Resisting The Urge To Make It Home

by farrah on September 8, 2013 · 24 comments

When we knew that we were really going to give this whole thing a go and move, I stopped decorating the house. I quit buying ‘decor’ items, refrained from purchasing a new set of sheets, and resisted the overwhelming feeling to replace the pillows on the couch. Additionally I slowly sold off the majority of our stuff on Craigslist and in garage sales. Since we moved here in October of 2012- that means I stopped buying ‘stuff” approximately a year prior. I’ve talked before about how ‘less is more‘ and yadda yadda- but y’all. I MISS it. I miss adding things to our house.

The irony- I bought this yesterday. But still, the message rings true.

Opening The Door

And now- now I’m seriously contemplating the expat kiss of death and desiring to paint the living room. When we moved in, the house with its white walls didn’t really move me. At the time I was looking at this move as a temporary thing (which it is) in a rented home (which it is) and we weren’t going to get attached. Well, we still aren’t ‘attached’ to it as our home- but I am sick of looking at the white ugly walls. So contrary to what the people of House Hunters believe- a new paint color would be pretty darn nice (and easy) in the living room. But once I open that door….

I went to Ikea yesterday. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been there in the past year- and with good reason. We didn’t want to have ‘nice’ stuff, we didn’t want to fill our home up with things, and that way there was no room to get attached. Our storage unit back home has our keepsake items (and well, ahem. maybe a *few* other things as well) and that’s what counts. So this temporary stuff has to stay temporary. I’m still not clear on exactly what kind of shipping container we’re to have when we come back- but that shouldn’t matter. We’re not supposed to be bringing stuff back!

couchThe couch- dinosaur approved

Moving back to the US eventually will see us buying a home we plan to stay in for a while- and make it into everything we’ve ever wanted. We know that we don’t want or need anything as big as we had before. We’ll be strangers (most likely) in a new state and have no one to impress. We’re going to have the chance to start over and make it about the things that are important- being together and growing as a family. So stop with the crap already. Stuff from here has no place there. I fear it will just remind me anyhow. I really like it here and it hurts to think about this thing being over.

Doing It Anyway— wheeeeee!

Thus against my inner voice whining ‘noooo’- I put a new set of throw pillows for the couch, a fresh blanket for the chilly winter days ahead, some kitchen things and new curtains into my cart. CURTAINS. I have never cared enough to buy curtains in my life. Why was I doing this? There was nothing wrong with the stuff that we had- the curtains were just pretty ugly. Why was I going against my previous intentions and buying a bunch of stuff that wasn’t necessary?

And while I walked around Ikea peeking into the little shoebox set-up living rooms and kitchens, I realized that what I really wanted to do was paint the living room. It’s the room where we all sit and hang out together the most- and I want it cozy. I want itΒ gezellige. I want it to compliment our new throw pillows, sofa blanket, hutch… WAIT. What am I doing?!?!

I don’t want to get attached- I don’t want to feel like this is home. This is not home. This is a temporary experience that will end. But resisting the urge to make it home is growing too strong. I’m a mom. What can I say? I want to make our house a home for my family. But.

But the buying/consuming/redecorating thing has got to stop. I feel like a reformed smoker who is just slipping back into my old addiction one puff at a time. Well.. if I buy ‘just’ these pillows… or maybe if I get ‘just’ that wall hanging…

I feel like a hypocrite. I don’t want to consume and collect. It’s not about the amount of stuff I buy. That’s not me. So what gives?

What would you do? Would you paint or just deal?


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura September 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

You have to make it home a little bit! With the Army we move every 3 to 4 years or 2 as was the case this last time and we will only live in our new place for about 15 months. If I never made anything home I would go crazy. BUT the Army does pay to ship (and break) our belongings from one place to the other so I guess it’s ok to collect things. Curtains to me make a huge difference on white walls. When I hang colorful curtains I lose the desire to paint.


2 farrah September 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

I wish I could figure out these stupid curtains! I’ve been struggling with them all morning πŸ™‚

Great point- I have thought from time to time what it would be like to be a military family- that kind of moving would be hard. Additionally- I wonder what it’s like being a stranger in a strange land- but living on base. What a feeling that would be! Surrounded by familiar ‘strangers’.


3 Elizabeth September 8, 2013 at 8:44 am

I feel the same way you do…but for me it is the yard. I absolutely love yards and ours at home is an enormous monstrosity, all shaded and red mud. I have the heart of a gardener but no knowledge, so I get extremely overwhelmed every spring when I know exactly what I want my yard to look like but no clue how to get it there. And, let’s face it, with a yard the size of ours, I would easily, easily spend upwards of $50,000-$60,000 getting it the way I want. But, this precious yard we have in Germany is everything I’ve ever dreamed of-a little sun, a little shade, and beautiful dirt that will grow absolutely anything despite of, rather than because of, my efforts. I can so easily see a tiny little stone path with a tiny little retaining wall, all in my budget! Oh, and the perennials and annuals I could go crazy with! But, when I bring it back down to reality, spending even $50 in this yard is for but a momentary high. By the time any perennial really takes hold next year, it will be for another hausfrau and her family to enjoy. I did plant quite a few bulbs last year and have never been in such gardening bliss when they actually bloomed last Spring. A stroll down to the river this morning to the garden plots (posting on Facebook to come) did nothing to help my gardening wanderlust. But, being the daughter of a tax accountant, I cannot justify spending the money I’d like to that would really make this little garden my own.


