Farming Families – Your Home as Haven

Yesterday’s post on vacations touched of some great conversations on my facebook page as well as private messages.  The most common question?  “OK, Annie, I’m supposed to be content at home.  How DO I make my home a haven?”

I’m no expert interior design or home decor but I’ll offer what I can from my experience:

1.  Identify what you love – Colors, textures, pictures, art, books, furniture, antiques, knick-knacks, and on and on…  What are your favorites?  If you don’t know, get a home decor magazine and flip through it.  What pictures are you drawn to?  Tear them out.  What makes you cringe?  Draw a big X through them with a Sharpie.  Now look at your pile of pictures.  What are the common themes?  (see list above for possible themes)  For example, I like antiques but I definitely do not like primitive.  I like more cottage feel than modern, but I don’t like clutter.  I like contrasting textures i.e. leather furniture with soft pillows and throws.  I like bold, warm colors rather than soft, cool pastels.

2.  What stage of life are you in? – I lived in a large ranch house for seven years before I married my handsome husband and moved to his farm.  Which meant I could decorate any way I wanted.  I also loved to auction sale on the weekends and brought home many great finds.  I had lots of houseplants, antiques, vintage linens, etc.  That doesn’t work right now in my house.  I have three small children who eat houseplants, break antiques and wipe up pee with vintage linens.  There are seasons we go through when it comes to haven making.  What makes our house a haven right now?  The less the better.  I removed three totes of toys from our family room and my kids didn’t even notice they were gone.  What they did notice was more space to play.  Space is important for them to build forts out of couch cushions, ride their stick horses, and do somersaults.  And, if I’m honest, when they tear the place apart (as they do on a regular basis), it’s a lot easier to clean up now with less stuff.  As our kids age, I will bring back some touches of my former self, but it will never be the excess it was before.

3.  Read the book “7 – An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker – She puts into words everything I’ve thought about “stuff”, especially since I cleaned out my parents’ house and shop and life a year ago.  We have too much stuff.  I do.  You do.  Every American has TOO MUCH STUFF.  And the thing is, I can justify almost everything in my house.  But it’s too much.  Of everything.  We let a lot of stuff go when we moved.  But it is still too much.  My goal for this winter is to go through my house again and purge.  Give it all away.  I have five dutch ovens.  FIVE.  I know there are at least three and probably four people out there who need one.  Really need one.

I’ve lost both my parents in the past two years.  Years before we thought we actually would.  And even though their memory is still so very dear to me, their stuff can soon become a millstone around my neck.  Do I have to keep their stuff if I have their memory?  I told my brother and sister when I cleaned out this farm, “I’m not running the White family museum.  Come, take what you want now because it won’t be here after the sale.”  Have I kept things of theirs and my grandparents?  Yes, but it is a limited number of very special things.

4.  Make a favorite place – And do it for each family member.  Ask them where and what they would like in a favorite place.  Is it a reading corner?  A comfy chair in the sunshine? A tent filled with stuffed animals?  A chair with a footrest and a side table for knitting?  (that’s mine!)  Your home doesn’t have to look like a magazine, it needs to look good to you.  Remember Fraser’s dad’s frumpy chair in his ultra-modern apartment?  It was his dad’s favorite place.

5.  Make traditions – The families who make the best memories do it with traditions.  And most of those traditions occur at home.  Traditions work best when they truly reflect your family, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Have a theme night – Mexican night on Tuesdays, Pizza and Ice Cream on Fridays, movie nights on Saturdays, Pancake Sundays, whatever!
  • Have celebrations – birthdays of course, but what about the solstices and equinoxes, first day of the month, housecleaning day, laundry day, whatever!
  • Make traditions for obscure holidays – it’s easy to find out when National Donut Day is, make it into a fun celebration with donuts.

Walk through your home and identify areas to work on to make it a haven.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and your home will not become insta-haven.  It’s a process.  Once I’m still working on.

Day 22 Homework:  What parts of my home are a haven?  What parts are not haven-worthy?  What can I change about those parts?

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