Home is what YOU make it

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by Katie Clemons

Katie Clemons is a storycatcher and journal crafter. She helps people celebrate their stories with her award-winning writing prompt journals at Gadanke. She also blogs at Making This Home about simple, handmade living from a vintage airplane hangar in Montana.

I can’t tell you the precise definition or location of “home”, but I can tell you this: home is whatever you make it.

In my case, it’s been a progressive making and remaking since the day Martin (my German-born husband) and I met. We’ve been called nomads when we moved to Berlin, Germany, gypsies when we came back to the US, migrators when we moved into a tire house, adventurers somewhere in-between, and more often than not, “that interesting couple”.

It’s a lot of packing and unpacking. But here’s something I’ve learned:

The beautiful thing about home is that it really has very little to do with the building. It’s all about the people.

A home is just the setting for all the stories of our lives.
Photo by Katie Clemons

Today as you read this, Martin and I are holding hammers and nail guns. We’re building a little home that we’ve been dreaming about for almost a year. (I mentioned the launch of our project briefly in this post, DIY: Finishing What We Start.)

Our home is anything but normal; it’s 720 square feet in the back of an airplane hangar. It’s a place for fixing and storing small airplanes. One day, it’ll have a big office for my online journal shop, Gadanke. It’s exciting, but it’s not normal.


Photo by Katie Clemons

Chances are, there’s something about your house that might not be so “normal” or “perfect”, too, right? That’s okay. In fact, that’s part of what makes life so beautiful. Do you remember the squished apartment with the awful oven that you and your husband first lived in? Remember baking a birthday cake in there? Do you remember the year the Christmas tree tipped over? How about something crazy like when a bird flew in the chimney or your son brought home a new pet without asking?

If we always focus on what the Jones Family does at their house, how can we pause and celebrate our homes? Our worlds? Our dreams?


Photo by Katie Clemons
When our homes don’t feel normal, when our families and lifestyles don’t feel normal, it isn’t something to be embarrassed about. You shouldn’t feel ashamed and never let anyone in. If we celebrate our stories and celebrate our houses (no matter what they look like), then they become home. There is nothing more beautiful for us as women and mothers than having a place where we can be ourselves and celebrate our family’s stories.

You don’t need a perfect home to have a good life.

You just need good people that you love and a passion to live. Celebrate that!
At the end of the day, follow your own dreams, not the dreams of other people. We don’t want the picket fence in the suburbs. But that doesn’t mean one lifestyle is better than the other. It’s just what’s better for us right now. What’s best for you?

In the past month or so, a couple bloggers have really embraced home in some beautiful ways:

You embrace your home with the paint and rugs that you pick. It’s the used couch you got from a coworker. It’s the way your kids play and spread their toys. It’s what you cook dinner. It’s your home. Celebrate it your way.

And if you want to hop in a plane after dinner, come on over!

How is your home different from our definition of “normal”? How are you celebrating that?

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Comments

  1. The hubs and I moved to South Korea 18 months ago. I always chuckle when we have other expats over they exclaim, “Wow! Your apartment is huge!” and whenever people in America skype with us they mention that our apartment is tiny. It’s all in perspective, I think. I choose to be thankful for our apartment and all the fun memories we have made there. Thanks for you post!

  2. Our home is definitely “home made”. We don’t have a huge budget to go buy the things that we want so, we make a lot of our things. It’s way more satisfying to make something yourself and hopefully it will teach our children to be creative. I look at the things we’ve made and smile because although they aren’t perfect, they are ours!

  3. I love this post! I can totally relate. :)
    I grew up in Ottawa, but then moved to Calgary when I was 11 years old. Then after high school I moved to Vancouver for school. Moving was a very confusing time for me because I kept wondering where ‘home’ was. But, It’s only after I moved to Vancouver that I learned the meaning of ‘home’. That it’s the energy and presence of a person and the uniqueness of their belongings that make it special, not necessarily the location. I’ve even tried my best to keep this in mind during my many travels.

    Now, however, I am back in my parents home until I finish university. I am grateful to have a home at the moment, but I secretly can’t wait to move out and find a place with a lot of character (and to make it a unique home with whoever I’ll be living with).

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. The other day a new friend welcomed me into her home and it was a great experience. I could tell she didn’t run about trying to make the house spotless before we arrived and she didn’t apologize for anything.

    I’m often afraid to welcome anyone into our apartment because it is small and hardly ever clean. But it does feel like home to me and so I should respect that.

    Thanks for this post!

  5. We have a sign on our front door “home us where the Army posts us”.

    And sometimes it’s near a swamp (Darwin) and sometimes it’s in the hottest, driest, dustiest place you could imagine (Puckapunyal) and sometimes it’s a tropical paradise (Townsville).

    But as long as my husband’s pillow is on the bed beside me (god knows his head usually isn’t, poor guy!) then it’s our home.

