When you're a kid, you believe that life happens with a certain rhythm. Everyone loses their teeth at around the same time. There are milestones, like applying for college or going to the prom, that are shared with your peers. But then, paths diverge. This was brought home to me recently when I took care of a friend's children. She's married and she has two children, two milestones I haven't yet encountered, which may be the reason that her home feels very grownup. The longer I was there, the more I felt curious to understand what made her home feel so grownup, so finished.
There's the largesse of it — not just that it's a generously sized home but that there is plenty of everything: While I don't advocate clutter or buying to please others, there is a feeling of abundance in having enough of everything — sheets, towels, dishes, throws, food in the pantry. There's a feeling of safety and comfort in knowing that you can weather a weekend or two without laundry or a few nights without doing the dishes and not worry about running out of things. Is your pantry well-stocked, are you able to come home from being away for a few days, skip the trip to the grocery store, and still be able to make a nice meal? What if you got sick? Ask yourself, do I have enough to take care of myself well?
The furniture, much of which has been inherited, is antique and well-made, she has good dishes and nice glasses: There's a point when Ikea is a great resource...and there's a point in your life when it's time to step it up, invest in yourself and buy a couch you don't put together yourself. It takes a while to know when that is, to know when you've settled into yourself and you can look down the road of your life and see some consistency. For most of us, that comes when we marry, or have children, but it can also happen when you finally settle into a career that excites you and that you're committed to for the long haul. Has that shift happened? And, if so, is that life reflected in your home and how you treat yourself? I'm not suggesting you spend money frivolously, but if you love beautiful things, start collecting them (and using them), incorporating them into your life, finding pleasure in their solidity, in using them to create traditions. Ask yourself, what are the things in my home that make me happy?
Things work: If something breaks, it's fixed. There are extra batteries, a full set of screwdrivers, a drill, light bulbs. When the plumbing gets clogged, when a room needs painting, when a chair needs reupholstering or a picture needs hanging, it gets taken care of quickly by people who are trustworthy and good at their job. Ask yourself: Do I have people — whether that's a maid, a handyman, a house or pet sitter or an upholsterer — I can rely on to help me get things done around the house?
There is evidence of life: Photographs, toys, mementos in the bathroom, lopsided clay figures, invitations, birthday cards, a piano — whatever your pleasures in life, let your home reflect them. These are the things in tell the story of your life, where it's been, where it's going. Ask yourself, what would someone say about me if they came into my house without knowing me?
It is comfortable and welcoming: Things are beautiful, yes, but not too precious (a good thing in my friend's house where there are often four or five kids running around). It's easy to pull up a chair. The coffee table's within easy reach. The house looks nice even when things are out of place. It's a house that works for everyday and for guests. Ask yourself, do I feel comfortable having people over, or do I feel like I have to hover over them because my house isn't quite there yet?