What Should a Home Look Like?

 

What do you remember about the home you grew up in?

Most of us can recall something of our childhood home…whether it’s a special hiding place or the scary steps up to the attic.  And those memories have likely influenced our decisions about where we presently live.  

I remember the dark paneled basement where I listened to music and hung out with friends during the angst of my teenage years.  It was a dim, cozy place to hide away from troubles and ignore the world.  

Your experience may vary…perhaps you moved so many times that the places you lived all blur together, or you couldn’t wait to escape home to start living on your own.  Thinking back, though, there’s probably something that sticks out about the house you grew up in:

  • Your favorite room.
  • Memories of events that happened there.
  • Things you loved or wanted to change.

 

Just as we often adopt values and philosophies from our parents, we can also inherit their ideas about how we, as adults, are supposed to live.  Between our family of origin and society’s expectations, many of us never stop to imagine what our ideal home would look like.  

This week, I’m inviting you to question your assumptions, so we can be clear about what we want in a living space and why.  Since we spend so much of our time within these walls, it’s a good idea to know whether the homes we have are the best fit for the life we want.  

 

What are my assumptions about a home?

Did you ever wonder where you developed your sense of what to look for in a house?  Your first impressions were likely from your family home, shaped by the tastes and finances of your parents.  As you ventured out in the world, though, friends’ houses and images in the media may have altered your expectations.  

When you bought your first home (or dreamt about a future purchase), what assumptions steered your choices?  

Do you have preconceived ideas about:

  • Size
  • Number of rooms/bedrooms
  • The amount of storage
  • The property 
  • Size of the mortgage
  • The style or appearance

Our sense of what’s familiar tends to guide our preferences, and it’s only rarely that we seek out something different.

 

When is the right time to own your own home?

There’s an expectation that once you have a job and are making a steady income, the next step is to start thinking about your first home.  But is that always the best idea?

Owning real estate brings with it lots of extra costs, maintenance, and responsibilities.  It also ties you down to a location and makes it more challenging to relocate.  

There are huge benefits to home ownership, however, including building capital, increased privacy, and a sense of independence.  What matters is which choice serves your needs and path in life.  

Questioning your expectations surrounding the home that’s right for you can save you a lot of time and money, whether you’re just starting out or ready to downsize.  

We learned the hard way…after relocating for a new job, my husband and I built a home in beautiful, upstate New York.  It was warm, inviting, and had gorgeous views of the sun setting behind the Catskills.  However, it wasn’t long before we realized that the community wasn’t the right fit for us…and we lost a lot on our investment by moving again so soon.

 

Where is the best location for your home?

For our second move, we researched everything we could find on where to live next.  Our two biggest considerations were neighborhoods and schools, as we had two young girls to consider. 

Are you satisfied with the location of your current home?

There’s a variety of settings which might speak to you…

Collage of different style homes

  • Suburbia—if you like sprawling neighborhoods with large yards.  
  • Cities—if you love an active community and the closeness of neighbors.
  • Rural Communities—if you long to be surrounded by nature and a more relaxed charm.  

Here are a few other questions to narrow down where your optimal location might be:

  • Are you looking for a good school district?
  • Do you need a shortened commute?
  • Would you like to be near the water, the mountains, or a thriving night life?
  • Have you ever found yourself living in one locale while dreaming of another?

 

How big is your ideal home?

Home Plans for Ideal Home

Last year, the average size of a new house was 2,641 square feet according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  When you picture your ideal home, how much square footage does it have?  How does that compare with where you live now?

Our assumptions for the amount of  living space we’ll need often depends on what activities we expect to happen there.  

Do you need…

  • Lots of bedrooms for children and guests?
  • A huge yard for the kids to play?
  • Indoor/outdoor spaces for entertaining?
  • Ample rooms and closets for storing things you can’t bear to part with?

These needs might be very real for your family.  Yet it’s important to note how you use your current space…

  • What are the “hot spots” of your home—those places where you gather most frequently?  
  • How much of your home are you currently utilizing?  
  • Could you combine spaces or repurpose ones that aren’t used as much? 
  • Are there other alternatives for those rare occasions that you need more space? 

 

How would you like to care for your home?  

Person mopping their floor.

As we get older, people often start looking for houses with less square footage, in order to minimize the amount of cleaning or maintenance that must be done.  

When considering your desires for a new home, or whether your current residence fits your needs, remember to discuss who will be responsible for its upkeep.  

  • Can you reasonably expect to do all the maintenance on the building and yard yourself?  Or will you need to hire out help?
  • Will there be a division of labor among household members, or will all the tasks be equally shared?
  • How do you feel about the presentation of a home…do you prefer to keep things tidy or go for the lived-in look?

 

How much time will I spend at home?

Home with double doors, one standing open

One of the factors in determining your ideal size of house is your expectation of how often you’ll be home.  

