(Like the title? Isn’t punctuation fun?) Today, I thinking a lot about the importance of what you bring into your home.
I grew up in a house that felt like “Home.” It felt that way to me, my sister, many of our friends, to my grandmother (who lived with us for several years) and to my mother, who is the star of this particular post. My mother (I now realize) put a lot of effort and love into creating a beautiful, warm, inviting home for us while we were growing up.
She decorated in that slightly cluttered way where everything in the house means something, or was a gift from someone. But she also went beyond just decorating, to creating a pleasing sensory experience and comfortable environment in our house.
Ambient lighting from lamps made the whole house seem warm and sepia-toned after dark. There were always extra pillows and blankets in the den, where we watched movies. The latest magazines were on the coffee table, to thumb through. Throughout fall, winter, and spring, there was usually a fire on the fireplace. Mom always had some scented ingenuity wafting through the house – candles, essential oil warmers, homemade potpourri.
There were pictures of families members covering the walls – reminding us of of loved ones and creating an omnipresent sense of family.
There was usually music playing in our house (often Mom’s music that my sister and I complained about – Amy Grant, Enya, Kenny G?) that directly correlated to the mood she was setting at a particular moment: lively energetic music for Saturday morning chores; soft, melodic music in the evening; Christmas music the entire month of December.
Even more than all this – my mother created and determinedly fostered an emotional environment of love, calm, acceptance, creativity, and interest that we all soaked in daily. No matter what storm passed through our lives, we were always safe in our home.
As an adult, it is this environment that I continually seek to recreate in my own home. Some of the elements (an excessive amount of cuddly blankets and candles) are easy enough. But others are so much more elusive. For example, the stress that comes home with me from work and the daily commute is something I don’t recall my mother bringing home with her, even though she doubtlessly dealt with the same in a daily basis. I often wonder if she was blessed with an inherent grace in her person, that skipped a generation.
Yesterday, I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs, that nudged me into thinking about this well-worn topic (at least in my mind) again, in a slightly new light. It is called “The First Five Minutes at Home,” and discusses how the feeling of a home is often impacted by the things you do as you walk in the door.
A couple of the tips are something I have started instituting in my own life over the past few years naturally, such as taking a more scenic route home from work. The GW Parkway is one available route to my home each day. It is a bit longer than the almost parallel Route 1, with a comparable amount of traffic on each. But the Parkway provides a lovely meandering drive through trees and groves, some of which are hundreds of years old and huge and leafy.
The Potomac river runs on your left, and is frequently dotted with sailboats. Occasionally it is even dotted with a school of adorable miniature sailboats, of those taking sailing lessons. All in all, it is a beautiful stretch of my daily commute. I have found that taking it tends to pull me out of thinking about various work and life stresses during my ride home each day, and instead kindles a bit of calm, and reflection on the world around me that I would not otherwise have working in my office space downtown each day. It puts me in a different frame of mind by the time I walk through my door each night.
There are other suggestions in the article – little rituals, like turning on music when you first walk in, or having a cup of tea when you get home that seem easy to incorporate. Other suggestions, like considering the attitudes you bring into your home, and ones to leave behind at the door (like residual work stress) will doubtlessly take more practice to accomplish, but have an even bigger effect if achieved.