When the sun streams through our back doors, it lights the walls up like honey. Shadows fall on one side of the walls and the oak floorboards, scratched and scuffed but so loved, glow like honey. I love our home like this. And yet, there has been something that has been bothering me lately - a cloud of weariness but I couldn't figure out why or from where it was floating in. Everyone who comes into our home compliments it and yet to me, it's been feeling flat.
And then it struck me. The unease I'd been feeling towards some of our possessions is because there are parts of our home that don't truly express the people my husband and I have grown into being. And I have grown so much in the last year.
For so long now, I have been on my own learning journey - living with less in my wardrobe, teaching the children values that go beyond wanting material things, understanding what I want from Our Story Time, setting boundaries in my life for the very first time, boundaries that enable me to live the life I want without the feeling of obligation or pressure that has plagued me endlessly. I have discovered my voice and am no longer afraid of saying no, but have also learnt to say so with kindness and grace. I have built up a quiet confidence, after feeling like I had no much more to give. I have changed, and my husband has changed too in such a wholehearted way, and our surroundings don't always reflect the people we are now. It's starting to feel like we're finding ourselves, and the older we get, the easier it might be. I guess we're growing up.
But as I look around me at home, it doesn't always reflect this inner calm, the quiet confidence I talk of. If I'm honest, sometimes the brightness makes my head hurt a little. Some people might think it doesn't matter, but it does. I am a fierce homebird; there is nowhere else I'd rather be. So if it doesn't match up to the way I feel inside, the way our family sees the world and where we place our values, then something isn't quite right. It matters to me that our home reflects a certain state of love, calm and thoughtfulness.
There are things that have stayed with us, just because they always have and I've simply accepted that it would be too frivolous to start over. And so there are endless bright cushions on the sofa, poppy wall prints that we've long outgrown, colours that I added because I thought that I was that sort of colourful person when all I needed to do was look at my wardrobe to see that I'm really not (and this, I think, shall be my starting point - I will no longer pick colours so randomly; if I wouldn't wear the colour, then it shouldn't make its way into our interiors either). There are so many items brought in a Pinterest-time, a time of buying something because of its style, not because of its feeling or any sense of meaning that I wished to bring into our home especially. There are gifts that feel too clumsy to giveaway and yet stand out, jarringly, because they are not things that we'd have chosen for ourselves.
And yet, I've ignored all of this for, oh, two or three years now. I've worked to curate a wardrobe I love, but I've not applied the same approach to our home belongings. I had convinced myself we live with less, and truly I suppose we do compared to your average family of five, particularly when it comes to toys and the like, but there is so much more work to be done. I'd look at our shelves and think they looked fairly neat but failed to truly consider the value of everything on them and elsewhere - on the walls, on the floors - that had survived the culls despite not really being that loved.
I'd convinced myself it was far too materialistic, far too expensive to re-do corners of our home just because I felt they were no longer right for us. I mean, I can put five black tops in a charity bag, but you can't just pull 5 wall prints off the wall and do the same - right?
Yet if I applied the same care to editing our home as I did to my wardrobe or the boys' toys or even the Our Story Time shop for instance, then I'm pretty sure we would have a much more thoughtfully curated, loved and lived-in home. We would only keep what we truly love, what truly enhances our space - not the things we've simply ended up with time after time.
In This is Home, Natalie Walton writes: "If we think of our home as ever-evolving, mistakes are nothing to fear. They are how we learn and improve and they become part of the stories that help to make our home authentic."
She continues: "A sense of style evolves through the prism of our values. And when we let these be our guide, a visual voice emerges that's fluid and permeable, and can adapt to the constant changes that are an inevitable part of life. It means that we don't have to overhaul our homes every couple of years, which wastes time and resources. After all, looks are dated as soon as they are created. Instead we have a way of seeing the world and making decisions that can contribute to a unique home."
So I'm making small changes in our home and vowing to follow values first, not Pinterest or all those Scandi-homes on Instagram, which for years have led me to believe I want or need all sorts of items and prints and colours that truly don't reflect who I am inside at all.
So what does home mean for me?
