How Many Homes Have You Lived In? (And What Makes a Home, Anyway?)

For most of us, it should be relatively simple to count up all the addresses you've had during your life. But a home is more than a place to sleep and get your mail sent to, as all of us at Apartment Therapy well know.

The term "home" refers to a feeling just as much as a place, and (in my experience, anyway) it doesn't include dorm rooms, crappy first apartments and the four months you spent living with your partner's parents. My personal house-to-home ratio is 1:3 — I've called nine different addresses home during my time on planet Earth, but, on reflection, I've only had a real attachment to three of them.

Obviously, the home I grew up in counts; my parents still live there and I return whenever humanly possible. The list also includes the Toronto apartment I shared with my best friend during university, which we treated like a palace (and, on mutual reflection once we'd graduated and each moved to über-expensive cities, was in fact pretty darn palatial).

So if only some houses are homes, how do you differentiate? This sort of topic is our bread-and-butter around here, and we've covered topics like Essentials for Every Home and Free Ways to Make Your House a Home in depth. For me, there are three simple things which differentiate between a home and any ol' address:

  1. Responsibility and care. A true home is one you feel at least some measure of responsibility for. You clean it, decorate it, and fret when things fall into disrepair. Even if these things aren't entirely your problem (I doubt I was concerned with the workings of my furnace at age eight, for instance), they impact on the way you experience the space. Quite simply, you care.
  2. Your stuff around you. I freely admit it: I like my stuff. I like my artwork, my bedding, my furniture and my pots and pans. While the belongings of roommates or family might be serviceable and just as nice, there's something comforting about using the things that you've personally collected over the years. Anything else is second best.
  3. Feels permanent (or at least, not transient). Some people are better at this than others, but for me it's difficult to feel at home in a place that comes with an expiration date. While few spaces are actually "forever homes" in the truest sense of the term, there needs to be some sense of permanence to a living situation for us to really relax into it. Otherwise, it's far too easy to disregard numbers 1 and 2 on the list; after all, why repaint that room or unpack all your fancy china if you'll be moving on in the near future?

So, what's your house-to-home ratio? What do you feel makes a home, anyway?

(Image: Chris Perez/The Roeders' Modern Life is Beautiful)

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Eleanor is a interior designer and freelance writer, embroiled in a love affair with everything glamorous, retro or delicious. This expat Canadian calls London, UK home but escapes to Paris whenever humanly possible.

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