Maybe you’re already reading Deme over at House for Five (six now, actually!) and so maybe it’s old news to you that she is the most phenomenal DIY queen, and that her ability to whip up beautiful rooms using thrifted or already-in-your-home-but-not-in-the-right-space pieces is sort of mind blowing.
And if you’re not? Well then it’s your lucky day. She’s here to tell a tale of contentment, of gratitude, and of loving the house you’re currently living in, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s home.
As someone who blogs about DIY and putting a personal stamp on our family’s newish-to-us house, I could talk about homes all day. Paint colors, furniture layouts, avoiding window cleaning…it’s just part of my genetic makeup. I can’t not think about that stuff.
But I get that not everyone finds the same thrills in slapping color on their walls and hacking up duvet covers to make curtains panels. Your home might even drive you crazy. Or you may love it. Either way, if you have a home, you happen to have one of the most incredible gifts and a powerful tool.
Growing up my mom worked as a bookkeeper for an interior designer. She would often bring home his discontinued books of wallpaper samples and catalogs. I would pour over them, dreaming up ways to use them and how they would look in different rooms in the house. I watched my parents slowly turn our childhood home into a place that suited our family….painting, carpeting, building……I loved watching it happen, and especially loved when they let my brother and I jump in on the design choices.
Looking back I didn’t realize just how much they passed on the budget conscious DIY bug that would eventually take over my own home.
I distinctly remember my dad’s football players coming over to tear up concrete in exchange for pizza and a good workout when it was time to break ground for our big family room addition. And a family friend doing days of electrical work.
That addition was years in the making.
Prior to that, the only place to gather was our very small kitchen and equally “cozy” living room. My dad would pack his athletes in like sardines to watch game film on weekends, and then host Bible studies during the week. They dreamed of a bigger space to invite friends, family, and young people to gather. And eventually they built that dream into reality.
The huge open family room welcomed youth groups for game nights and sports teams for celebrating. It hosted wedding showers and surprise anniversary parties. It was the hot spot for many a Superbowl, where we cleared out the furniture and had friends come bearing food and lawn chairs to accommodate everyone. It’s where we gathered after holiday meals and where our family regrouped after long days of work and school. It’s where we sat soaking up the words of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as my dad read aloud to us as kids.
My favorite memory is the fireplace hearth that became a sort of podium*. If someone was having a bad day, they stood on the hearth and vented their stresses. If someone had something important to say, they announced it standing on the hearth. It sounds weird now that I’ve typed it, but it really was the best. So many times we ended in hysterical laughter, even after tears.
All those things happened in that great big dream-turned-reality room. But here’s the thing – they were happening before that large gathering space ever existed. My parents’ doors were open when their living space was just teeny-tiny. The invitation for people to gather in our home was always extended, even before all that extra square footage. They didn’t wait. The extra space simply allowed them to expand their hospitality.
You may not live in your dream home, but if you have a home you are way ahead of a huge chunk of the world by way of shelter, running water, and electricity. And if you have a home, you also have an instrument, a tool to extend peace, charity, and hospitality….first to your family and then to your community.
We can wait until we live someplace with a little more space, or until we finish up such and such project, or until we have a table, or whatever. We can wait to love our homes and invite others in, but what if it’s years before those things happen…what if they don’t happen at all? How much time will we have wasted? How much will we have missed?
In our last house we took on a pretty large DIY effort in attempts to turn our dated kitchen into less of a brown cave. We took it from this….
But it took almost a year for Procrastinator Pants here to get it done. Which means for the majority of that time it looked like this:
The half-painted, junk exposed, ultra-glamorous in between (and this is “cleaned up”):
Ugly? Yes. But still functional. So, there was no reason we couldn’t have people over, save for my ego.
We hosted play dates, a women’s Bible study, holiday dinners, coaches meetings, and out of town guests while our kitchen was in this mid-reno state. Part of me wanted to just wait until the job was done, but looking back, we would have missed so much.
So, what if we invited people into our homes regardless of their size or the dishes in the sink? What kind of home do you feel comfortable visiting? I know that I’m much more at ease in a home where I feel welcome to plop down on the couch. And that has less to do with coordinated throw pillows and more to do with evidence that a home is actually lived in. Our home’s seeming imperfections really can be an invitation for our guests to be themselves. Size and decor don’t have much to do with creating a beautiful, inviting home (though they can help), but open doors to imperfect, loved in spaces absolutely do.
