The story was always the same. I’d spend an enjoyable afternoon at someone else’s tidy, stylish home. I’d take notice of the nicely organized kitchen and the large walk-in pantry, the toys neatly tucked away, and the bonus room where the kids played contentedly as the adults chatted. They would talk about their land and the new house they were building. They would discuss their upcoming trip scuba diving with whales or hiking through Switzerland. And I would sit, wondering if we’d be able to pay our bills that month or get both groceries and gas that week.
We’d drive home, and I’d see the house we tried to sell, twice, with no interest. The porch rails required a paint job. The uneven sidewalk needed to be replaced. I’d walk through the door to a pile of laundry on the couch, toys strewn across the floor, and the sink full of dishes. I’d see the mismatched furniture and hear the kids playing or arguing loudly, only feet away.
Then, I’d pick up my phone and search for house listings or scour the Facebook marketplace for furniture to solve the problem in our house. I’d look around the living room and start rearranging the layout in my head. “We just need a different system,” I’d tell Brandon. He’d heard it many times, and learned to go along.
And then, it clicked.
After hours of looking for the right entertainment center, one that would hold our electronics and every toy, I stopped. I thought about the debt we’d been working to pay off, the bills we struggled to pay each month, the tuition, and the preschool costs. And I decided to stop wishing for what I didn’t have and work with what I did.
I sorted toys into the baskets I got for my birthday. Anything left found a home in the boys’ bedroom or the donation box. I pulled down my curtains to wash and alter them instead of buying new ones. I spent hours shampooing and steaming our stained rug.
And soon, I realized my home wasn’t the problem—the chaos was.
Someone was always complaining because they needed socks or underwear or “soft” shorts. The bathrooms were always gross. The sink was always full of dishes. Everyone was always stressed.
I set up some routines, to keep the chaos at bay. Every morning, I started a load of laundry. Every day when we got home, I put it in the dryer, then folded and put it away after the kids were asleep. After each meal, we’d clean the table and sweep the floor. After dinner, I’d clean the counters and run the dishwasher. I’d make lunches for the next day and pack the backpacks and diaper bag. When the littlest goober had a bath, I’d wipe down the bathroom while he played in the tub.
The more I did these little chores, the more content I began to feel. The house was more peaceful, and it felt like I could breathe a bit more.
Our home wasn’t anything fancy, but did it need to be?
This is the house we bought two days after returning home from our honeymoon. Where we slept on twin mattresses on the floor, just to spend that first night in our own home. This is the house where I cried at the loss of my big brother and where we buried Vincent, the sweetest dog anyone has ever known. This is the home where we brought our babies to learn about life and family and security. It’s where they learned to crawl and walk and talk and love.
The steep driveway that drove away potential buyers is an adventure for our kids, always asking to go down the hill to find sticks and rocks and pretend to be ninjas. Our broken sidewalk has displayed countless pieces of chalk artwork and hopscotch squares. This house is where we wake each Christmas morning, where my son puts his lost teeth under his pillow, and where we decorate with streamers and balloons when someone turns another year older.
This is where we’ve become a family.
This is our home. This is the house where we live.