  6. I love our home! It is small but it works for us. I have several family members that can’t believe we will be staying in this house after our first child comes home (Due in May) and even for the addition of another child down the road. They literally think it is crazy. But our house is perfect…. for us. :)

  7. I was just commenting at Simple Bites that my kitchen is sooooooooooo small. I envy other families that are able to have the kids in the kitchen with them. That is what I don’t like about our current home, but I guess I do get a little embarassed about the fact that we do not have new furniture and I do not really decorate. All of our furniture is second hand except the kids’ 2 new bunkbeds so that they all 4 can sleep in 1 bedroom. There is also a constant mess somewhere in the house. Where it seems most of my neighbors keep their homes “company ready” all the time, I seem to clean up just so that we have a clean slate to play again and make a new mess :D When people see my house they probably think I NEVER straighten up. Truth is I clean up everyday, we just always want to start another project as soon as we have room.

  8. …”You don’t need a perfect home to have a good life.
    You just need good people that you love and a passion to live. Celebrate that!”

    AMEN to that, Sister!

    Great post that will hopefully let us all “level-set” a little. :)

  9. As someone who has lived in five homes in four states in five years of marriage, I can totally relate. We can either keep wishing for the next best thing or make where we are home. I currently live in an apartment with drab white walls and it sometimes feels like I can’t make it homey, but a little lamp or something on the wall really makes a difference.

  10. I so needed to read this today. Currently my family of 5 lives in a very “unconventional” dwelling. We (an admittedly suburban family) lives in the heart of a city, on a crazy busy street, above a cafe! How’s that for different? I’ve been fretting over getting my kids back into more “traditional” living arrangements and its just not working out. But your post is reminding me home (and anything else for that matter) really is what you make it. I can worry about what the Jones’ have or I can be grateful and embrace what I have been so blessed to have. Thanks!

  11. avatar
    sonja lange says:

    I LOVE this! We live in an urban part of Austin, TX and I love the neighborhood as much as I love the house. We have 1200 sq. ft. and four kids so things are tight but I like having them all close by. We have to share space and be respectful of each other…one bathroom calls for a lot of patience.

  12. what a great post. we’re in a small one bathroom home right now and I find myself always thinking of the next home instead of completely appreciating this one. thanks for this encouragement!

  13. Great thoughts on “home”. I can relate, choosing to live in a very small MIL apartment with my family of 4 while finishing school. There’s also the benefit of not accumulating so many “things” by living in a small place and moving often!

  14. When I graduated from college, I thought I would own a home by the time I hit 30. Well… I’ve hit 30 and then some, and I live in an apartment with my husband and two-year-old and am perfectly content to call this place our home.

    I moved quite a bit myself: from the Philippines, to several apartments and houses here in the U.S. As an adult I’ve lived in six different apartments thus far. Each one has felt like home. Yes there are those first two weeks where the utilities aren’t set up, and you’re getting used to the new elevator and new set of keys. But once the surroundings start becoming familiar, I’m settled in.

    I’m not a typical “homemaker” in that I don’t decorate my home every season. I don’t even have much decor in my office space other than two photos. Even then, I’ve found that home truly is where you can relax and have people come over and enjoy your family. My husband always said the best way to break into a new place is through home-cooking. I couldn’t agree with him more! When we moved into our current place, we fried some bacon and made a mean stew to really smell up the place :)

  15. So many women (and men perhaps) feel shame about their home and feel guilty that their home is never perfectly clean or picked up or stylishly decorated. I have felt this way before and it’s so tough. Seeing websites like Pinterest and some (most?) of the home decor blogs just make us feel worse, because we’d like our house to look like that, but time, money or resources makes that dream impossible.

    So I really like this post about loving what you have and realizing that a comfortable, beautiful home is more about the people who live there rather than the decor. I think more people need to hear this message more often.

  16. I used to have a family/life that looked good on paper. Mom, Dad, well-behaved kids, vacations, boating, skiing, etc. I found out (later) that others in our community thought we were the model of a perfect family. But that life that looked so full and good on the outside was empty at the core.

    Now, I have a family/life that doesn’t look so good on paper. Moms and Dads that live in different houses, kids who are more messy/noisy than well-behaved, staycations, public parks, and a house full of thrift-store finds. But I’ve got a life that’s bursting at the seams with all the things that really matter.

    If our blog is about anything (and often seems like everything), it’s about making home. And yes, it’s all about who, not what or where.

  17. hmmm, I kind of want a book like the cute one in this post.. :/ (is that wrong?)

  18. I love the idea of such unique homes. My husband wants to build a home out of farm silo’s eventually. Right now our home is in a some what questionable neighborhood. We own another home in a very good neighborhood in the same town. But I like this one best, so I rented out the other. It’s brighter, its bigger, and it fits our family better. Sure the house next to us may be every one’s worst nightmare as far as condition goes (bird’s nest in it, and it has 3 types of siding) but I love this home. Some of my friends think I am crazy, but I think the truth lies in the fact that my husband and I spent two years first tearing down then building up this home from scratch. Each room is 100% picked out by me and my husband, and built with our families needs in mind. Each area, reflects months of hard work, sweat, tears, and planning. It’s a home that says “well done” from the minute I enter the door, so I accept it, interesting neighbor and all.

