I’m writing this on Mother’s Day and I’ve just received, and sent, some wonderful texts from and to the mothers in my life.
I’m struck by the broadness of the category. I hope those without offspring know they can celebrate it too. A few years ago, my sister told me she thinks mothering is more of a transitional gray area than black and white. She has found different mothers for herself along the way, and she has noticed (and wants) her kids to do the same. I know I’ve felt that – on both the giving and receiving end. The instinct to metaphorically (or literally) wipe a nose or to place my warm hand on someone’s cheek, or to be held in a similar way myself.
So, with the spirit of universal mothering in mind, I offer you some good old fashioned design advice. (And don’t forget to eat your vegetables.)
Keep your efforts in perspective. And be reasonable.
Over the years, I’ve found my advice often falls into the category of, “fix-it-and-forget-it.” It’s what I want for my friends and my clients, and for you too. Set up a good system, do the maintenance needed, get it done, and then just live in your home until you do another push. That’s what I do. And as my next “push” grows near, and my baseboards get dinged up and the varnish on my wood floors starts to look threadbare, I buy candles and entertain in the evening! Because everything looks better in candlelight. Even me. And you do too! The point is, don’t sweat it. Don’t stop sharing your home with your friends and loved ones. Otherwise, your home starts owning you, instead of you owning your home.
If it ain’t broke …
Another piece of advice I’ve offered repeatedly is, “If you love what you have going on, don’t change a thing.” If your home is full of love and laughter, if you have chaotic bookshelves but you love every single book like they're your own children, if you entertain freely and often, if there is space for you to live in your home the way you want to live, if your home is a haven to you and your housemates and you can’t wait to step foot through the door, then … Please, don’t change a thing. THAT is better than any design advice I can give.
Get your nose out of the design websites.
The web offers a good reference, sure, but after you’ve done your research let your passions guide you, not someone else’s website. This is easy advice for those of you with a “knack” for design, but harder for those that feel like they just don’t have it. And to you I say: stay part of the process. Hire out as you need, but share your passions and your tastes and needs. That bedraggled chair in the corner that only your dog sleeps on? Don’t be afraid to put that on your must-keep list. Be true to your style of living and to your loves and your hates. Keep your “you-ness” in your home because that’s what homes are all about.
I remember helping out at the kids’ preschool where skills like “standing in line,” and, “taking turns” were developed. There were the kids that listened easily and could wait quietly, and they were usually clustered at the front of the line. But I always rooted for the kids in the back of the line. They had ants in their pants and wanted everything NOW. Plus, that’s where I always found my youngest daughter. But I related to them, and knew they were just born different. That what comes easy to some does not come easy to others. Not better or worse, just different. Which brings me to my final piece of motherly design advice.
Keep your homes judgement free.
God knows, I can’t help you with all the aspects of that goal. I'm a work in progress myself. But as your surrogate design-mother for this moment, I offer you absolution. There is no right way, or wrong way. The way your house looks does not make you a good or bad person. The skill set that you have for maintaining your home, or the lack of it, is eclipsed by all your other fabulous skill sets that are way more important. So, let me place my warm hand on your cheek and say, What your are is enough. What you’ve done with your home is enough. Now go outside and have some fun.
In closing, I’m including my favorite picture that I have from when my four kids were young. I look at myself and here’s what I see: So-happy and so-lucky and, of course, so-long-ago. But can anyone else see the so-exhausted? Because I remember that moment and, boy, was I ever. Mothering is a mixed bag, like anything else. I excelled in some areas, and came up short in others.
And now I’m going to go outside and have some fun.