There was a moment earlier this week when the clouds shifted and dipped in the sky and all at once, sunlight broke through all of the windows, like a mermaid's dive piercing an endless ocean.
I was sat on my love seat sofa holding my baby at the time, my hair tickling his little face to make him laugh, and even though my gaze was lowered towards him, I felt something change. For a few moments, with the sun high in the sky, the walls and the floors glowed like honey and I looked up. All of a sudden, with my baby on my knee I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time. I felt overwhelmingly in love with our home. Sunlight slanting through the skylight, bouncing through the backdoors. The shadows of moving clouds gently passing over the walls like a soft hand brushing a forehead. The feeling of warmth.
It felt like, well, home. It felt so good to be here.
I hadn't felt this way for a long time. For the past several months, home felt like a clunky awkward space that we just weren't fitting into as a family. A place with an annoyingly narrow hallway. A place where the boys' wellies and waterproofs drifted from one room to another. A place where there seemingly wasn't anywhere to hide the post or boxes of jigsaw puzzles anymore. We had just had our third baby and despite my leaning towards minimalism, my passion for thoughtful interiors, for a less-is-more, less-is-better approach, I had let things get on top of me. I was frustrated. We both were.
And so we began looking at houses elsewhere, resigned to a life outside London that neither of us wanted. Yes, there was space to be had. Big rooms. The promise of our very own front door. A loft. But the more we viewed these houses, the more I realised none of them felt like what we already had. None of them felt like us. This was not as simple as aesthetics. It went deeper than that.
The first time we saw our home, long before it became ours, we felt a spark, despite it being nothing like our style of interiors - I distinctly remember turning to my husband, my eyes sparkling with the wonder of it all because it just felt right. This home, our current home, already felt like our family home before we even moved in. It promised us grazed knees and messy dinners and cakes to be baked and heights marked on the inside of the larder door. It felt full of comfort. Full of love. So the more we talked about moving, the more I felt a little piece of my heart ache.
After the last house viewing, I realised that everything we were searching for beyond a floorspace was right in front of us. We didn't need to start again. We just needed to take our time to love our home. Tend to it, make it work for our growing family and remember why we fell for it in the first place. We had simply neglected our home, taken it for granted and it was time to iron out the kinks rather than resent what we didn't have.
It's taken a few months to clear, to edit, to organise and to clean. To reclaim the spaces that let our belongings breathe. I am used to doing this all the time, constantly making room and refreshing and I have always enjoyed how it feels, not just physically but emotionally too. But this regular cleansing practice of mine had all been pushed to the side when my youngest was born. Looking back, I am astonished, really, that I didn't realise that having a third baby wouldn't just change our family's dynamics once more but those of our home too. I am still in the midst of this process but the changes we've made to the way we live in our space are already starting to make me feel grounded again.
But more than this, more than just the decluttering, I have also started to take time to remember why I'm so grateful for the home we have. I am fully aware of how lucky we are to have this space for our children. I am grateful for the shelter it provides us, yes, but also for the memories it is preserving, the memories it is allowing us to create. I'm grateful for the quiet pauses it gives me between busy days. For the joy and comfort it brings to my children. Yes, a home is only a place, a structure. Yes, it's the people that make a home, not the walls. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's also the way it makes you feel when the light pours in. The way it gathers you close. The way it makes you realise there's no place else you'd rather live.
SIX WAYS TO FALL BACK IN LOVE WITH YOUR HOME
Focus on feelings, not just on styles. Before you turn to Pinterest to restyle or refresh your home when you're feeling frustrated with it, think about how you want to feel when you come home everyday (not how you want your home to feel, but how you want to feel). Write down the words that describe these feelings and keep them next to you while your browse for interiors ideas. I do this when curating for the Our Story Time shop - I write down the feeling I want to create, the feelings I want my customers to have before I source products, so that there's an unmistakable atmosphere when you shop with me. So for my summer collection I wrote down words like heady, fragrant, romantic. You can do this for your own home too - so, "calm, content and inspired" or "happy, spirited, uplifted." Don't lose sight of the emotions beyond the aesthetics - that's essential to living thoughtfully.
Accept what you cannot change with your space and move on. We have a shared entrance and much as I would love to have a wide, light-filled hallway, room to organise an entryway and my very own front door - I simply don't. So instead of wasting energy on it, we've done the best with it we can, freshening it up with a lick of paint and... that's that. That's all we can do, and that's okay. Our own front door will come to us one day. Instead of wishing for something that you can't change - like, say outdoor space, or more windows - and letting yourself get irritated by it daily, simply draw a line, accept what's what and move on. Focus instead on improving the other areas of your home that will make living there more of a joy.
Edit your belongings routinely Clear your home of clutter and free up space so you can breathe. I find it easier to edit when I'm starting from an empty spot. First I clear, then I curate and weave back in only the pieces that mean something to me. So if a wall of prints isn't working for you, take them all down first and then start over so you have a fresh start to try again. Or if your shelves are chaotic rather than beautiful to look at, clear them all and one by one work back in the treasures or essentials and let go of the things that give you a headache. Do it well and thoroughly, then keep on top of it - yes, it's maintenance. But done regularly, it doesn't build up to the point of no return. I keep a big basket under the stairs for things either to fix or to donate to charity (toys the boys no longer play with or clothes that no longer fit or unwanted gifts). As soon as the basket is full, I know I must act on it.
Get the mundane jobs done If you get frustrated every single day because your children's books are overflowing or if there's now where to put your paperwork away or store the linen - instead of putting it off time after time (which I too have been guilty of), tackle the problem once and for all, even if it isn't inspiring or brings you no aesthetic pleasure. Order a heap of storage boxes. Measure up. Invest in the practical out-of-sight solutions. Once it's done, suddenly that big problem that bothered you will simply cease to exist and you'll feel lighter for it in many ways (here's where you discover a little bit of magic in the mundane).
Keep it in perspective. You have a home. Hold onto that thought, allow yourself to say it out loud if you may and suddenly it seems like the most magical thing in the world. There's nothing more grounding or humbling than that.
Go with the flow. Accept that life will change, and when it does, so too will the space you live in. It is so liberating when you come to terms with the realisation that your home and your belongings don't have to be in a permanent fixed state all the time.
Enjoy it. What did you love most about your home before you fell out of love with it? Was it the open-plan space for socialising? Then throw a party with all the people you love. Was it the little nook by the window, the one you imagined curling up in with a good book but never did because life got in the way? Make a cup of tea, grab your book and do just that. You will love your home once again.