What is home? It is a place? Is it things? Is it something intangible? Or is it all of the above? If you’re a military family, chances are home is wherever the DoD sends us. Is it really home though? Or is that just milspouses and milfams putting on a strong front? I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but in my own it’s not. I use the term “home” to mean two different things:
1. The place I’m currently living, where my cats live where I go home to every day.
2. Vermont, or my parents home.
I would never say that where I’m currently living is home. Not in the true sense of the word. It’s a place we live, just like the places I lived in college, and after college. Like we have lived at the duty stations before it, just a place where my stuff is. It’s where I sleep at night. It’s not special, there’s no sentiment that goes with it, it simply is. I can leave it and not look back, there’s no sadness when I go, I’m off to the next place we will live, and dreaming all the daydreams that go along with it. It will be perfect of course, we’ll do all the stuff we say we will do. Use all the amenities, life will be perfect, happy, it will be home.
It’s not home though. Heck, we bought a home last duty station and that wasn’t even home. Not really. It was the closest we’ve come to home, but I had no regrets leaving it. I’m not sad about it, and I have no qualms or sentimentality about selling it.
So what makes a home? Is it things?
Certainly once our HHG got here last summer it made our apartment feel more like home. But with each move comes the inevitable fact that one day, what is in all likelihood one of your favorite items will be “lost” or otherwise damaged or destroyed by the movers. So how can we feel at home when there is always the chance that next move our favorite things might not be joining us for one reason or another? Maybe they were damaged, or maybe you’re just over the weight limit or you figure it’s only a year, the rental furniture will do? Or maybe those curtains, that table and half your other furniture and artwork just won’t fit in the new place? Or you’ll be faced with white, textured wallpaper on concrete walls that you can’t hang anything on.
I think that while things, items, personal effects can help make some place feel like home, it’s not all there is. There is much more that goes into that feeling of home. How you can you create that when you can’t rely on things, or even places.
So what about intangibles? What intangible items go into making some place a home?
Food is probably one of the biggest ones. It is for me at least. There’s nothing that makes my place feel as homey as when I”m making a big meal like a nice pot roast, or roast turkey for a special occasion, holiday or just because. The kitchen might change, the living space might change, but the smell of Gramma’s post roast recipe cooking doesn’t. Sausage stuffing tastes just as good here in Korea as it did stateside. I can almost always find what I need to make the foods that remind me of home.
Rituals can also help make a house a home. Rituals don’t have to be big important affairs led by important religious leaders. Rituals can be a small as the way you prepare your morning cup of coffee or tea. Or even your daily routine or the things you do for holidays or special occasions. Any sort of actions or series of actions that you take to mark an occurrence can be a ritual that you can use to tap into that feeling of home. I might not be able to be with my family for the holidays but I can still do the things that we would do if we were there with them, or we could build our own. (If you are okay with that sort of thing. Which I’m not. Not for the holidays, at least.)
Have you ever walked into a someone’s home and just felt calm and at ease? There was just this feeling of comfort and something that just screamed home to you? Conversely you may have walked into someone’s, or even your own home and felt ill at ease? The energy of a place can help determine the feelings and even snap judgements we make about something. They can be determined by the people and habits of those living there, for good or ill. I think this is what I miss most from home. The feeling of home, of safety, of comfort. Why can’t my current home be like that now? Well no reason in particular!
Okay, maybe it’s because I’m lazy…and deep down I don’t want this to be home. I want home to be home. That line of thinking is silly though, and not doing me any favors. This can be home, a temporary, nomadic home, that I can take with me where ever we go.
I can’t control where our next duty station will be (c’mon East Coast above the Mason-Dixon Line!), but as Melissa mentions, I can control the feelings I put forth in my own home. I can control how I make my home feel and the energies I put into it, and so you can you! Our current home might not be ideal, we might not even like it, but that doesn’t mean we have to suffer with it not being a home. If home truly is where the heart is, isn’t it worth it to at least put in enough effort to see if that’s even true?
I think so.
So much so that this is going to be my goal over the coming months. I’m tired of living like some sort of college student. I want our apartment to feel like a home. That doesn’t mean going out and buying fancy home goods. It means filling my home with the comforting and loving energy a well lived in home has, even if the walls are bare, and half our things are still not yet unpacked.
How can you fill your bare, temporary home with a real home like atmosphere?
First, get rid of the old. Just like you clean your new house when you first move in, you need to clean out a bit of the old energy that lingers. Who knows what it was like there before you moved in. Ever walk into a new place and feel just off or negative? That’s the old energy just hanging around. Time to get rid of that! It’s really easy here are three easy ways you can get rid of negativity so you can start filling your new place with YOUR vibes.
- Let in the Fresh Air! This works great on a nice windy day. Open ALL the windows and let the wind carry off that energy (and maybe that musty smell too). You don’t have to do it long, 10 or 15 mins is fine. Just long enough to get that wind swirling through all the rooms. Open the closet doors and let the breeze get into every nook and cranny.
- Sage – Sage has long been used in purification in many cultures. Burn some incense, a smudge stick or even a sage scented candle.
- Salt + Water – Like sage, salt & water is a great purification agent. Ever go to the beach feeling down, then go a for a dip and feel like all your cares were washed away? You can bring that to your home! Take a cup of water add a pinch of salt, then sprinkle a few droplets all around your home.
Add Your Vibe
Now that you have a nice clean slate, it’s time to add your own vibe to the place! One of the best scents to help you do this, is also one of the most popular this time of year: Apple + Cinnamon Spice. Apples have long been considered symbols of love and friendship, as are cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, which also are associated with protection. Find some candles, or make your own simple simmering spice to imbue your home with love & protection.
Of course burning a candle alone won’t be all that’s needed to make your temporary home feel like home, it goes hand in hand with your own actions and thoughts. Remember, we might live nomadic lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring our homes with us. We might have to let go of that which does not serve us, and embrace more change than we’d like but we have the ability to overcome that, and to change our thoughts.