  19. I needed this post desperately today. Thank you.

  20. I absolutely love it when I go to someone’s house and they didn’t spend lots of time making everything perfect. It’s even better when they don’t apologize for it. Yet so often I do run around putting everything away and apologizing for what doesn’t get done…

  21. My husband and I lived in a studio apartment on the east side of Manhattan for over three years. In less than 300 square feet we managed to work, study, cook and entertain. Though we are now in a larger apartment (the beauty of living in the borough of Queens), I think of it as no more a “home” than where we were before. Because, yes, home is where ever you are and the company you keep.

  22. Good stuff! My home is wherever my husband is! And for me, that meant moving 1,600 miles east from CO to PA. I still miss CO though, don’t get me wrong!

  23. avatar
    Debbie Fields says:

    I have so enjoyed this post! Over the years I used to stress myself out when company was coming to make sure everything looked “right” in my house. I have done much better the past few years in just relaxing and enjoying where I am. After my husbands business did a nosedive we decided to sell most of our furniture and “junk” and bought several acres way out in the country and an older RV. I have realized I have everything I need here in this 8×28′ space. I enjoy a great view and the wildlife in our woods. We plan to build a small, very rustic cabin and just enjoy getting back to what really matters. What tremendous freedom one gains by refusing to live our lives for “things” and to make a good impression on others. We truly learn to be happy and content.

  24. I miss Germany. I miss green things. We lived there for 8 years. A mostly amazing 8 years. And home was always with my lovely partner in crime, my husband. We’re trying to make a home in the AZ desert, albeit a temporary one, mostly for our two delicious kidlets. It’s hard: we’re busier than we’ve ever been between work, school, commuting, freelancing…I would never want to be without them and I hope the would never want to be without me, wherever we end up.

  25. Thank you Katie, this is beautiful! Dankeschoen!! I needed the reminder today, that I do not need the perfect home. Good luck with your new home!

  26. Home is a place where love, compassion and peace. That’s my definition of a perfect home.

  27. i really appreciated this post. we live in a small house with our 4, almost 5, kids, but we love it and it is home to us. sometimes there feels like there is so much pressure to buy a bigger place. while i wouldn’t mind the room, it just isn’t our priority right now. i love how you so beautifully showed that a home has nothing to do with the size, shape, or style of the house.

  28. avatar
    Kari Scare says:

    My home is unique because we all have our own space that we personalize. I have my office/prayer room, my husband has is “office” (tool & storage room), and my boys each have their own rooms that they’ve personalized. (One made his green with yellow stripes.) We make a point to respect each other’s unique space and privacy. We come together in other areas but feel like personal space is very important too.

  29. so true. Thanks for the good reminder. :) Our “home” in a house that is for sale, where I took care of an older lady who passed away. My husband and I have lived in and around her things for the past 2 years…and it’s been different to be sure. But you’re right. We make it homey or we don’t…and I haven’t done such a great job at that. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

    http://munchtalk.blogspot.com/

  30. Oh, this is so cool! I grew up with my families (grandparents, parents, cousins) living in airplane hangar homes!!!! My dad just moved out of his airplane hangar office so that my uncle could renovate it to live in with his family! :D My cousin lives in an airplane community… everyone has planes in front of their houses. :D

  31. We have dreams of building a home and I think we are unique as I want to maintain cozy spaces and not just huge great rooms. I also want to make sure there is lots of space for everyone in the family to cook together.

  32. Love it, and can totally relate to it! I was born and raised in Brazil, and lived in Georgia, USA for 8 years for college and grad school. Everyone I know NEVER thought I would come back to Brazil, but I did, for my (now) hubby. I actually have a couple of friends who stopped talking to me because they tought I was making the worst decision ever. But although I miss me some Container Store and Pottery Barn love, I couldn’t be happier!

  33. Oh, how I needed to hear this. We moved to Germany last year (thank you military) and it has been an adjustment. I have really struggled with not feeling at home for myriad reasons. Your post so inspired me fully embrace this new place and make it home. Thank you!!

  34. Our home looks pretty “normal” in the sense that it is imperfect and not styled or magazine perfect (not even close – nor would that be my dream). It is full of second-hand furniture and dishes, kids artwork hanging and framed throughout, stacks of books to read and plenty of hugs and laughs and conversation. I actually love my home – imperfect as it is.

  35. Reminds me of a quote:

    “We who love each other love it here”.

  36. We have a very normal house, not fancy, too cluttered. It’s smaller than most but bigger than some. My kids’ friends have houses that are bigger and fancier. It’s hard to be content with what we have when we compare to what they have. You’re exactly right that we should be celebrating the home that we have (especially when many have none). This is the place I brought both of my babies home to, the place where we read in the afternoons and play in the backyard. Thanks for the reminder.

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