|Image via Lost Bumblebee|
When we moved out of the only home our kids have ever known and into a house they have only seen once, I knew we had our work cut out for us. At first the excitement helped carry them through the empty rooms with paint they hated. But that only works for a couple of weeks at best!
We had lived in our little old house for 10 years, but ironically we had only started doing anything to make it feel like home while we were prepping to sell. It was only ever meant to be a temporary home, a place to bring home our first child (whom I was pregnant with at the time). We did not want to live there more then 5 years. Within a year, the economy crashed and with it our hope of ever moving. We never really loved that house and didn't put much effort into making it feel like a home. Don't get me wrong, we filled it with our belongings and hung a few things on the wall. But, we never painted walls that we hated or hung family photos up. It just felt like something between a temporary rental and a weight dragging us down. It was almost 30 years old when we moved in and needed a lot more work then we realized at the time. The backyard was small, yet someone had managed to get an in ground pool in there that took up most of the yard. It was only usable a small amount of the time we lived there. It was more a dangerous pit for our children and took up their only usable space to play. The front yard was full of trees that quickly became over grown and stopped grass from growing in most of the yard. The AC needed freon added every other year to keep it even at 80 inside in the hot summers. The covering out back fell apart, a toilet flooded a good part of our house, and the roof needed replacing. It quickly became cramped and just didn't serve our family well.
10 years and four kids later, our city had recovered from the crash and was having it's own little housing boom. We realized we could finally leave that house and it was a VERY happy day! We found a much bigger, much newer house with a big back yard a few towns over. It is easy to think that we would be so excited to be here that it would just feel like home on it's own! Ha! Nope!
While we love this house, I definitely noticed a disconnect even in myself because it WASN'T home! As much as we loathed the old house, it was a constant for many years. So I sat down and thought about what made me feel at home. Seeing my favorite color (turquoise!), smelling familiar smells, and knowing what light switches go where! So here is what we did to help make it feel more like home.
1) Smells: I still haven't found my candles in the boxes so I grabbed some at a store nearby. Ikea has some yummy smelling ones for cheap! I've been making a point to burn them so the house smells like things we like and not just whatever fragrance they left behind. I also have essential oils we like to use. Make a point to use whatever smells familiar for your family!
2) Artwork: I am a very visual person and not seeing things that scream "me" in the house definitely has an effect on me. I went on Pinterest and printed off some free artwork to hang up with blue putty all around the house. I also went to dollar tree and got some wall decals to hang up. These images bring a smile to my face every time I see them! I might even end up framing some to keep!
3) Sounds: We LOVE music in our house! It only takes me a minute to put on a playlist, but it is so easy to go most of the day without music...and then wonder why I'm feeling blah! Take the moment to put on familiar songs and before you know it, you will forget you were ever feeling off! My daughter and I were enjoying some kids songs we used to listen to when her brothers were at school during the day and her sister was still a tiny baby. It was time just for her and I. It was a great memory!
4) Space: In the business of unpacking, don't forget to take time to enjoy your new place. Why did you fall in love with it? For us, it was having a playroom, a huge backyard, being right off a walking trail, and having a community pool 10 houses down from us (among many MANY other things). So I have been trying to make a point to enjoy those things! It's easy to forget to do that because you are focused on unpacking things, getting rid of boxes, and getting daily things like dinner done! Don't forget to stop and enjoy the spaces that will end up helping you feel like this is your home!
5) Belongings: My 10 year old has autism and things sometimes affect him differently then us. I noticed he kept talking about the old house and seemed to be having a hard time adjusting to this new place. We talked about it and I noticed he had all his stuff tucked in his closet and under his bed. He used to share a room with his chronically messy brother (he is so much like his mama, bless his heart!) and was determined to keep his knew room nice and neat. But in his quest to keep a neat room he had been keeping it empty. I suggested he place some of his items out where he could see them so his room would feel more like "him." Although he was skeptical, he tried it! I can tell he feels more at home now and hasn't been talking about the old house as much. Don't be in such a hurry to put everything away that you can't see anything that makes the space "you!"
6) Old friends: If you moved too far to keep hanging out with your old friends on a daily basis like we did, take the time to go visit them if you're feeling down. We are still clearing out a storage unit and go back into town once a week or two. We make a point to visit with friends every time we go back into our old city, even if we're just there for a dentist appointment! We also make a point to participate in things there like birthday parties and VBS even though it's a 40 minute drive now. These are the things that remind us we didn't lose our old community, we're just going to add to it now. If you moved REALLY far, make a point to skype or facetime with friends and family that were in your old area. Or even have your kids draw their friends a picture of write a letter to send so they don't feel like they can't talk to them anymore.
7) Traditions: In the business of the move don't forget your family traditions. Even if there are no big holidays, keep up with your family's every day ones. In our house, Friday is pizza dinner and family movie night, Saturday is at home date night, Sunday morning is church, and Sunday night is screen time. Don't get me wrong, family movie night has looked a lot like kids tv show night lately, and we've only gotten in 2 date nights, but doing some version of your family traditions help keep life feeling normal.
8) Upgrades: I'm definitely NOT going to say that you should shell out a lot of money and upgrade everything to make it how you want it right away. But, I do think you need to have some money put aside, if possible, to upgrade the things that make it REALLY feel like someone else's home. Our shower head either sprayed over my head or right in my face, there were no other options. That made it VERY frustrating and futile to take a shower. So a $25 purchase from Target (shipped to my house for free) made it feel a lot more like MY shower and home, not some other giant person's house! There were also no handles on any cabinets in the whole house. These were not cabinets that were designed for this either so it was very frustrating to cook or get ready every day. Buying handles was definitely something that made it feel more like OUR house!
9) Labels: If your new house is like ours and has light switches in places that seem odd to you and you have to turn on several switches before you find the one you want, grab some masking tape and label those suckers! I put a small piece of masking tape above any switches that my children or I didn't find intuitive. I then labeled them with where they went. I even found a few that we couldn't figure out where they went and labeled those with a question mark so we wouldn't keep flipping it thinking it was a light. For me, seeing the name of what the switch goes to helps me memorize it way faster then just arbitrarily flipping switches everyday to find the right one.
10) Your Stuff: Obviously the point of moving in is to unpack all your stuff eventually, but I'm talking about certain things. My husband kept needing his battery chargers. I felt pretty lost until I found my big frying pan. Setting up our desks and chairs gave us a place to sit and chill that was ours. For my 10 year old, it was his hot wheels and snap circuits. My 9 year old couldn't wait to play with Legos and Rube Goldburg sets. My 6 year old was over the moon excited when we found her stuffed animals and books. The two year old wanted her crib to sleep in and baby dolls to play with. What are the things that makes you feel settled? Figure that out (and find it!) and you'll be a few steps closer to your new place feeling like home.
I hope these things help you as much as they did us! As always, we'd like to hear what you've found has helped you in the comments section!