The way we view our homes can affect how willing we are to share them and how well our family thrives in them. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your home for whatever reason…..maybe your growing family is making those walls feel a little too tight, or you’re still saving up for furniture, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by maintaining all the space…..there are a few things you can do to help shift your perspective. Over the years, these are a few things that have helped me come back to loving my home, and being willing to share it, just as it is.
The Gratitude List
I’m embarrassed to admit how often I need to do this. A couple years ago we were unexpectedly relocated from New Mexico to Ohio for my husband’s work. We gained some additional living space and four real seasons #glorious. I remember moving into our home and being overwhelmed by God’s goodness and all the possibility swirling around this place. It was a DIY lover’s dream – plenty of opportunity to make the place our own, but totally livable as is. A few months later I caught myself looking around wishing I could change this, and tweak that, and if only _____ were different. Geesh!
If you catch yourself thinking about what needs to change before your home is “right” just grab a notebook and start writing out gratitude. Write down all that you’re thankful for in your home, and in your life. Keep going until contentment returns.
Get Rid Of Crap
If you’re having an internal throw down with the need machine and are feeling that if you just had a few more things then it would all be better, do the very opposite and start purging. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but just do it.
It’s sort of like standing in front of a closet full of “nothing to wear”. When we’ve packed a closet full of cute bargains that don’t really fit and we don’t really love, we have trouble seeing the things we do love and look great on us. We can be convinced that having more things gives us more options, when in reality they stifle creativity and muddy the water. Likewise when our homes are full of nice things that we don’t truly need, use, or love, it makes it harder to see and enjoy the things we do. I promise that you and your home will feel so much lighter if you grab a bag and start tossing.
I would never presume that you need to clean your house. I would probably smack anyone who suggested that I need to clean mine, even if it were true. What I will say is that I cleaned our bedroom the other day (which admittedly involved relocating a few piles into another room to deal with later). And all of a sudden I could breath. The rest of the house was a flipping train wreck, but I found myself wandering into my cleaned up corner throughout the day to just take a deep breath. Because there was actually space to breath and think in there. When my house is out of sorts, my brain usually is too. Which totally reinforces getting rid of the crap and clutter.
Can we have an honest moment about messy houses? There is so much pressure to have the ideal picture perfect life (fashion, relationships, home, body, kids, etc), but there’s also those glorious “keeping it real” photos to remind us that notion is unattainable. So, we can bounce back and forth between “Ugh! Nothing is working here, I need a new house.” and “Whew. She just posted a picture of her mountain of laundry taking over her couch. Thank goodness I’m not the only one. I’m letting it all go, baby! And while I’m at it, screw shaving my legs!” Too much? Well, you get the point.
I think it’s important to remember that God is a god of order. While there will be times, and even extended seasons, when the piles are taking over and hot mess doesn’t even begin to describe the destruction, we were not created to thrive in chaos. At some point, it is good for everyone that we restore some order to our homes. It’s good stewardship and good for the soul. We’re not talking pristine, friends, just restored.
Play musical furniture and shop your home
My husband’s personal favorite (not at all, but that’s why there’s beer). Sometimes all it takes to give your house a pick-me-up is to switch things around a bit. Try shifting the furniture layout or move things to different rooms in the house. If you feel like your home is working against you when it comes to function, this is a great way to make a change in how the household runs. Our homes should work hard for us, and if something is not working or making you crazy, don’t be afraid to change it.
If you’re now in the fetal position after reading these, please don’t be overwhelmed. Our homes come together over time and constantly need to adjust through new seasons of life. They will never be perfect. So, start with one small spot. Clean out the junk drawer or your purse, grab some flowers or branches from the yard and pop them in a vase by the sink, sit with your coffee by your favorite window (ignore the LEGO landmines), maybe even read that gratitude list.
It doesn’t take big efforts to come back to loving your home. And when we see our homes as the gift they are, we can open their doors to bless our communities. Sometimes that looks a family room full of lawn chairs and football jerseys, and sometimes it’s more intimate like tea with a friend. Hospitality isn’t one size or one personality type. That’s the beauty of God’s kingdom – there’s room for Him to move in any sized home and any heart that’s willing to open it’s doors.