Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking Pride In Your Home: The Double-Edged Sword

Home.  When we are blessed with the responsibility of making a home out of walls and doors, if you're anything like me, things can get a little...complicated.  I come from a line of sensitive pack-rats who find it hard to let go of things - things that I could use one day, things that remind me of a special time, things someone gave me, things I never got around to doing but wish I did - and that makes things like decorating or spring cleaning...interesting.  Finding a balance in things is always my goal - mostly because our human nature is to rush the extremes - and taking an appropriate amount of pride in a home is an area I need a lot of balance in.

There's one extreme where you take no pride in your home.  That might look like never cleaning ever or doing nothing to make your family or guests feel comfortable in your home.  Sometimes this extreme comes from pure ignorance.  If things like decorating or housekeeping don't come naturally or weren't taught, sometimes you just don't know any better.  Other times it could be perfectionism gone wrong.  Since I can't have X (a bigger house, newer things, more things, not have to work, etc.), then I'm just not going to mess with any of it. I am guilty of that one a lot.  And it could be the sincere belief that due to some issue like the size or condition of a house that there really isn't anything that can be done to make a house more comfortable or welcoming.  Whatever the case, it is an extreme that isn't healthy.

The other extreme is taking so much pride in your home that you forget what is important and what the home is there for: people.  This might look like spending all your time cleaning and neglecting other responsibilities like playing with your kids or cultivating other relationships.  Or your clean house is so important that you can't allow kids or unruly guests into your home because they will tarnish it.  It could also look like spending a considerable amount of money on furniture and decorations when you can't really afford to or refuse to be generous in other areas.  This extreme is typically characterized by a huge lack of contentment.  Contentment with our spaces, contentment with what others think of us and contentment with our own realities.  This is really the crux of most issues when it comes to our homes.

As a sensitive girl who is largely motivated by relationships and a desire to do the right thing, what you think of me matters a whole lot more than it should.  So then what you think of anything I do, say or OWN instantly comes into play as well.  To that end, especially at our previous house, I struggled to make homemaking decisions (especially decor) within the constrains of feasibility, what I actually liked, and what I felt compelled to do.  It's the last one that always messed everything up.  With the blank canvas of our new space, I've been forcing myself to not hang much on the walls or buy new anything.  And the struggle is real.  We don't need to spend the money and I want to fill my corners and walls the way I really like, not just to fill space.  But I have to regularly squelch the little monster that says, "What will people think, Amy?  You're so lazy that you STILL haven't gotten anything on the walls?  What's the matter with you!?!"  See, I know it doesn't matter.  My family is comfortable and happy, to my knowledge guests in my home are not grossed out or hurt in any way because there isn't a great picture wall or gigantic mantel piece.  But that comparison bug is constantly pushing for me to be discontent, regardless of the issue.  I had a smaller, less updated home and I struggled with being content.  I now have a larger, updated home and being content is still a struggle.

So, what then?  Contentment - like self-control or healthy eating - takes intentional work. And homemaking, entertaining, decorating and creating a home takes a balanced effort.  How we feel in our home, as residents or guests, matters toward our relationships and our service to God so it is important to work at it.  But that home - be it on a mountaintop or in a bunker deep below - should never take priority over the people it houses or the God who provides it.  When we obsess over filling space, squander savings over feelings of self-worth or idolize our every room, we are missing the point completely.  Of course, I'm still figuring all of this out myself, but it seems like there are a few guidelines that can help us stay balanced.

-Make homemaking and entertaining a priority some of the time.

-Insist on living within your means and circumstances. 

-Always, always ask yourself if the people (including you) in your life are getting what they need out of your relationship.  If not, then all the things in the world don't matter.

-When you are making choices about your living space, focus on what brings you and your family joy.  Most everything else is probably just an attempt to please some ambiguous 'them' and shouldn't matter anyway.

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