I pride myself on keeping a tidy home. When we lived with Ryan’s parents for a few months in between houses, my mother-in-law would chuckle at me each night as I did my post-kids-in-bed routine: combing the house for anything out of place, picking up stray toys, fluffing pillows, making sure dishes were done. That was 7 years ago and the habit continues. Before I allow myself to sit down and relax, I pick up. Tidy surroundings put me at ease; clutter stresses me out.
But do you know what happens when you have six people living in a house, the last two weekends spent out of town, baseball season in full swing, a dad with a full work schedule and a mom who said yes to a couple of extra design projects that took way more time than expected?
It looks a little different than the pretty styled pictures I like to post.
Our living room with pillows plumped and fresh flowers:
The kitchen with countertops cleared and floors mopped.
And our bedroom with bed made and night stands pretty:
That’s the house I would prefer to live in. Picked up, sparkly-clean, everything in it’s place. Unfortunately, that’s not quite reality.
I’ve been loving Myquillyn’s new book (do you have a copy yet?!!) and feel so comforted and inspired by her thoughts on what makes a home.
Right towards the beginning of the book, Myquillyn shares about a friend who seemed to have it all together – she was outwardly beautiful, had a kind husband with a stable job, her kids were cute and house gorgeous – you know the type – but she was terribly uncomfortable to be around. This kind of seemingly-perfect woman makes our glaring imperfections more obvious. And that does not feel good. Once you spend more time together and share real struggles, opening up about those imperfections, only then can a true friendship form.
The same is true for a house. In Myquillyn’s wise words:
When I walk into a house, my eyes immediately dart around hoping to find something imperfect so that I can know this is a house where I can be real. The truth is I’m just not comfortable in a house that seems perfect. I get distracted and start thinking all about myself. I wonder if I can move this pillow to sit down. I’d better have water to drink instead of wine in case I spill it. Instead of enjoying the company of the hostess, I worry about how to act in the presence of a person who seems to have it all together. I wonder what she must think of me and the mess that I am when her house is so beautiful.
It finally dawned on me that if I’m not able to let my guard down in a perfect house, maybe others feel the same way. And if other people feel that way, why the heck was I working so hard to make our home appear to be perfect? True, I want our home to be welcoming. I want it to be comfortable. But welcoming and comfortable do not have to equal perfection. (Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, pages 56-57)
Isn’t that so good? And true?!
Our home is pretty. I enjoy decorating and have nice things. I can’t stop collecting pillows and fresh flowers make me smile. Taking styled photos of our house is fun and the fact that we’ve been in home magazines twice is beyond flattering.
But the fact is: in this house, we do life.
Stop by on a random afternoon and you’ll likely see a haphazard pile of shoes by the front door, crumbs all over the kitchen floor, paper scraps and lid-less markers covering the table. You might find stacks of laundry that have yet to be put away or suitcases still waiting (two weeks later) to be unpacked. You’ll see extra blankets made up on the floor next to our bed for a little girl who makes a habit of tiptoeing into our room because she can’t sleep. You’ll see scattered dog toys and unflushed toilets, a stack of mail and too many half-done projects.
And maybe, instead of being impressed with my perfectly-plumped pillows and freshly cut flowers, you’ll notice the imperfections and signs of life and will scooch that pillow out of your way, plop down on the fancy couch and feel welcome here.
Oh, I do hope so.
That’s truly the kind of house I want to live in.
Myquillyn is wise and talented (did you see her bedroom she just posted? It’s so good!) and generous, too. She’s been a blogging mentor of mine from the beginning – always so kind and encouraging – and I’m happy to call her my friend. I’m so excited about her beautiful book and after my nightly pick-up routine, I’m going to snuggle up on the couch and soak it all in.
We’re giving away three copies of her new book, The Nesting Place. You’ll love it, too, I’m sure.
Three random winners will be selected and notified via email (and I’ll post the winners here too).