Making Your Home Your Haven

Does your home pamper you? Maybe its time for a change!

 My home is my castle, my fortress, my haven. It is a peaceful abode where I am free to be myself, where I can unload my troubles at the end of the day and find peace.

In our busy, busy world, many of us overlook one of the more important functions of a home: to provide a haven from the outside world.  We get the food and shelter part down pat, but overlook the little touches that say “this is home”. We claim we are too busy, but are we truly too busy to care for ourselves in this way? After all, we can sleep or eat just about anywhere, but a home that is also one’s haven provides priceless stress relief!

What do we have here?

The first step is to evaluate what you already have.  You may want to create a little journal for this process, as it may help you to organize your thoughts. Try to enter your home as if you were a visitor: what do you notice first?  Write it down! Do not judge or justify your impressions, just record them.  This isn’t a punishment, but rather a gentle exercise. You are recording where you are right now, not where you will always be!

How does your home smell when you first walk through the door? Is it a pleasant scent? Is it welcoming? Do you smell your favorite scent, whether it be a perfume or flowers or potpourri or cooking? Does you smell stale smoke or closed up stale air? or pets odors? Again, record your observations.  This is important, because we may not even notice the scents of our home any longer, we become to accustom to them – but the signature scent of your home should be something dear to you.

Now, just as you recorded what you smelled, take a moment to notice what sounds you hear.  Is there soft music? Or the ticking of a great clock? Children playing? Noisy neighbors? Construction or traffic sounds from outside?

What is before you? What do you see? Is the entryway well lit and welcoming? Are you stumbling over jackets and boots? Is there something beautiful to greet you and your guests? What do you love about your entryway? What do you wish you could change?

Now slowly walk through your home, room to room, and record your observations.  Again, no judgment! This is the time to pretend you are a detective who is trying to learn more about the occupants of the house. What does each room tell you? What do these people love? What do they value?

Once you have gone through each room, take a few minutes in your favorite reading place and review your notes for each room. Ponder upon how you would like your home to greet you after a long day.

 

When I did this exercise in my own home, after being away for ten days, I learned that my entryway smelled like the former tenant’s cat! I had become so accustomed to this that I no longer noticed it! I immediately scheduled a deodorizing shampoo for the entry carpet.  I also committed to simmering spices in the mornings during the cold weather (I prefer spices and citrus) to scent our home before I left for work. This left a soft scent to greet me in the evening when I returned.  In the warmer weather I switch over to a homemade “airspray” with lavender and gentle green scents. I also noticed that my backdoor entry, which leads directly into my kitchen, was far more welcoming than my front entry.

Learn about the possibilities…

It is very easy to look into a beautiful shelter magazine and say “Wow, that is a beautiful room!  I’ll copy it”.  But if a room doesn’t truly reflect your lifestyle, your comfort, and your loves it will not work. It may be beautiful, but it will not make your heart sing. So instead of looking at the glossy books, look at areas of your own home that make you feel the most relaxed and at ease. Examine them and try to figure out what makes you happy in those rooms. Is it a color scheme? A combination of favorite textures?  A collection of precious (to you) items?

What are your favorite colors? Are they reflected in your home decor? Is there a place to cuddle up and read? Do you have plants or flowers? Do your dishes and glasses make you smile or do you cringe when you serve up dinner? Do you use your good china or do you store it away for “some day”? Do your bedclothes soothe you to sleep? Are you surrounded by items you love? Or by clutter and meaningless knick-knacks? Ignore what fashion (or your mother or best friend) says and think truly about what sort of furniture you enjoy! Do you prefer simple Mission style? Or intricately carved pieces? Is mid-century modern to your taste? What about elegant Chippendale? This exercise is about learning your own tastes, so let you imagination fly free. Perhaps you can look through a few books on furnishings from your local library, or browse through new and antique furniture stores to see what calls to you! Do not buy anything, just look and learn.

Now its time to engage with your home…

By now your journal may be filled with notes on what you love (and don’t love). You may have had epiphanies as you discover your own style. You may be full of energy and raring to go! Or, you may be looking at your little notebooks and saying “Wow! So much to do! How will this ever get done?”  Fear not! Home style is developed over time, as time and budgets and other resources allow. The key is this: now that you know when you like, only purchase what you will love for your home. Life is too short to not be surrounded with beauty.  And beauty is not just expensive stuff! Beauty is a handful of wildflowers tucked into a glass jar.  It is your favorite seashells lovingly displayed.  It is a laundry room painted your favorite bright color – just to make you smile! It is the rooms you share with your loved ones in peace and comfort.

So we begin to bring beauty and comfort back into our home.  For one person this may mean an old-fashioned top-to-bottom cleaning, followed by reorganizing what you already have on hand.  For another, it may be slowly trading up cheap “beginner” furniture for pieces of quality. And for a third person it may mean addressing more serious issues. All changes begin with baby steps, and step number one will almost always involve cleaning!

Next you will decide what you want your personal “eau de home” to smell like. While some do prefer the smell of chemical air fresheners, most of us prefer something a little more personal – a combination of scents that uniquely reflect out own personality. My house “aroma” in winter is a combination of simmering spices with orange peel, whatever is cooking for dinner, and wood smoke (from the crackling fire in the fireplace). In the summer my home smells of fresh air, lavender (I tend to use it a lot in cleaning), lemon (also used in cleaning), a various potted herbs. Those are my loves – what are yours? As long as you maintain a light touch (you want to inspire feelings of peace and comfort, not headaches!) you can experiment with just about any scent you can imagine!

The sounds of our home are sometimes not entirely within our control – I certainly have had days where I could cheerfully throttle my neighbor’s landscapers, with their outrageously loud, droning (and stinky!) leaf blowers! But review your notes and consider which aspects of your home’s aural presentation can be tuned to a more pleasing note. I enjoy leaving a radio tuned to a non-commercial classical music station, and at a very low volume, so that I am greeted with a just-barely-perceptible but gracious welcome note upon my arrival home. Perhaps your preference is for jazz? Or complete silence with the simple ticking of a grandfather clock to mark the peaceful silence?

Now you have a clean home, filled with pleasing scents and sounds. What next? Go back to your entryway and look again. Is there clutter? Deal with it. Anything need a good scrubbing? Deal with it. Once it is clean and shining, review your notes.  Is there too much furniture? Too little? Does the paint need refreshing? Do you need art? Are there a bunch of mis-matched prints and photos hanging all over? Well, you guessed it…deal with it! (Do be sure to “shop your home” before looking further abroad – we often have wonderful treasures right under our noses!)

Once the entryway is completed, stop! Plan your next step, but be sure to give yourself ample time. Your house isn’t going anywhere (or if it is, that is beyond the scope of this article!) You are creating a haven, and havens take time. We often stumble and fall in our plans because we try to do too much at once.  Remember that each room should reflect your loves, your needs, your family, your tastes.

A little inspiration…

You and your family deserve a home that surrounds you in peace and joy when you are within. A place where you are happy to welcome friends and family. Be sure to plan ample light and soft places to land, colors that bring you peace in the bedroom and energy in the kitchen, soft sheets and warm blankets and fluffy towels.

Don’t forget that your home, your haven, will continue to develop over time, just as families do! Your home should reflect changes in your lifestyle, it is a constantly evolving work. Remember, home is more than a house – it is love and family and commitment and the memories that bind you all together.

“My home…it is my retreat and resting place…I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside, as I do another corner in my soul.” – Michel de Montaigne

Originally published on Yahoo.

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