Years ago when my husband and I were away for our first weekend as man and wife, my sister and her husband stopped at our apartment to drop off wedding gifts. We lived in "the bowling alley", a reference to the long narrow shape of our apartment. I had moved in three months earlier and had taken great care to set up the old apartment attractively, as best I could given a tight budget. At a yard sale my husband and I had purchased a living room set--an eight foot long couch, two matching chairs, a lamp, and an end table--all for $100. Family loaned me some crisp white curtains for the windows and I was so proud of the one quality piece of furniture I owned, a mahogany hope chest that had been my Mom's. I did my best to set up the apartment as nicely as I could. So I was quite pleased with myself when my sister wrote me a note saying that her husband had remarked that our apartment was very "homey".
When my husband and I built a house three and a half years later, I again took great care to decorate our home nicely but we were still on a limited budget. With our daughter born just one week after we moved into our new home, the decorator brands it appeared I most used were Playskool and Fisher-Price. This continued for years. A high chair, playpen, baby swing, and multiple toys filled the downstairs, and baskets of laundry needing folding took up space upstairs. I knew that someday I would take time to paint the house's white walls, but in the moment I did not worry too much about having a decorator's model home. I enjoyed browsing through magazines however and thinking of how I would design the house when I had more time. I thought through the colors for each room and the style of furniture I would purchase. But I also knew that in truth, that as long as my house felt "homey", I'd be happy. After all, there is something most pleasing about seeing the couch cushions being propped up against the kitchen island with Igloo coolers to make a fort.
When a vacation hits and I have more time at home I see many unfinished projects and the extent of spring cleaning that needs to be done. I see dust on every bookshelf and a sandy mudroom closet. I see cupboards in need of straightening and floors in need of a good washing. But I also observe the house that my husband, my children, and I have made into a home. There are board games on the top shelf of the closet that need to be taken down this vacation week and played at the dining room table, the same table that has stacks of photographs peeled from albums a few weeks ago when my daughter completed her school project. There are piles of school papers on the kitchen island, and on the end table near the crumb filled couch needing vacuuming there are ripped magazine pages filled with recipes I want to try.
I'm up for some spring cleaning and this house truly needs it. I'll work on it this week but it can wait until tomorrow. In the meantime I think I'll curl up on the old eight foot couch that I took a leisurely nap upon this afternoon and watch a movie tonight with one of my children--all of whom have outgrown Fisher-Price and Playskool. I'll overlook opened cases of Wii games that need putting away and little black ankle socks that did not quite make it into the laundry basket. Yes, there are several reasons why this house never gets perfectly clean and we're still on that limited budget when it comes to home decorating, but it truly doesn't matter much to me, for I learned long ago what truly makes a house a home.