FIRST: jot down three things you don’t like about your house.
Now, ask yourself: In what way is my home special?
Most of my clients want homes that reflect who they are and make an impact.
While It’s terrific to be able to buy beautiful and unusual things, filling a house with them doesn’t make a home. What does is the ambiance you create and weave into your daily rhythms and practices. Whether or not people think your HOUSE is wonderful depends on its physical characteristics. Whether or not they think your HOME is special, though, has everything to do with both your zest for life and the things you’ve made it possible to do at home.
This recognition about importance was driven home to me by the journal my mother kept during the last months of her life. It wasn’t the elegance of her expression that mattered – it was her simple awareness of her feelings. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, she wrote longingly about wanting to live a full life, and of her difficulty with imagining how that would be possible if she lost her mobility, beauty, or her intellectual strength. But on her last days, she wrote in a shaky hand that everything would be alright, as long as she could still experience the glowing peacefulness of simply turning her face toward the sun. Just before her death, she found the strength to talk about how magnificent it was just to be alive.
Some years later I had a cancer scare of my own, and I found myself remembering my mother’s final journal entries. I would look at my husband and young son and be nearly felled by misery at the thought of leaving them. And yet, I was just so blazingly happy to be alive. We all see and judge ourselves within our own context and, at that time, even the hope of a long illness seemed like a wondrous opportunity.
Some people are most in touch with the joy of life when they are surrounded by family. Others find themselves most engaged in solitude. Some want books, and some want motion.
Whatever the case may be, when it comes to creating a home, it’s the juxtaposition of one thing against something quite different that makes us really sit up and take notice. Think of it this way: a loud noise isn’t exceptional on a busy city street at rush hour, so you might barely turn your head at the sound of screeching brakes. But the same loud noise heard in the middle of the night on a remote Montana ranch would really grab your attention. This theory holds true in house design, as well.
❖ What would I like to be able to DO today at home?
❖ Look at the things you said you’d like to do.
❖ Is there any way to make space for the things you’d like to do?
❖ What would you like to have done yesterday?
Don’t read these questions as an injunction to settle for less than wonderful.
Instead, find ways for using your creativity to deal with the things you don’t have. Make
choices be about you and the people you love.
If your home doesn’t already feel special & wonderful it’s likely a result of two problems:
● You aren’t making the most of your personal resources. But as you keep thinking about who you are and what you have, you’ll realize you have a fair amount to work with.
● You’ve locked yourself into a confined notion of how to realize your goals.
But if you think more about WHY these goals matter, rather than the goals themselves, you’ll begin to see new possibilities.
About twenty years ago, we told friends and family that we wouldn’t be going out on Friday nights, but that we’d welcome them to come to dinner at our house. We said that they didn’t need to call first, and they didn’t need to bring anything. We wanted people to feel free to just show up and I wanted to feel casual about the preparation. I didn’t want to organize a potluck or worry about what we’d do for a main course if someone cancelled. I realized it was going to be easier to plan a simple but complete meal, with room to add anything else to the table that might show up. This way, I didn’t need to worry about how much salad to make or how many places to set at the table -- we just waited until dinner time to see who showed up and went on from there.
Were there negatives? Well, we don’t have a big dining room, so dinner wouldn’t be very formal. We don’t have a family room, so all the generations would have to be at the same table. In other words, no there weren’t. We found the possible negatives all to be true positives that give our Friday Night Dinners some very special characteristics.
At first, people found all this surprising because it wasn’t the kind of dinner invitation they were used to. But slowly it began to feel natural, and now our Friday Nights have become an important part of our week. It’s not always a convenient time for everybody, but the friends who have decided to make it part of their lives have created a new family for us and for each other. Our son is forty. Friday Nights have given him, his wife, and their friends the opportunity to get to know our friends and allowed him to be an adult in an extended family.
Friday Nights grew out of wanting to solve a problem: They are a perfect example of making something wonderful out of what seemed to be a series of disadvantages. We once lacked a close-knit community of immediate neighbors, but now we have a group of good friends with whom to share our home. And the accommodations our friends have made for us help us welcome all visitors with ease.
At this point you know that your creativity is what will make your home a special and wonderful one, and that the things you take for granted are probably those that you under-use. Make yourself notice and enjoy them! These are the things that you can feel completely free to use in any way you choose, so they become part of how you transform your home and your life. If you live enthusiastically and let your home reflect your passions, I can guarantee other people will know how special a place you’ve created. It probably won’t be what they expected -- in fact, it might very well not be what you expected when you began the process, either. That’s a great thing because it’s an indication that you are flexible about achieving your goals and willing to reach beyond generic comfort and personal luxury. A guide for right now might be: no matter what I might want in the future, I won’t wait. I will make full use of what I have right now, and enjoy it, too.