making home your happy place - why it matters
I had the opportunity recently to speak to a young moms group about home design. These ladies are in the thick of it - teething babies, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, spaghetti disasters, toy explosions, the works. It is a life-stage that comes with so much joy, but oh so much stress. Beyond the normal parenting concerns (how high of a fever before we call a doctor?) are the stresses that come along with managing all of the STUFF that our offspring seem to come with.
If you've ever tried to clean a house with a 2 year old following behind you, destroying everything in his wake, reminding you of the futility of the task and making you question all of your life choices, you know what I mean. But because of this chaos, there is an even greater need to create a home that you love.
Many of my clients are in and around this life stage - small kids or younger school aged kids. But the largest growing demographic of people that I work with are new empty nesters. And this is what I hear from nearly every single one:
"My kids are FINALLY out of the house. I've waited 20+ years to have a home that I love. I can't WAIT to finally get started."
You guys, this is both wonderful (hallelujah for raising your kids into functional adults) but is also just a little bit heartbreaking. What is between the lines here is this: 'for 20 years, we spent most of our time in a place that didn't really feel like us at all. We made memories and enjoyed our life, but it never felt quite right. We waited and waited and now we are finally choosing to create a home that fits our life and reflects who we are.'
And here's what I told these women, and what I wanted to share with all of you. You don't have to wait until your kids are grown before you do something about it. You also don't have to spend a million dollars to have a space that you truly love. We spent the majority of our marriage without two dimes to rub together, and we've always managed to have a home that we love. I've spent countless hours thinking about why this all matters. How can design actually make a difference in the quality of people's lives? And while lasting happiness doesn't come from the material items that you own, the things that you choose to surround yourself with will effect you. And that effect will be positive or negative. But it will be there.
I know this sounds a little dramatic, but friends, it is real. I've experienced it in my own life, and I've seen it in the lives of dozens of families since I started this business. Design is transformative.
We all want to be happy. And most of us agree that a cluttered, messy, haphazard space doesn't make us feel good. We don't feel at ease in these types of spaces. It is something that we can literally feel; an uncomfortable feeling in your chest. It's caused by unending piles of mail stacked on the kitchen counter, the broken light fixture that we've never gotten around to replacing, the sofa that's pulled and worn and falling apart. It's usually accompanied with a long groooooan or sigh and a "we really need to do something about that one day."
This is a huge reason why we love hotels. We walk in, everything is fresh and clean and in it's place. It's laid out in a logical way. We don't have to spend an ounce of physical or mental energy to make it ready. We just get to enjoy it.
Now, aside from having perfect children and a live-in maid, our hoses won't always be clean and tidy. Or at least mine won't. But it is possible to have a home that is filled with all of the best things - like grandma's vintage Pyrex bowls and the chair you love to cozy up in and read a book - arranged in a way that fit the way you want to live.
When my clients fill out their project starter workbook, I ask what is the primary goal for the project. What would success look like at the end of this process? And nearly every single person selects the option "I want a finished space that is DONE to free up the brain power to tackle my other important goals." More than wanting spaces to be beautiful, comfortable, magazine worthy, or functional, we want them DONE so we can get on with enjoying them with the people we love. That's powerful.
There is a great book called "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living" which is a fun read (I actually talked a bit about the concept of Hygge in a blog post earlier this year; you can read about it here). The author works for the Happiness Research Institute (a real thing) and studies happiness for a living. Neat job, right? What they've found through all of their research is that our level of happiness is directly related to the quality of our social relationships. The more often we spend time with our people, our tribe, our closest circles of friends, the happier we are.
I love watching House Hunters because every single couple talks about how great this space would be for entertaining! But are they really entertaining? Are YOU entertaining? Or are you waiting to have a house that looks beautiful enough to have people over?
So today I want to tell you two things:
Give yourself grace. Invite the people you love into your home right now, right where you are. Imperfections and half-done projects and unfolded laundry on the sofa and all. Stop waiting for perfect because, friend, it isn't coming. Your home will never be done because YOU will never be done growing and evolving as a person.
Do something about it and begin to transform your space. If there are parts of your home that are driving you bonkers, change them. If you're waiting for permission, here you go. You have it. Your quality of life is important and a worthwhile investment of your time and resources.
Define what happiness at home would look like for you. For some, it might be a family room that is actually family friendly. A space for adults that isn't constantly overrun with toys, but that kids can still play in and everyone can spend time together. Or it might be your master bedroom - the room where YOU start and end each day. The way we bookend our days can shape everything that happens between them, and wouldn't it be better if the first thing you see in the morning and the last that you saw before you rest for the night is a positive experience rather than one more thing that needs to be added to your to-do list?
Our lives can easily become overrun with stress and overwhelm. Making your home into your sanctuary from the outside chaos of the world isn't selfish, it's essential. And again, I stress, it doesn't have to be expensive. It's not about buying expensive accessories and furniture and luxury items. It doesn't have to be a $75,000 renovation to "buy" happiness (although it couldn't hurt if it's done for the right reasons). It doesn't cost a thing to move things around and try them in a new room, or sell things that you're holding onto because of guilt or obligation or because you spent money on them years ago. Let those things go.
Start with what drives you crazy and go from there. Begin making intentional purchases towards the goal of finishing that space. Create an atmosphere that draws you in. Whether that's restful or inspiring or energizing or calming, you get to decide how you want your space to feel. Don't worry about Pinterest or magazines or what anybody else is doing. Make your space fit your life.
Then call some friends, have a glass of wine, and enjoy it.
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