Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Making Your House Feel Like Home

Anyone can have a house (or apartment or hotel room or RV), but it takes a little effort to make a home. So why bother? Well, it’s our job – we’re homemakers after all. And who doesn’t want a home? A soft place to land when the world outside is too hard, a place to invite others and share a part of ourselves, a place to make our family feel warm and loved and cared for. But how do we go about changing our little dwelling into a comforting and welcoming home for our family?
I believe the first step is to ask our family members and ourselves just what says "home" for us. I know for my husband –and probably yours, too – home means smelling a nice hot meal when he comes through the door. Nothing makes him feel more at home than knowing dinner is on the way! So I try to have something that smells inviting on the stove when he comes in even if I haven’t quite got dinner started yet. A "trick" I read in an old home economics textbook is to slice up an onion and start sautéing it on the stove before hubby comes in. It only takes a second and it smells like supper. Chances are you’ll use it when you do cook dinner anywayJ Appetizers from the freezer that you can stick in the oven are also great for making a hungry husband feel welcome.
Since our children are still small and since hubby doesn’t enjoy making lists nearly as much as I do, I sat down in a rare moment of quiet time one day to make my own list of things that make me feel good – words that remind me of the best things in life. If you can get your husband and kids involved, this is a great exercise for everyone. If not, make a list for yourself. Mine looked like this.
10 words and phases that make me feel at home
God’s Word
Pecan trees
Sweet tea
Family and friends
Good food
Screen doors slamming
Fresh-cut flowers
Porch swings
After I made my list and thought about what would be on my husband and children’s lists I had a pretty good idea what I wanted our home to be like. Then I started figuring out ways – inexpensive ways! – to incorporate some of these "homey things" into our home.
One of the first things I did in our first apartment was frame a set of poster’s that I got on sale – they’re Bible verses done in calligraphy – and hang them throughout the house. It was perfect for all our rental homes. Now that we’re in our own home, I plan to paint scripture on the walls.
We can’t always afford fresh flowers every week, although they can be very cheap from the grocery store or, in the spring and summer, from the yard. But many of the pictures hanging in my home are of flowers. I often cut pictures off of calendars or out of magazines to frame. I also press flowers and mount them to hang. These also make great gifts.
One of the first things we planted when we moved in were pecan trees. They’re still pretty small and I know it will take them a long time to grow, but I can wait. My grandmother’s yard is full of great big pecan trees and they just say "home" to me. Next spring I hope to plant some wisteria to climb over something in our side yard. This is another plant that makes me think of home. Many of my family members are surprised that I don’t plan on planting kudzu (an infamous, rapidly spreading ground cover that literally covers anything standing still here in Georgia), but my dear husband had to put his foot down somewhereJ
Our porch swing is actually under our deck – not on our front porch (we don’t have one of those), but it serves the same purpose. It’s a wonderful place to relax with my husband, read a good book while the kids play or sit and chat with friends who stop by. Drinking sweet tea, of course.
My husband worked with my grandfather, a carpenter, one Christmas to make me four beautiful bookcases. They hold our books, of course, but also pictures of family and friends, and baskets filled with cds, memorabilia that will one day get put in a scrapbook, my "office in a basket," and magazines I hope to read. We also decorate with books. I have them in stacks under a too-small lamp to give it a little more stature and a few with beautiful covers stacked on end tables. I’ve even found pictures in yardsale books to tear out and frame. Part of my son’s room is decorated with old-fashioned Curious George pictures.
We haven’t added on a screen door just yet. That’ll come when we finish the downstairs (it’s still under construction). And I have lots more projects in mind. But the most important thing to me about making a house into a home is remembering that it’s a home for my family. It doesn’t matter what others think of it. I want guests always to be comfortable and to enjoy their time at our house because we love to have people over. But in the end guests go to their own homes and our home is just for us again. So even though others might not understand why we have a playroom where the dining room should be or why certain spots sit empty (I always wait for inspiration!), that’s alright with me. As long as we are happy in our home, that’s what counts. So sit down and think about what would make you happy in your home. Encourage your husband and kids to tell you what they’d like. And then use those ideas to make your house into your home.

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