Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home is not just where you hang your hat

honeymoon-cottage“Home where my thought’s escaping, home where my music’s playing, home where my love lies waiting silently for me…” Homeward Bound, Paul Simon

Today seemed like a good day to look at creating a new home during transition. Often moving is involved in the transition process whether it is due to death of a partner, separation or divorce, moving away from home for the first time, or changing or losing a job. Occasionally, though, moving is not required but recreating the space as a home for one’s new life is still an important step. Most of this discussion will pertain to moving to a new place, however, many of the suggestions here can still apply.

In all of these cases it becomes important to think about your ideas and definitions of home and what it means to be “at home.” In your former situation home was partly created out of the joint visions of everyone who lived in that home. That does not mean every person was vested or participating in the actual creation phase at equal degrees but the influence of all was there even if it was primarily one person’s vision or demands.

What does it mean to create a home for your new life?

Well, it should be fun and an adventure. It should also be a process for becoming at home with your personal style, tastes and budget. There will be personal variations, in how it progresses and how the timeline develops, that will reflect the person, the reason for the transition, and constraints that have to be taken into account.

So where’s the fun and adventure?

If the reason for your transition is a positive or happy one then having fun and enjoying the adventure is probably a no-brainer. For the rest of us though, the idea that we should have fun and view creating a new place to call home an adventure just makes us shake our heads with incredulity if not to outright scoff at the idea.

In the first place it is hard to let go of a home you have spent any amount of time living in, and even more if you have had a hand in the creation of that home. This is not just true for homes we love. In fact if you are leaving a home you felt very vanilla about or even one you couldn’t stand you may be surprised at how much angst the move has created.

So maybe it is asking too much to see it as fun at first, but an adventure can be created in both good and bad situations so try to become adventurous. To pass along a suggestion I received recently, the more investment you make in your place the more ownership you will have that it is your place. So perhaps the best course is to have faith that as your place takes on a reflection of your tastes and personality you will begin to be at home there more and more.

How do you discover your personal style and tastes?

Well, you ask yourself “what do I like” and “do I like this” over and over again. Some people know this intuitively. Others might have known this but having lived under someone else’s tastes they have absorbed it as a norm rather than an arbitrary choice. Other ways to find out what you like are to visit friends’ homes or furniture stores with sample rooms (you need thick skin to fend off zealous salespeople), look at magazines in your library, and check designer rooms online.

In a typical transition you likely came away with some stuff. First, before you arbitrarily chuck it, take time to live with it and ask yourself some pointed questions about the pieces and how you feel about them.

Here are some questions that can guide you:

Do I like this? How do I feel about it? Is it comfortable, attractive, serviceable, well-made? When I’m in a room with this furniture I see myself as…? With this furniture am I proud or embarrassed to invite people into this room? Is this in a price range that will allow me to complete the look? Does it fit the space?

But my decorating budget is tight or nonexistent.

Finances are an area that takes a major hit in any transition and some take more than others. What it takes to create a home out of where you live is first and primarily creativity. You should use your brain and imagination first, and your wallet second. Limiting financial investment in creating a home is especially important if this is a transitional move that will be followed by another move in 6-30 months.

The items that are critical to the bare minimum standard of living are:

Lighting; a way to create privacy; reasonable bedding; something to keep perishable food cold and safe, something to prepare food; something to sit on, a multi-use table; basic dishes and flatware. These are the basics, everything else you acquire and all the ways you personalize the basics have to do with making yourself at home. Making yourself at home needs to reflect your personality and your socio-economic status which includes the budget.

The good news about the current economic crisis is that more styles and labels of furniture are showing up at garage sales and second-hand shops. Sometimes perfectly good items are free on the curb so swallow your pride and drive a step-up neighborhood the evening before trash day to see what is being discarded. A word of caution: take a list of things needed and do not pick up stuff just because it’s free; know what you will use it for and with minor tweaking or repurposing it should be perfectly attractive and serviceable; and make sure it is being discarded.

Finally, if you have any practical skills or are able to trade skills – sewing; light carpentry like hammer, screwdriver, sandpaper, paint; picture framing; etc – getting what you want on a budget becomes a fairly simple matter of logistics. There are loads of how-to books at the library, just be sure to finish and enjoy what you start.

Have you created a new home recently? What helped you through the process to becoming “at home?”


chelle said...

We have moved a lot over the past few years. We always put up pictures, that helps. Books ... I drag my books EVERYWHERE. But even frequent trips to the library helps!
I sew and knit so I have those little creative pieces around me.
Garage sales rock!
Also check out Freecycle, you can score some cozy stuff that people are done with for FREE!

Rositta said...

I love both moving and redecorating although I haven't done either in 10 years. I am in the (some people would say) enviable position of being able to decorate a second home in Greece this year. It would be fun if things weren't so darn expensive over there with the state of the Euro. I suspect I'll have to do with some cast offs' and IKEA stuff, such is life. I am taking books with me though even though I may exceed my baggage limit...ciao

Melissa Donovan said...

I haven't been through this recently, but I have been through it many, many times. Once, I lived in six places over the course of five years! And that wasn't so long ago... For me, the best part of moving is cleansing. It's a good time to get rid of stuff, junk that you don't need or use. I'm always looking to lighten my load and become more of a minimalist.

Deb said...

@Chelle - When we moved as a military famiy we ad several things that were always first up and sort of established that this was home. I am finding this move with all of its attendant baggage to be completely different. Yes part of it has to do with this being about me, and the grieving over other things; still there is something else that I can't quite put my finger on that is gumming the works.

@Rositta - I have tended to enjoy both in the past. I get bored easily. He traveled a lot and I would entertain myself by rearranging furniture.

@Melissa - I have moved a lot but that stretch beats any of my back to back moves even when we were military. We did come close our first 2 years gong from university to officer training to first station where the unit had just transferred west and moving again to catch up with the unit. The longest I ever lived in one house in my entire life was 9 years and 5 months.