Turning a House into a Home

It has been nearly five years since my husband and I turned the key to our new house, and yet, in that time, we are only just painting the fourth room. At this rate, we just might get done by the time we retire.

Truth is, I didn’t want to paint the walls when we first moved in. I couldn’t. My brain was still a mess the day we signed the papers. Anxious. Confused. Overwhelmed. The last thing I wanted to do was paint.

So, there our house sat for nearly five years. Bland, lifeless walls. Dull. Boring. Making me feel like a renter in my own house.

Over the weekend, as I picked up the paintbrush, ready to cover the cream-colored, builders-grade walls of the guest room, I felt a surge of excitement. Another room was about to be done.

I crossed the room, noticed dings and dents caused by toys of little ones, and suitcases by late-night visitors. I thought of the people who had been in this room, and the fun we had had together. With one flick of the brush, I erased it all, every last memory removed.

The closet held other memories, sparkles from a Christmas tree, and ornaments now gone. Scratches from tables and chairs we had moved out for guests. With one swift stroke, I removed those memories as well.

A mark on the door. A bump on the trim. Those would have to stay. For now.

Stroke after stroke. Brush beyond brush. The new arrives, the old is taken away.

I was anxious to finish this room, ready to move on to another. To paint walls and make them full of life. Make them ours. Turn them into home.

A home that all this time I had thought of as a house. A house that had seen the world pass through.

It watched newborn babies being rocked and held, smiled as children crawled across floors. It laughed with little ones that smeared greasy fingertips across windows as they looked in wonder at birds outside.

This house had laughed when we laughed, cried when we cried. It celebrated one life, and mourned the loss of another.

It watched my husband and I dance across the kitchen floor, twirl with children, play games with friends and family. It saw us bake, cook, and can, creating more messes than I care to tell.

This house had observed holidays, celebrations, birthdays. This house, without my knowing, had become a home.

I finished the last stroke, turning beige to silver-gray, amazed and wowed by the transformation.

I guess it wasn’t the color that turned my house into a home. I guess it had been a home all along. The click of a key, the turn of a knob.

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The Simple Key to a Beautiful Home

My husband and I didn’t own much when we were first married, an old flowered sofa that took up one wall, a stand on which our tiny television sat, a big scooped blue chair that promptly fell apart when someone sat on it, a tiny metal table with drop leaves plus two chairs for the kitchen, and a (fake) brass bed whose paint was peeling. Sounds hideous, doesn’t it?

But we didn’t care. We were young and in love, and just needed something on which to sit, sleep, and eat. And sometimes, you when you have nothing, you will take anything.

Time went by, and pieces fell apart. We grew up, and so did our furniture.

We moved into a nice apartment building, bought a formal oak dining set, and a living room set complete with a large brass lamp.

The furniture was nice, expensive, and just what everyone expected of us. But for me, it was a bunch of wood and material taking up space.

I never loved the pieces we owned, they were a reflection of what I thought others expected of me. They were formal, grand, straight-backed, not-cushy at all, and none of it my style. Sometimes, I wonder if they were purchased to prove we could, and to impress others.

Our furniture moved with us into our new home. We purchased a couple of indestructible loveseats for our family, ones that two boys and their friends could never destroy. They weren’t comfortable (hard armrests you couldn’t lay on), and not pretty, but they worked.

Barren spots resided in the corners of each room, and though my husband and I never minded, it wasn’t long before well-meaning family members filled the empty corners and walls with their own discards. We never had the heart, or the guts, to say ‘no.’

Our house quickly became a mismatched orphanage, complete with spindly-legged peach chairs, a large curio cabinet holding cups and saucers, a grandfather clock, and other random pieces. It was pretty, but none of it was my style (or my family’s, for that matter).

Our home became a house of formalities, a place I didn’t feel I belonged. I tried to fit into our house, wearing pencil skirts, perming my hair, and putting on too much make-up. But I never felt like me. I had become a tangled mess of emotions, a simple hippie trapped inside a formal body, and inside a formal house. I even tried to change my family, which of course never worked.

Everything around me felt foreign. When I closed my eyes, I imagined a new home, complete with a deep-sinking sofa and a place on which to rest my feet. I wanted to rescue old wooden tables, strip their paint like flaky skin, and make them new again. I wanted comfort.

One day, we moved far away. Most of our furniture was left behind. The few pieces we brought were eventually given to a thrift store. We purchased a sinking sofa, and a large, cushy chair. But by then, I no longer knew who I was.

It is only now that I’m beginning to figure it out. With each furniture purchase, I look for a reflection of my personality. I look for simplicity, comfort, and love. I still make furniture mistakes, but I think I’m getting closer to who I really am. The good news is, in each mistake I have learned a lesson.

Lessons Learned:
I have learned that no matter what sits in my house, it is beautiful when it becomes a home.

I learned that even when I hated my furniture, I loved my home. I never thought about furniture when family was near, while sitting on a hard sofa reading a book together, or while listening to a large upright piano being played by a child. I never thought about it while eating pizza and playing games around an oak table. Even while leaning against a hard oak loveseat, watching movies and eating popcorn, the furniture was erased from my mind.

I learned that life was never in the clock or the chairs, in whether my furniture was formal or relaxed, it was in my family.

I learned that when family was near, that’s when I knew who I really was.

Our possessions may be a reflection of our personalities, but our family reflects our soul. I guess that’s all that ever mattered.

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I Don’t Like Tiny Houses

I don’t like tiny houses. You know, those little boxes that are popping up everywhere, 100 square feet, 300 square feet, topped with lofts you can’t even stand in. Those things drive me crazy. Sometimes, I wonder if they aren’t a fad, like bell-bottom jeans and glitter eyeshadow. One article I read even stated the tiny house movement was doomed to fail. (Read it here at www.hipdiggs.com)

I understand the concept of a tiny house. They save the owners money, on taxes, mortgage, and the actual building of the home. (Though if the family grows, wouldn’t they just need to build another bigger home?)

And the amount of stuff needed to place inside a tiny home is much less than a larger one. (Except for those few who managed to find storage in all kinds of crazy places in their homes. Not kidding. Watch a tiny home show and see how creative some people are in finding closets for their dozens of shoes, and shelves for their thousands of books.)

But all that aside, tiny houses, whether they save money or not, whether or not they are better for the planet, are not for me. I need space, room to breathe, to feel the air around me, to dance and move. To be.

I want a place for family and friends. And in a tiny home, I don’t think there is room for any of that.

My husband and I do not live in a tiny home. Our house is 1800 square feet, and while we may be criticized for living large for only two people, our home isn’t filled with a bunch of stuff. But what it is filled with is life.

There is room in our home for children to play, to bowl in the hallway, toss airplanes down the stairs. There is room for children to jump and dance, paint at the table, create in the study.

In our home, we have a place for guests to stay, a table to sit around, to visit, sip tea, drink wine, laugh, talk, and play games.

I appreciate the tiny house movement. I can’t predict whether it will stay, or whether it will fade away like many fads do. But I can guarantee this – I will never be a part of it.

What do you think about the tiny house movement?

As always, please feel free to share this article with others.

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A Simple Quote

The following is a simple quote that has inspired me, motivated me, and changed me. It’s the quote I think about every time I am about to make a purchase. It was the quote I used on my own personal journey towards minimalism.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

Reflect on these words. Use them in your own home. Are the items you have in your house useful? Do they bring you joy? Do you find them beautiful?

Make your house a home you truly want to live in.

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