Contentment and happiness with our homes is important to us, right? We want to feel comfortable and safe in our places. We want them to represent who we are and what we offer to the world. But so many of our homes fall short of that ideal, leaving us cranky, anxious, and unsettled. We want something better.
I don’t think this is wrong. I think that human beings instinctually want to improve their places in the world, and that’s a very good thing (think back to the Garden of Eden, when God told Adam to go out and take care of everything he saw).
But I am furious at the standards that have assaulted us, especially recently. Home decorating has always been a thing, but the current level of TV networks, shelter magazines, and the internet have pushed our standards way, way, WAAAAAAAAAAYYYY past what most of us can afford or pull off. These unreasonable standards have to be challenged.
So sit back and let me tell you little story of many years ago when I was a young social worker in rural Michigan. One day I was assigned a home visit in a really poor area, and when I pulled up to that trailer in the wilderness I felt glued to my driver’s seat. By that time I’d been a social worker for only two years, but I’d been in about every kind of filthy, cluttered, dark, claustrophobic home you can imagine. Oh, the smells. The grime. The general air of despair and neglect.
I knew I was headed into a metal tube of despair and neglect, and I was wondering how long I could hold my breath while I conducted business like an adult. (Not long enough.)
The elderly couple greeted me at the door, I took a last snootful of fresh air, and stepped over their threshold. I blinked. I blinked faster. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a 1960s trailer, exquisitely maintained. It could have been bought new and furnished yesterday, not forty years earlier.
Nothing was new. Not the carpet, the couch, or the paneling on the walls. I don’t know how they’d kept that carpet in such good shape for decades, but it was perfect.
I decided to breathe, just for the sake of not passing out in front of these sweet people.
The air smelled like bacon, and exactly like my own grandmother’s house. We headed to the kitchen where (of course) the appliances were ancient. But they matched the dining set, the floor, and the cabinets. The dishes were done and the counters wiped clean. I would have eaten anything they offered me, and for a social worker, that’s saying a lot.
I’m going to guess that this homemaker probably didn’t actually choose to live in a time capsule. I’m pretty sure she was forced to keep what she had because that’s all they could afford. But her choice to lovingly care for her home has spoken loudly to me for more than fifteen years.
She loved what she had. She kept it clean, decluttered, and fresh.
Home doesn’t require trendy appliances or the perfect floor. We could bulldoze our house and start over, and still be miserable if we don’t learn to care for what we have. What we buy today will be outdated in a decade or five minutes, so we have to learn to find contentment in something other than just buying a new thing.
This Home Contentment Series will help you do just that.
We’re going to look at five areas that will slowly increase your happiness with your home. I promise none of it will require going into debt. It will require some work on your part and a new perspective on your home, but I think we can all manage that just fine.
And when your own home discontentment creeps up on you, just close your eyes and imagine an old, metal trailer full of an elderly couple’s possessions. Imagine all the surfaces buffed to a shine, an immaculate kitchen floor, and a cozy place to nap on a funky brown couch. Think of how contentment has nothing to do with what the trend of the moment demands of us.
Let’s look for something better.