It’s February, which means that love is in the air. Or at least tiny pink hearts and cardboard valentines are all of my kitchen counter. But also the love.
I have slowly realized over the years that it has become my life’s mission to help people love life at home. Oftentimes the way I get to help them do that is by overhauling their entire house, but there are SO MANY more ways to do this that don’t necessarily involve a sledgehammer.
I had a client once tell me something that I immediately bristled too (which is a quick way to know, friend, that something might be true but your belief system is rejecting it to protect itself). We were talking about renovating their house vs. just leveling it and starting over. Building new was going to cost significantly more, but then give them the freedom to do exactly what they wanted and not be limited by their current footprint. And he said something along the lines of this:
“In 6 months the newness will wear off and a renovated house will feel like old hat, and the brand-new house would feel old hat, so it doesn’t really make that much of a difference and we should just save the money and renovate.”
I really, deeply, wanted to protest. OF COURSE IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. And let’s be honest, there is an actual difference in terms of function, layout, new HVAC systems that aren’t 50 years old with maintenance issue, etc.
It’s a little bit true though. On a large scale, eventually the house you live in won’t feel new anymore. Just like by the time that cute throw pillow from Target or pair of shoes or [insert whatever purchase] has its price tag removed and becomes part of your life, you cease to notice it after a time. You don’t have that happy moment when you turn the corner and see it. The novelty can’t last forever.
Whatever we have, if we aren’t careful, will become mundane, and worse…expected. Our baseline expectation will adjust and it will just be regular. We become entitled to that level of happiness and we now want more.
Before I send you into a tailspin of existential crisis, don’t worry, hope is not lost. It isn’t all pointless. There is an antidote to help you fall in love with your home again. Well, actually, there are 3. And you can implement them all right away.
You’re probably expecting that an Interior Designer will at this point lay out a 3 step plan to get inspired on Pinterest, budget your renovation, and find the color that matches your personality type. That isn’t what this is, at least not yet.
This is Week 1, and we’ve got some work to do before we get there to make THAT step effective.
Trust me, I have worked with something like 300 homeowners, and I say this with absolute certainty and conviction: if you aren’t grateful where you are right now with what you have, you won’t be grateful even if you spend 6 figures to update your house. There are people all over the world who have far less that we do here in America, and they have us beat all day long in the gratitude department.
I once went to a lecture with a speaker from The Happiness Institute (this is a real thing). They study people across all walks of life with different life experiences. They found that the happiest people they interviewed were never the people who had easy lives; in fact, they were nearly to a person folks that have had some incredibly difficult life experiences and found a way to be grateful through it all.
When it comes to falling in love with anything, beginning with taking stock of its flaws isn’t going to bring up any warm and fuzzy feelings. If you want to grow your marriage, parent your children, inspire your coworkers, or fall in love with your house, starting from a place of gratitude is going to make all the difference.
This isn’t about having rose colored glasses on and pretending everything is great even if it drives us insane. Your fridge’s icemaker might be broken and the countertop is delaminating and the faucet sprayer hasn’t worked in years. These are actual problems. But there is just SO MUCH to be grateful for that we tend to take for granted until it doesn’t work.
Sure, maybe your kitchen is a mishmash of 50 year old cabinets, 30 year old semi-functional appliances, and a 20 year old Y2K backsplash bandaid. But there’s food in the fridge, you can cook your meals indoors without lighting a fire or drawing from a well, and have great memories of baking Christmas cookies with your kids on those chipped formica counters.
Time to take stock of what your house is doing for you. Write them down, say them out loud, or just make it a practice this week to look around and find something to be grateful for.
Intentional and mindful are buzzwords to be sure right now, but there’s a reason. Knowing what it is that you actually want (or don’t want) is the gateway to making those things happen. Setting intentions for your home and how you want to use it can be broad or specific. Here are a few examples to get you started:
I want our home to be a place where our friends gather.
I want our bedroom to be a place of rest and peace.
I want our family to spend time together at the kitchen table.
Now that you know how you want your home to use, let’s put some rhythms into practice to make these actually attainable and not just lofty goals. You don’t need to try to implement these all at once. Rhythms and habits take time. Try tying them into something you’re already doing.
Intention: I want our home to be a place where our friends gather.
Rhythm: Each evening after dinner, the whole family will do a quick sweep of toys and misplaced items. That way the house will feel clean enough that I won’t be stressed when people drop by.
Intention: I want our bedroom will be a place of rest.
Rhythm: I will leave my laptop in another room so I don’t get sucked into email. I’ll diffuse lavender oil or light a candle at bedtime to help me relax. I’ll move my phone charger in another room and keep a book on my nightstand and so I don’t mindlessly scroll before bed.
Intention: I want our family to spend time together at the kitchen table.
Rhythm: We will unpack backpacks at the kitchen counter so they don’t stay on the table all evening. Papers will get reviewed or recycled, lunchboxes go straight into the cabinet. The table stays clear, making it easier gather around it and do a puzzle, an art project, and share a meal or a cup of hot cocoa.
See the connection? Being grateful for what our home is already doing for us, setting intentions on how we want to use our home and how we want to feel in our home, and then establishing rhythms to make those intentions happen are the antidote to home-apathy. Try putting these practices into place this week and see if there isn’t a shift in how you feel in your home.
This week we focus on what’s working. Next week we’ll start tackling what isn’t. For now, just bask in the gratitude! See you back here next week.