Have you ever done a major overhaul on your home, just to realize you still don’t love your home?
Or, if you live in a place where you can’t change things, do you cringe over every imperfection and dated surface?
Design blogs and home magazines are full of pristine white walls with high contrast cabinetry and mixed metal finishes. Full of perfect fiddle leaf figs placed just so, and shelving with tasteful displays.
I love all that too. I dream about achieving a house that’s “done”, intentional, designed. But…is it ever done?
I should have known. We’re done installing our new eucalyptus floors. We’re proud of ourselves for learning how to do it and getting it done, but….
Already hedonic adaptation has set in. I’ve forgotten about the painted plywood subfloor and the nasty blue carpet that lived here before, and now there’s a whole new list of things to change.
Now we need area rugs, and baseboards, and to paint the upstairs hallway. And to fill in the little fiddly bits where it’s not…perfect. And we need to put our own artwork on the walls so we can express ourselves. And fix the broken closet light so we don’t get dressed in the dark.
There is, of course, no end. If we did the whole list there would just be something else. That’s the nature of humans, to always want something else.
So, how can you, programmed by evolution to always seek more, love what you have?
Over time, societal aspirations for house and home have risen, just like they have for every other area of life.
Fashion doesn't help you love your home
Like fast fashion, where there are now 52 micro-seasons, and electronics, where last year’s phone is now a brick not worth having, home goods are now subject to fashion trends.
Wait, gray walls are out. Or are they? Traditional style is declining, which seems weird. Isn’t traditional always traditional? Now it’s transitional I guess?
Grown kids no longer want their parents’ bone china and antiques, after generations of passing down high-quality heirloom items. Because fashion.
Like fast fashion in clothes, fashion in home goods is meant to put people on an endless cycle of desire, fulfillment, discontent, and more purchases. But, like all other forms of manufactured happiness, it doesn’t satisfy us where we live.
As they say, you can never get enough of the wrong thing.
Of course, there’s a huge environmental cost, in addition to the cost to your budget and emotional well-being.
How can you fall in love with your house again so you can relax and enjoy the home you have? Just as it is, imperfections and all.
It’s the same as enjoying where you are in all the other parts of life. Your relationship, your body, your wardrobe, your job, and all the other things we critique and take for granted every day.
What if you could shift your mindset to love the home you’re in, without feeling like there’s an endless list of things you have to do before you can relax?
I’m not saying do nothing or change nothing, since that’s not fun either. But how can you enjoy the process and relax in your home in the meantime?
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How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Comes Into It
Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It starts with basic physical needs, then psychological needs and finishes with self-fulfillment needs, which is where the trouble starts.
What a house is for
At its core, your house provides you with shelter, warmth and security. If your home does that and nothing else, it’s doing its job.
Going up the hierarchy
Then, your home is a place to fulfill desires for love and belonging. It’s where you raise your family and spend time with your spouse or partner. It’s where your friends and neighbors gather. But it’s not the house itself, it’s the people that fill the need.
And then, trouble
As you go up the pyramid, into the need for a sense of esteem and accomplishment and self-fulfillment, that’s where “they” get you.
Don’t mistake me; it’s a fine thing to make a comfortable home and to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s fun to make your home work for you and to have it reflect your own creativity and tastes and history. That’s healthy.
Where it breaks down is if what worked for you yesterday doesn’t work for you today because someone said so. Usually that someone has an advertising budget.
Let’s figure out how to make a home that meets your needs in a healthy and fulfilling way, without putting you on a hamster wheel of endless consumption.
9 Tips to love your home again
It’s easy to say “ignore fashion” and harder to do it. But there are a few practices you can use to focus on what’s important.
Bring out the things you love
In the downstairs bathroom I have a ceramic tray I made years ago with my daughter. It holds pebbles we gathered on a beach walk. There’s a tiny vase she made, filled with dried lavender from the summer garden. None of these things are fashionable, but they’re chock full of memories. What do you have that would make you smile if you saw it every day?
Recognize what your home does for you now
Does your home keep the snow off your head? Then it’s a good house. Take a few minutes to remember and be grateful for having a roof over your head. Seriously, take a few minutes. Write it down in your journal. What are you grateful for?
Plan something fun at home
It’s the rituals and family dinners and special events that make a home memorable, not the decor. Plan a little family party just because, or start a little tradition, like fancy Saturday breakfast. If you live alone, you can have your own special rituals at home, just because.
Clear the clutter
The tray and lavender set up is the only decorative item in that bathroom. The things you love shine if they aren’t hidden among the things you don’t love. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, you can make good progress just in 15 minutes a day. Bonus—if you clear the clutter with an eye to the environment you bless someone else with resources you aren’t using yourself. Start with just one room.
If you are going to make investments in your home, make them in the areas that just really don’t work. Fix the closet light, rearrange the furniture so the traffic flows better, go ahead and get a waterproof doormat to protect the new floors. Little tweaks make a big difference to how you feel in your home.
The most beautiful homes in the world, the ones you see in Architectural Digest, look like crap when they’re covered in crap. Dirty dishes look just as terrible in Serena Williams new digs as they do at your house. You don’t need to be obsessive, but a few minutes a day spent tidying up will do wonders for how you feel every day.
There’s so much satisfaction in doing things yourself. Painting, installing your own flooring, sewing pillow covers—when you see the things you did yourself, it means more. You can take more time and care than any professional crew can afford to spend and you get pride of craftsmanship.
When you do make changes, go for materials and styles and items that have stood the test of time. In general, timeless home style depends on natural materials, fewer higher-quality classic items, clean lines and nods to our archetypal ideas of home. I love the “Not So Big” architectural style of Sarah Susanka, who designs to fulfill human needs.
Relax on purpose
I have a hard time with this one, as all my family knows. I have to do something when I sit, even if it’s to write this blog or do embroidery. But even five minutes just looking out at the garden, or petting the cats, or reading a book with a comfy throw can remind you of the deep needs your home fulfills and why you love it. Make this a habit and you’ll thank yourself.
Enjoy your timeless home
Imagine if instead of looking around and seeing all the ways your home is “not perfect” you saw the happy times and the comfortable hours cuddled up reading a book.
Like building your enjoyment in every other area of life, falling in love with your home again depends on being grateful for what you have, even as you put in the time to maintain it and make it yours.
When you spend your time and money on the right things, your attention will pay dividends into the future and you’ll put yourself on a virtuous cycle that only gets better.
It’s all possible by putting these tips into practice. It’s fine to know what you want and to work towards it, just be aware of where you’re going and enjoy the journey.
I’d love to hear what you love about your house and life at home. Just subscribe or let me know in the comments.
All the best to you and yours,
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