How do I love thee…?

“Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day Valentine!”
Thomas Hood

By the time February rolls around, most people are tired of complaining about the cold weather or avoiding the latest strain of flu. I always look forward to February’s arrival because it holds one of the most important days of the year, Valentines Day. What’s more important than a day devoted to showing the people in our lives how much they mean to us, how much they enrich our lives and how they make us feel connected? I’m sorry the calendar only sets aside one day a year for this pursuit.

For any relationship to be healthy and thrive it requires our time and effort,
even when we don’t always feel like it. As with most things in life, small
efforts can have deep and meaningful impact. Without those efforts, we can start to see the symptoms of deterioration rather quickly. We stop recognizing what it was that we loved about each other and we fall out of love.

The same is true with the relationships we have with our homes. Many of us forget to show our appreciation to the very place we begin and end each day. If I were to add a new holiday it would be devoted to bringing mindfulness to these sacred spaces. I’d have mushy cards thanking it for being the place I show my family how much I love them. I’d have funny cards thanking it for all the dinner parties and holiday memories created there and I’d have serious cards thanking it for providing security and respite from the crazy world beyond it’s front door. But I know that this is not a one sided relationship. I know that I am doing my part to insure we are a happy coupling.

With that perspective, it’s not hard to see how my role as an interior designer parallels that of a marriage counselor (thus The Interior Design Shrink). I’m allowed me first hand access to home and homeowner, where I can see all the ways neglect has crept into the relationship. The symptoms are easily detected to the trained eye and I can see the impact this strained relationship has on all those living there. Sometimes when people call me they are on the verge of a “break up”. I’ve heard clients say, “I just can’t stand being home anymore” or “I can’t live like this one more day”. Something has stopped working and they can’t always figure out what or why. My job is to remind them of the ways their home still works and make adjustments to the parts that don’t. The good news is that these cases aren’t hopeless. If I have a homeowner willing to put in the effort and make some changes there is always a way to fall back in love.

There are many ways that we get into a relationship rut with the four walls around us. One of the most common is taking a house for granted. We zip out the door in the morning and race to the very busy lives we’ve built in the outside world. We return home at the end of the day exhausted and don’t think twice about dumping backpacks and piles of mail and clothes everywhere. Perhaps we are too tired to even notice the trash that’s blown into the bushes or the shutter that’s hanging by a hinge. Our houses sit silently by as we choke out rooms with more “stuff” and home becomes little more than our own personal dumping grounds.

Another relationship killer happens when your home is excluded from the company of family and friends. Keeping the two apart can create a divide that is hard to span.
We all need to go out and experience the world (near and far from home) but when more of our life is happening away from home than in it, we can disconnect from one another. If we never take the time to bring in the energy of life – whether it’s a cup of coffee shared with a neighbor or a blow out celebration – a house can become a very lonely place indeed. When I entertain, I always feel like my house is co-hosting and I notice how much better it looks and feels when it’s filled with laughter and good food.

It’s no surprise when a relationship ends because of a 3rd party. I see it all the time when the care of a home is totally abdicated to someone else. With all the demands made on our daily lives we all need a little help (I’m the first to ask when I need some), but if we don’t maintain some level of involvement, our homes cease being our own. I once had a client that had the worse cleaning lady ever. It was downright stealing as she showed up every week, took her money and left without any evidence that she had been there. My client would lament that the cleaning woman didn’t organize closets or pick up the endless piles lying around the house. She started to feel like another woman had control of her home. I reminded her that it was up to her to establish the order so someone else could be of help in maintaining it. After all, how can we expect someone to devote more love and care to our homes than we do? But this story had a happy ending. After weeks of intensive purging, establishing organizational systems and re-decorating, my client began to re-bond with her home. It became so easy to maintain that there was no need for her cleaning lady to come anymore.

If you haven’t given your home the attention it deserves it’s not too late.

By seeing the places we’ve become neglectful we can see the places where we need to focus our attentions. If both of our needs are being acknowledged and met, it can make for a long and happy life together. So look around and see where you can rekindle that flame. Updating outdated furnishings can be the equivalent of giving it a large box of chocolates. A fresh coat of paint can restore it’s youthful glow. And occasionally bring it flowers as a reminder that you are grateful to have it in your life.

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