Perhaps you relish time spent at home…all your activities seem to have a focus here, where you’ve put down roots.  You might love to garden, to entertain friends, or just hang out with family around a favorite book, movie, or board game.

Some of us live more like adventurers—viewing home as a base from which to regroup or rest as needed.  You might want to eat, socialize, and be entertained somewhere else a majority of the time.  So a house could be more of a place to shower and sleep—a comfortable spot but not necessarily someplace to stay put.  

These aren’t black and white choices, but rather a spectrum which you can use to think about how you view your time at home.  If your house is your castle, you might want more space to move around in, but if it’s only a resting spot on a journey of outward exploration, then owning less could feel like more.  

 

What belongs inside of a home?

Bedroom furnishings

This isn’t just a consideration for young people first getting started.  How we furnish our homes reflects our values and desires…and it shifts with the stages (and changing financial resources) of our lives.  

 

 

When you picture the rooms in your ideal house, what do you see?

  • High end furniture vs. family heirlooms
  • Cozy chic with lots of knick knacks  vs. a minimalist aesthetic.
  • The typical living-dining-bedroom-office layout vs. something unusual like an artist’s or musician’s studio.  Or a training gym.  Or a home-based business.  

 

Beyond the basics of furnishing and decor, how much do you store within your home? 

overstuffed closet shelves

The LA Times reports that the average American household has 300,000 items tucked away within its walls.  Can you imagine how that would look if spread across lawns or sidewalks throughout our neighborhoods?  

Once you’ve been living in your home a while—settled in with all the closets and cupboards filled—who takes the time to question the growing accumulation of their belongings?

 

Before you bring in one more purchase, though, I invite you to take a mental inventory of how full your house is:  

  • Do you have piles of stuff tucked away in basements, attics, overstuffed closets, or under the beds?
  • How many mementos do you have on display…and are they set apart as cherished displays, or as crowded tangles that you often overlook?
  • Do you ever long for more household simplicity…less time cleaning, more confidence to entertain and work from home, or just the ability to relax within your own four walls?

 

There is no magic number for how many possessions we should have.  Obviously hoarding isn’t healthy, but not many of us would be comfortable in a sterile, institutional setting either.  The only way you’ll find the right balance is by evaluating and questioning what you have.  

 

How Can We Take a Small Step Towards Our Ideal Home?

Open the Door to Your Ideal Home Free Download Click Here

My recommendation is to download this week’s Home-Based Inventory.  Find a few minutes where you can fill it out—preferably while in your home!  

With pen in hand, work through some of your assumptions and desires for what a home should be.  

Consider what matters to you right now, how much space you need, how much time you spend there, how much effort or expense you want to invest, and how much stuff  you want to care for.  

Recognizing how you developed your preconceptions for a house will allow you to question if those things reflect your current values.  At some point, we all encounter an opportunity to move…with a new job, for access to better schools, or due to an empty nest.  So the next home we choose should be something that truly fits us and our desired lifestyle, rather than merely reflects society’s expectations.  

I admire houses with formal dining rooms, antique furnishings, and dark, heavy woodwork.  Yet the places that I feel most comfortable and “at home” tend to be simple cottage-living spaces with a clean, airy feeling and tons of natural light.  My mind defaults to the house I grew up in, but my heart longs for ample sunshine and views of the water.  

 

Having Trouble?

If you’re having trouble making the connection between what your home is and what you’d like it to be, then I invite you to take a walk-through with the eyes of a visitor.  Imagine you’re taking a tour of someplace you’ve never been.  

From the edge of your property, walk up to your front door, and explore it room by room:   

  • Are you inspired to “buy” your house again?
  • Do you still love the space, but think it needs a little something to freshen it up?
  • How do you feel about the volume of stuff you own and where everything is kept?

 

And then what?

When I went through my own house, I found a growing divergence between what we have and where I’d like to be.  

My girls are getting closer to leaving the nest, and I find myself increasingly drawn to small scale living.  Secretly, I’d love to own a tiny house, or spend months exploring the country with a travel van as my home.  But as a book lover, I recognize that I’m going to need a bit more space than that.  

Taking a home inventory allowed my husband and I to start conversations about what we want our life to be once our kids have moved out.  Instead of a separate family room, living room, and basement tv area, we can combine all the activities of these three rooms into one shared space. 

Given that neither of us gardens or enjoys yard work, we’ve also talked about our next home having a smaller property… or even being a condo.  After cataloging our closets, cupboards, and over-stuffed basement, I am convinced it’s time to start letting go of unneeded belongings now, so our kids don’t need to deal with them decades down the line.  

 

Regardless of what you discover about the type of home you really want, take the Small Step of sharing your thoughts with the people you live with and care about.  And listen attentively to their expectations and dreams too.  Finding the right balance isn’t easy, but taking the time to initiate the conversation is a great first step towards living the life you long for.  

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