square inch of open space between the kitchen and table just to let the cookies cool), made healthy dinners and worked together. It was harder to clean, it didn’t look as pretty and there were times where I thought “i’ll be a better mom, once we have more space.” and the me now who has that extra space does exactly the same things I did then and I wonder why I ever thought I wasn’t already a good mom.
Example #2 the Renovation craze.
I fell for this hook, line, and sinker. Pinterest, HGTV, Better Home and Gardens and all of those other DIY/How to marketers tricked me into thinking that stuff was easy and inexpensive. I couldn’t wait to live in a house that I could change to perfectly fit me and within days of walking through our dream house I already had plans for half of the rooms in the house. I had paint colors chosen, new floor ideas for some of the rooms, possible kitchen demolition plans forming…I hadn’t even received the keys and I was already trying to change it. It was also the same thing that had me so unhappy in all of our other places. It wasn’t mine so I couldn’t paint. Why spend that money or put in that kind of effort for a place that belonged to other people? It just didn’t make sense, but I had bought into the idea, I dove head first into “I love You, Your perfect, now Change.”
Now that we live in the house, that wall color that absolutely had to go, yeah, it’s still there. The floors that needed to be changed are not so bad, I still want to change them but it is not an urgent need. The kitchen counter will probably be laminate next year too. Why? Because, none of these details are what make this our home. You know what does make it our home? The fact that it belongs to us. That’s enough. The garden beds are over grown with weeds, the play set could use some TLC, the grass is almost as tall as Itty Bitty and not one of those things changes how happy we are to live in this house. All those things that I thought would make me a better housekeeper or mother are nothing compared to the attitude of joy that has come naturally with home ownership…but why couldn’t I look at our other houses the same way? How do you make a house your home?
#1 a sense of responsibility.
Not once did I ever consider those other houses mine. They were temporary and I knew it. I treated the houses as temporary too and my attitude towards a temporary home lacked any sense of responsibility. If something went wrong we just call the landlord/maintenance, we rarely even took the time to know the manufacturers names of appliances let alone specifics. This was our game changer and I had no idea how important this was. We always treated the houses we lived in with respect but because they weren’t ours we didn’t allow our selves to gain any responsibility or even build any real connections.
#2 Routine/ Rhythm
This was actually the one thing we always did have and it made our transition into the new house go so much more smoothly than expected. We still have boxes everywhere but the books are unpacked and we had poetry tea on Tuesday just because it was Tuesday. We homeschooled all the way through the move, not because I wanted to look like super mom or because the state required it, but because it’s what we always do. We still went to piano practice and the library, we still read ten books (albiet on an empty floor with boxes piled around) just because. Keeping a rhythm has helped us transition.
#3 The Stuff
This is number 3 because it actually is important. People always talk about how unnecessary all our stuff is but you know what, when we moved into the house (before all our stuff was delivered) the first thing Itty Bitty did was ask to go home to her “tiny, little bed.” She loved the house and hated the apartment but she wanted to go back to the apartment because that is where the stuff was (in her mind, in reality we had already turned in the keys). We all loved the empty house too but it still felt like an empty shell until the stuff was delivered.
So whether your living the quintessential dream, building a home or borrowing one, home doesn’t have to be so far away. Home could be tiny or grand, near to family or in the far reaches of the world. Home could be a planned out and well executed investment or a happy accident… all so long as you decide to be home. Bloom where you are planted. Not just in your community or through your activities/ actions but also in creating your home, sweet home.