It’s the early morning of the day my husband and I plan to move into our first house, and I’m thinking about making a home. With packed boxes up to my eyeballs (and higher—I’m only 5’2”!), this moment finds me in a moving limbo—there’s not much else I can do to prepare, especially before my husband wakes and the tedious game of trailer-loading jigsaw begins.
This isn’t my first significant move. I’ve gone from a suburb outside of Charlotte, NC to a rural Pennsylvania town to the hippie mecca that is Eugene, OR—and from there, my husband and I moved to south Texas where he began his first full-time professorship and we learned to leave gulf water alone. Since moving away from my parents’ home, I’ve lived in a series of dorms and then later apartments. I moved dwellings almost once a year.
There’s nothing like apartment-hopping to make you feel like you may never have a settled home. It’s difficult to avoid feeling like you’re in a “placeholder” stage until your real life begins—even though you know this isn’t a healthy way to think of your life. Your whole life is your real life.
The house we’re moving into isn’t so different from my soon-to-be-former apartment in some respects. We’ll still be renting, and given that we’d like to move back to the west coast, this house isn’t necessarily more permanent or “settled” than an apartment. And that’s okay—my husband and I both value mobility; we’re not necessarily ready to make a longterm commitment to a place in our current city.
But with each new place we move into, I make a more diligent effort to create a feeling of home because I want to love where I live—even if I may move out in a few years. Oddly enough, my years of living in various apartments have taught me to invest in making a home and indulge my nesting impulse. The result is that places feel more like “us,” more like places I’m happy spending my downtime, more like places we’re I can flourish instead of feeling like I have to wait to bloom. This doesn’t mean that the nagging feeling of impermanence completely disappears, but enjoying my living space helps me be more accepting of the knowledge that one day I’ll have to pack everything up again and find a new spot.
The following are three ways I practice the art of making a home.
Take your nesting “above code.”
I learned a new concept yesterday. Our landlord was mentioning something about the electric wiring being “above code,” and I found that being “above code” is a great way to describe a nesting philosophy! While hanging a few nice things on the wall can really spiff up a place, consider taking your nesting “above code,” and check in with your space every month. Is there a way you can arrange things to suit you even more? Are there old things that are no longer of use to you that you can donate or dispose of? In many instances, the answer is yes, but we feel that making those changes would require too much time and mental energy. But don’t let that discourage you. Investing in your nesting may result in some serious energy returns!
Treat the place like it’s actually yours.
I don’t know about you, but as a kindergartner, I often heard my teachers chiding us for making messes, saying, “Would you do this at your own house!?” (Well, yes, probably. We were five years old.) Of course, none of us would smear finger paint on our apartment walls (we need that security deposit back!), but when I lived in dorms, I definitely cut corners when it came to cleaning, even letting my own books get dusty. I’m not saying that you have to turn into a Monica Gellar or that this idea is just about cleaning, but at least be aware of the moments when you find yourself saying “oh, it’s just a rental.” Maybe, but it’s your rental for now. Show it a little love, and you may find that the space seems to “love” you back.
Share special moments in your home.
When I think of nesting, I often think of things—where to put them, how to make them look the best such-and-such room…But a home isn’t much if it’s just stuff. Sharing the space with your community—whether that’s your family, your colleagues, or even your nice neighbors—can make any space feel more alive and more valuable. For me, this means getting out of my routine a little bit, but I remind myself that enjoying my living space with others has a wonderful way of helping me feel more connected to a concept of home—and not just to my vases and pillows.
What are your tips for creating a home?
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