Are you serving your house or is your house serving you? Is there a difference? Does it even matter?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself, especially now as we’ve been staying home a bit more, confined to our own spaces for the safety of others. As I’ve dug a bit deeper in this pondering I’ve come to realize that there is a difference and it’s a significant one. Yes, I decorate homes and help the everyday mom decorate hers, but having a house that serves you isn’t at all about having a cute house. Or a pretty house. Or a magazine worthy house. It’s so much more than that. Here are some questions for you to think about as you consider if you are serving your house or your house is serving you?
1. When you walk into a room what do you see? How does it make you feel?
When I walk into my living room and I see the pillows on the floor it’s a reminder to me that my kiddos were there. If I know them at all, they were snuggling under the blankets while reading books and the pillows tossed about on the floor tell me that they left hurriedly on to the next fun thing. This elicits a happy feeling for me and if I don’t like it, a quick tidying up will suffice. I scan the room and have resting spots for my eyes to land on. I know what is stored in the baskets under the window bench and where to find the current issue of House Beautiful. This room makes me feel calm and happy.
When I walk into my office, a creative space, and need to step over piles of papers and move a stack of fabric and my sewing machine in order to access my chair and computer, I recognize that this is a mess by my own design. As I sit at my computer my eyes land on projects yet to be completed and as I search for the tools necessary to begin those projects, I can’t find them though I know they are here…somewhere. When I make a concerted effort to clean and tidy this space, I find that I am moving piles to store more objects no matter how useful. One pile replaces another and no matter how much I fold and place things behind the closed closet door in an orderly arrangement, the room still feels full. That fullness has an air all its own. For me (and I know this isn’t the case for everyone) this feels suffocating.
Do you spot the difference? One of the rooms is serving me and the other, most definitely, is not. But it doesn’t just come down to too much stuff, though that definitely plays into it.
2. What happens when someone stops over for an unexpected visit? How do you feel?
Are you apologetic or embarrassed for the mess they see? Even if the mess is as minimal as a stack of shoes left by the front door, deposited there after returning from an outing? Take stock of that feeling. If you find yourself embarrassed at the mere thought of someone stopping by unannounced, dig deeper and ask yourself why? Is it what is seen or unseen? Would you feel comfortable (pandemic aside) inviting them in for a cup of coffee? Or would that thought be mortifying? Do you see where I’m going? Feelings matter and are an important consideration when determining if your house is serving you or you are serving your house.
In the same light, what happens when someone comes over for an expected visit? How much work are you doing in preparation?
Are you spending days in preparation for a planned visit? Wiping every surface and hiding any imaginable remnant of a life out of order – visually or otherwise? Take inventory of how much work you are doing and ask yourself if there’s a motivation deeper than having a shiny exterior.
3. Do you enjoy hosting people in your home or is something holding you back?
You don’t have to be an extrovert to host people in your home and introversion shouldn’t be the thing that holds you back. Placing your own limitations and boundaries on the who and when will be helpful for you introverts who are balancing that tension, but I digress. That’s a point of conversation for another time.
Are there limitations holding you back from hosting others? Is it the lack of seating, accommodations or larger spaces in general and is it fixable? Is it how you feel about what your decor looks like and is it fixable? Is it the amount of work required to make a hosting event happen? Identifying the blockade and understanding the limitations surrounding how to remediate them is in alignment with understanding if your home is serving you or you are serving your home.
These have been hard questions for me to answer because I find myself in a camp that I don’t want to be in with answers that I don’t necessarily like. The answers will be nuanced for everyone and for me, they are connected to the home environment I grew up in. Recognizing the mess vs. orderliness, the habits of tidying as well as the feelings you have when entering a room or inviting others into your space will help you understand if your house is serving you or you are serving your house.
Does it really matter? That, my friend, is up to you.