I sweep the floor, carefully, reaching deep under the furniture. Going over the same patch of ground to make sure I’ve collected all the dust and bits. Satisfied, I empty my dustpan, return it to the hook, and put the broom back in the corner.
Stepping back, my foot finds the stray crumb.
I wash the dishes, scrubbing and rinsing and stacking them to dry. When I’m finished, I wipe down the counters, clean the stovetop. Rinse out the dishcloth and drape it over the faucet. The kitchen looks good. I reward myself with a cup of tea.
The used mug sits beside the sink, and the process starts again.
In the bathroom, a wet towel hangs over the shower rail.
A crafting project takes over the dining room table.
There are dust bunnies beside the bed. I don’t know where they came from. I just cleaned in here the other day.
I spend way too much time on Instagram, drinking in pretty pictures of perfect interiors.
Kitchens with not a dirty dish in sight. Living rooms with perfectly fluffed cushions. Tables with artfully draped lengths of linen and a candle just blown out, the smoke swirling gracefully upward.
It can be discouraging to look at these pictures if we think they’re in any way a document of reality. Our homes never seem to look like that, do they? Or if we do manage a moment of perfection, it always changes. The dishes, the laundry, the paperwork pile up. People come and go, squashing the pillows and leaving their shoes in the hall.
Our homes will never be perfect. That’s not what homes are meant to be. Perfection is static, and our homes are ever-changing, just as our lives are ever-changing. We have a relationship with our home, just as we have relationships with the people we share them with.
And, just as we don’t or shouldn’t use people as a reflection of ourselves, we will be a lot happier if instead of using our homes to reflect some preferred, idealized identity, we ask them to support who we really are and how we actually live.
That process turns our homes into deeply personal spaces, sometimes messy when we’ve got a project on the go, sometimes tidy when we need a calm and soothing space.
I believe that, to embrace this view of home fully, we need to throw out the builders’ and real estate agents’ ideas of what the rooms should be for, and instead set them up according to our whims and enthusiasms.
Think about what your priorities are and give over more floor space to the things that are more important to you. And if something doesn’t matter to you, you don’t need to have a room for it.
Alan and I followed this idea when we were setting up our apartment. Food – cooking it and eating it and sharing it with friends – is pretty much our top priority. So the biggest part of our home is given over to that. The main room is the dining room. We no longer have a designated living room. Our bedroom is big enough for a bed and two nightstands because what else do we need in there?
I love going into someone’s home and finding their living room strewn with musical instruments. Or perhaps they have an easel and painting supplies set up in a corner.
Children’s artwork hung on the wall, a knitting project set aside but ready to be picked up in a moment, indoor gardening supplies kept out in view.
All of these may feel untidy. We can feel embarrassed because our homes aren’t pristine or picture-perfect. But I think it’s really sad to try to force our homes to fit someone else’s ideas of what they should look like, just as it’s sad when we can’t accept our own beauty because it doesn’t look like the beauty we see in the pages of a magazine.
Our homes and our lives would be so much more interesting and satisfying if we didn’t try to fit ourselves into the cookie-cutter homes ‘everyone’ says we should have. If we didn’t relegate our deepest passions to the basement or spare room.
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