If you asked me to describe my house, here’s what I would say:
- Two-story with a full basement
- 4,500 square feet
- 4 bedrooms
- 1 full bath, 2 half-baths, 1 powder room
- Attached 2.5 stall garage
- 1.25 acre lot
Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.
If you asked me to describe my home, I would say:
Notice that all the words I used to describe my home are “feeling” words, not necessarily descriptive in terms of physical characteristics. I think of my house like an empty cooking pot. The pot is merely what holds the food of love. It is just a shell. It’s what’s inside that is special.
Since the day I got married (over 26 years ago), I have made a concerted effort to make our house a home. I want to make our house a place my family wants to come to. A place of safety, comfort, joy and relaxation. When my husband and children come through the door, I want them to be able to take a deep breath, and to feel as though they have been wrapped in a warm blanket. On the wall next to the back door, I have these words:
In my younger days, I was an absolute clean/neat freak. Now I’m just a freak! For the most part I was a stay-at-home mom and felt I needed to keep the house spotless in order to justify my existence. For goodness sake, if I was home all day the house had better be neat as a pin! After all, what else did I have to do? I was afraid of being judged as lazy, unmotivated and a bad mom/wife. These days, I have relaxed my standards. Don’t get me wrong, the house is still mostly clean and tidy, but I am not knocking myself out daily to keep it pristine. Know why? (Believe it or not, it’s not because I’m old and tired!) The reason is that a pristine home does not exude comfort and restfulness. To me, it says “sit on the edge of the sofa and don’t touch anything.” Think about it. When you enter a formal-looking, not-a-thing-out-of-place-type space, your first thought is probably not to flop down on the Edwardian sofa and plop your feet on the Queen Anne coffee table. If you are anything like me, you are a bit uneasy the whole time you are interacting in that space because you’re terrified of messing something up.
The goal now, is to help my family and my guests to feel welcome, relaxed and comfortable. C’mon in, plop on the sofa, cover up with a fuzzy blanket, put your feet on the coffee table. I will ask you to remove your shoes at the door, but not because we have delicate floors, I just don’t feel like sweeping or vacuuming up the shoe goobies. Besides that, you’re more relaxed in your stocking feet or bare feet. When I give you a beverage, I’ll also give you a coaster. Not because I have terribly expensive furniture, but the furniture I have I’d like to keep looking presentable. Other than that, I’m good. Wanna eat on the sofa? Go ahead. Drop crumbs on the floor? No big deal (the dog will Hoover them up). Wanna stretch out on the sofa for a nap? Be my guest. Hungry? Raid the fridge.
Think about what says “restful” to you. Does your house reflect that? Do you look forward to going into your house at the end of a busy day or does the thought of it stress you out? The single most stressful thing in my house, for me, is visual clutter. I don’t have a lot of knick knacks, pictures or miscellaneous decorative “stuff.”
Yes, I have clutter. Right this second there are magazines on the sofa, newspapers on the floor, a couple dvd’s on the end table and, of course the endless pile of mail on the counter.
BUT, this bit of clutter will only take a couple minutes of my time to get rid of and put away. What I don’t like is looking at (and having to dust) a hundred little figurines or pictures. To me, visual clutter equals chaos. It is not relaxing, it is not restful and it is just something else I need to maintain. Why would I want to spend hours dusting stuff or having to move stuff out of the way so I can set something on the table? Personally, I can’t deal with it. I used to have tons of little bric-a-brac, but over the years I have applied this litmus test: Is it something I truly LOVE or just something I thought was cute? Does it hold special meaning to me or is it taking up space? Does maintaining it bring more stress than joy? Just because it was a gift from someone I love, maybe it is not my taste. Throwing it away, donating it or upcycling it does not mean I don’t love the person who gave it to me or appreciate the thought, it just means it’s not for me.
I challenge you to look at your house and its contents. Decide what items enhance your feeling of “home,” keep those and get rid of the rest. It is sooooo freeing.
Until next time, my feet on the coffee table,