Home Regrets?

HomeRegretsBy Nancy Ranchel

Recently I was reading an article about home regrets – annoying behaviors related to your home that you will look back on and beat yourself up about. Usually regret lists are in reference to spending more quality time with your kids or your parents, helping others, pursuing what you love. Bah! Let’s get down to the important stuff – your house, and how you relate to it. The kids are going to do their own thing anyway, but that house is there for you. Let’s work on your relationship with it.

The regret discussed in the post that really resonated with me was this: when guests came over “[you] apologized all the time about home things.” Holy crap. Try out this little scenario and see if it sounds familiar. A friend from high school comes by. You haven’t seen her in years. She walks in and comments on a vase or something, and here’s your reply:

Yes, that’s a nice vase. But have you seen the living room. I hate the carpet. Isn’t this carpet hideous? I thought I’d have it changed out by now. I’ve been here seven years! What have I been doing? Oh, and the windows are single-paned. I really need to replace those before I worry about the carpet. But wait till you see the bathrooms. They’re really bad. I was going to enter them in an ugly bathroom contest, but frat houses always win those. There’s no point. But they’re really ugly bathrooms. I suppose the first thing I’d really like to change is the kitchen, but who has the money for that? Plus, look at my floor plan! If I change the kitchen, I really need to do the floors at the same time.

And so on and so forth.

I, too, used to show people my house with this kind of running commentary. How annoying is that? Can you relate to this? If so, here’s something to consider: Would you introduce the rest of your life that way? Let me explain with an example. The same friend comes over for coffee. She asks how you’re doing. Here’s your reply:

Well, as you can see, I still haven’t lost the 20 pounds I swore I was going to lose last time we met. What a loser. What have I been doing? Stuffing my face, obviously. Oh, and my husband is still a jerk. I’ve been wanting to divorce him, but you know how that goes. If I divorce him I just have to find a new place to live, and the stress from that would probably drive me to drink. Although, really, I’m drinking too much anyway. The reason for that, though, is the kids. They’re still stupid. Remember last time I told you little Ralph was flunking math? Well, that hasn’t changed, except Ralph’s bigger. What kind of a mother am I? My kid flunks math. Oh well, I’m reliable. I’m your friend with the messed up life.

Please tell me you wouldn’t do that. Your besties would know this stuff, the real problems, but virtual strangers? All in one breath? Lord, no. So why is doing the same thing to your home – highlighting and apologizing for its shortcomings – okay? It’s not. Stop it right now. No more apologies, no more waiting to have people over until the living room is painted (or whatever), no more worrying about undone projects.

If you’re stymied about how to speak about your home positively, here are some suggestions. Repeat them when you feel the urge to bad-mouth your house:

 – It’s mine, all mine, and I love it.

 – This house is perfect for me.

 – My house is my refuge.

 – I love the storage / yard / big kitchen / access to bus lines / fill-in-the-blank.

 – I love having a place to call my own.

OK, let’s go through that scenario above again. A friend comes over—that old high school pal. You haven’t seen her in years. She steps into your house and compliments a vase, the paint color, whatever. What do you say? Thank you! I had 43 paint swatches up, but this was my fave. It turned out well. Now I’m excited to keep painting. It’s addictive! C’mon, let’s get some drinks and I’ll show you the house. And then you spend the rest of the evening visiting and relaxing in your home. Perfection.

The moral of the story? Stop apologizing. Pretend you’re an annoying Christmas letter and lie, gloss, fake it ’til you make it. Your house is awesome and it deserves better than apologies. Need more practice? Read this, also from Apartment Therapy, for some added inspiration.