You do not say the same thing in one room as you say in another; that is how sensitive a room is. Louis Kahn
Home is a private refuge that provides comfort, meaning and beauty. Witold Rybczynsk
Your house is your home only when you feel you have jurisdiction over the space. Joan Kron
I have always been interested in spaces and how they enhance our human experience. My bedroom growing up was a great science project, a test tube, an opportunity to explore this spatial culture. How I loved to move everything around to create a different atmosphere and in so doing, I felt that I was able to find a different part of myself in the process. This lifetime curiosity produced a host of questions that I ask of a house, a room, a building, a place.
For a few years I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity by offering a workshop called MAKING A HOUSE A HOME. It was optional, set aside from the required classes of how to budget and what to know about the furnace, water heater, and general house maintanence. Sometimes a family had already moved into their home, but most were still spending evenings and weekends putting in the required labor on their houses. They came to my workshop tired, yet committed. Many were currently renting or living with a family member. The day of owning a house, having a home, was truly a dream come true.
The style of my series of evenings with them was conversational and I began our time together by asking for a definition of home. As they snuggled into the reflective nature of this question, I found that they also snuggled into their vision for how this new space, this house, would change their lives. The weariness of the day was slowly replaced with anticipation as they transported themselves into their new neighborhood and their very own house on the block.
Thoughtfully, they began defining home. Each response was a reminder that the concept of home is personally felt and holds an important space for our becoming.
- home is about being able to be who you really are
- a home provides privacy
- home means having a sense of freedom
- home is a place to call your own
- home is where family gatherings happen
- a home creates a cozy feeling
- a home brings peace and comfort into our lives
- a home is a safe haven
I then invited the new homeowners on a mental walk-through of the daily happenings of living in their home. As they shared their responses aloud, I watched the group gain energy and wisdom from each other. They jotted down notes to self. With each question they went deeper into their new home and the details of the life that would be lived there.
- How will you enter your home on a regular basis? What needs to be there to support your comings and goings?
- What multiple activities will be happening in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen? How will the space be organized to accommodate this?
- What special furniture, art, or memorabilia will enhance your spaces? What does it say about who you are? Where will it be placed?
- How will you live in the outside spaces? What is needed to make that happen?
- What colors are you planning to paint the walls and have around you? Why those colors?
- What personality do you wish each room to express and how will this be accomplished?
- What room do you think will be your favorite and why?
In some ways this process was asking, what is it that you need from this house to be the best and happiest you? How can your home support your life? How do you want home to feel when you walk into each and every room?
In addition to naming what would be packed from their current living space for the new home, it was an equally important decision of what would NOT be moving. Stories of a readiness to let go and start fresh began to be shared, often accompanied with laughter and dramatic gestures that named the certainty of the decision.
“I have seen the last of that sofa! I never liked it.”
“Our whole family is de-cluttering. Even the children are making decisions about what toys will go and what ones will not.”
“This is a new beginning. I’m leaving most everything behind.”
The sorting of life memories and daily habits seemed to happen naturally, just as the decisions of what did and did not go into the new home, their new life.
The last evening of our time together ended with several homework suggestions. Each participant was now wide awake to the hopes and dreams being placed in this new living space that was to be home. Soon to move in and face the reality and the work of homeownership, I wanted them to keep this awareness and intention alive and active.
- Walk through the house. Name what speaks of your values and beliefs.
- List objects that have special meaning for you.
- Give thought to how you wish each room to be ‘at its best’ for your daily living.
- Identify where clutter happens. Decide how to organize or let go of items.
- Give thanks for your home and treat it with respect and appreciation.
Each question, each suggestion I had already asked of myself and our home. Simplicity had been a great teacher and caring mentor. In the closing minutes of the class session, I asked the homeowners to talk to their house as if it were a person.
What would you want to say to your home? What would it say to you?
I suddenly realized that Simplicity and I had not had this dialog. What would she have to share? Plenty, of that I was confident. I also felt assured that I would learn something about her and myself from this little chat. Stay tuned, next week I will share our first conversation.