I've been thinking about this constantly. Once upon a time, I would have answered the question in terms of aesthetics, defining my style as one label or the other, but now I'm so far on from that. Home for me means shelter. It means a place which is loving, safe, warm and simple for us to bring up our children away from all the noise. It's our refuge, our escape, our place to just be us. It's also, on a personal level, the place I feel most comfortable to express myself creatively. It's where I write, the place I see when I close my eyes, the place I long to return to when we're far away or even when we're not far away and I just want comfort. It's the place I feel most free, the place I can wear what I want and be who I want, who I am - and I want my children to feel the same here too. This is their home too. These are all the feelings that I want to recognise when I open the door - not distraction or busyness or one style over another that doesn't have room for anything else.
I value our family, simplicity and making meaningful choices. I value truth and trust. I value quiet spaces, intimate spaces and strong real friendships with few rather than many. I value finding wonder in the smallest of things. So while it sounds materialistic and superficial to get itchy feet about our living room rug being too colourful, really it goes beyond that. That's me interpreting my need for simplicity, my children's need for calm, my husband's need for ease.
I'm starting to think more in terms of what we need for ourselves, for our souls, rather than in purely aesthetic or decorating terms. This is how I'm starting to develop my own meaning of home and making changes to reclaim our home so it's all us, putting our values and feelings first.
how to make changes so that your home expresses who you really are
Be ruthlessly steadfast about the things you do and don't love If something holds no value to you, or you simply don't like it - it is okay to let it go. It doesn't have to be wasteful - you can resell, donate or gift - but let it be a lesson to you, learn from it so you are stronger in your sense of likes and dislikes. Even more so, let it be a lesson of values, of what it is you truly want to feel in your home and also don't want to feel.
Don't feel guilty or obliged to people who don't even live in your home Whether you've inherited furniture that doesn't suit your values or taste or whether you've just been given endless house gifts - now is the time to reclaim your space as yours, not as a place for things that other people think you might like or should have. I have eight ceramic planters that I once bought from a maker to then sell but they never sold so I ended up keeping them, because I felt bad for both her and me that they didn't sell. And guess what? They're still here even though they are redundant. There's three lined up, in pride of place, on our living room shelves. There's about four in the kitchen. One in the baby's room (empty, because I don't know what to do with it). They are all too small for plants so some of them just house loose change, but they're utterly pointless for that too because they're simply not big enough and I can never remember which pot has the coins in anyhow. So they sit there, on our shelves and out for everyone to see, even though nobody likes them. I kept them out of guilt - for the maker, because I failed to sell them, and guilt towards myself too for making a bad purchasing decision as a shop owner. But I can't let my feelings of guilt towards myself or others justify keeping things I don't like in our home. From now on, I am being ruthless.
Think about which parts of your home you love the most and how you can create those same feelings in other spaces There are three rooms in our home that I have, up until now, always thought of as unfinished - our bedroom, Jude's room and the kitchen. And yet, I've realised that these spaces are actually my favourite rooms in the house. They are all in fact lovely spaces to be in - calm, simple, soothing with a similar neutral colour palette. I had kept meaning to buy art for the walls for each of these rooms but have come to realise that these rooms are perfect the way they are. And yet part of me felt like all these rooms weren't ready because they weren't covered in wall prints or quirky items here and there. They don't need them and I now realise that my task is to infuse this feeling of being undone and simple into the other areas of our home.
Let go of the style-led pieces that don't have a place in your heart For me, it's the West Elm rug in our living room. It's wildly colourful and yes, objectively, it's very pretty. But it's just not me. I don't think it was even me when I bought it, I just really wanted a West Elm rug, that's all. But the thing is, it gives me a headache looking at it. It sheds, everywhere. It never feels clean, even when I'm vacuuming it a hundred times a day. It is so far from simple and it dominates the entire room. That's why I'm swapping it for something natural and earthy - a simple jute rug, a material I've always loved the feel of. And with the change, I'm hoping for lightness, for a feeling of calm and literally feeling grounded when I feel that knotty earthiness under my feet.
Take your time and go with the flow Don't stress about the mistakes you've made, even if they've cost you money. You can recoup costs by reselling and also if you take your time to choose things that feel right, sit well with your values, then the chances are they'll last a lot longer in your home too. It shouldn't feel like a struggle to decorate your home in a way that is meaningful and expressive of who you are so don't let it be that way - take it slowly, take it as it comes, and enjoy the process.
I have been reading This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton and been so inspired by her thoughtful considerations of the way we live. It is so much more than an interiors book, full of essays on the way we create a home, how it reflects us, how the choices we make can always be meaningful if we take care to align them with our values. You can purchase the book here, from my Our Story Time shop.