4 farrah September 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

That sounds very, very similar. Dh also has this thing with the yard- at first when we got here he was overcome with the quaint ‘garden’ aspect- and even grandiose talk about repairing the greenhouse in the back. But I think he has more of the temporary mentality than I do.

I think that would be a really tough feeling to know that things you plant would not be there for you— but on the other hand, they’ll always be there!


5 Sarah September 8, 2013 at 8:48 am

We are military in Germany. We choice to do fabric wall mural. No painting just fun picture. We have changed a few times and have loved. It makes the house feel homey. We have done the exact same thing as you. We are currently weeding out what we dont need as it is almost time to pack up and head home to america. We have made an effort to pick up on peice from each country that is unique to them. I truly believe it is not possible to not be attached to where you are living. The memories you make are with you a lifetime.


6 farrah September 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

That sounds fun! And I have brought little ‘chachkies’ (is that how you spell it?) back for the boys, and for me just little things here and there. And you are right- the memories will last a lifetime πŸ™‚ Good luck with your move back. I’m curious to know how it goes!


7 Erica September 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

I say go for it….paint away! I miss my trips to Target and Home Goods but my wallet sure doesn’t! If the paint makes the house feel “warmer”, it’s well worth the effort!


8 farrah September 8, 2013 at 10:43 am

No kidding- right?! Here if we spend over 100€ on our bank card- A gets an email alert. I am sure he is glad that that only happens once in a blue moon here when I go shopping!!

I think we are going to go for it. White just looks dirty on these walls. Which, I’m sure three boys have nothing to do with that.. πŸ™‚


9 Jen September 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm

A lot of those things aren’t designed to last forever, especially when you have kids, anyway. I have never kept curtains more than a few years, they got worn out from washing all the handprints off every other week!

I know how you feel though (and hilarious about the collect moments thing because you are the third person I know who’s mentioned buying an item with that on it!). We always knew we’d leave Amsterdam and likely not take much with us wherever we went so everything we owned came from Ikea or Hema (they do lovely home stuff, and great paint btw). The good news is that Dutch people love buying stuff second hand so you can sell most of it when you leave, they will buy just about anything if its ‘a deal’.

Right now we’re in limbo in our rental apartment, it was only supposed to be for six months until our new house is built but because it feels more like a vacation rental than a home, we don’t feel like we’re really settling in to Houston yet. I can’t paint and I don’t want to start hanging our art because its all still stored away, but we need to feel like we live here somehow.


10 farrah September 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Isn’t that thing just too funny? I mean, here were are talking about NOT buying stuff. I felt like a chump- but it WAS on sale πŸ™‚

I have one contact for when we’re ready to sell. Hopefully that will keep me off of Markplaats. That site is NOT Craigslist!


11 Jen September 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I didn’t mind marktpkaats, it seems like everyone is on it. We actually made money on some of the stuff we sold! Almost everything we owned was sold on there when we left. If it didn’t fit in a small moving box, we didn’t bring it.


12 Agnieszka Jarecka-Griffiths September 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I’d definitely paint. I moved to UK 9 years ago and moved 9 times since then and every time I couldn’t resist the urge to make every house/flat feel like home. I’m renting at the moment but I love my house and village so much that I just made it into a perfect home for me and my family. It makes me happy πŸ™‚


13 farrah September 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Thanks- we talked about it tonight and decided to go for it. And you’re right- making a place feel like home DOES make me happy too- so why fight it? If you say so after 9 moves- I think you know what you’re talking about!


14 Rina Mae September 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I am in a very similar predicament. We decided not to paint walls though simply out of pure laziness and logistics–it’s already a challenge packing with our little one and cant imagine how hard it would be to paint.

However…if the walls were bothering me, I would paint away!

As for purchasing stuff, we are also limiting ourselves to quality pièces..though I have this crazy urge to make our rental home more stylish!


15 farrah September 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

That was our goal too- only real quality pieces when it came to decorating. So the lamp I’ve been lusting after will most likely be under the Christmas tree for me πŸ™‚

And I hear you with being lazy. Painting is a pain for the most part- no idea when we will do it except after bed for the boys!


16 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux September 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Good evening…I say go for it. It’s just paint. I understand your dilemma – as even though we have decided to stay in France – we are renting our current home. Renting…it’s not “our home”…but that said – we did paint when we moved in, – I couldn’t do White walls. It’s helps to make us feel more comfortable. I am a believer in “no matter how temporary”, you do need to live there – you do want a place you feel comfortable in, a place to hang out and put your feel up. A place you can make it feel like your home. I understand the “stuff” conversation – after we purged to move here – it felt good, it was a good cleansing, it taught us what we really didn’t need! But at the same time, it’s nice to find a balance – an ambiance that feels right and home-like but at the same time being a bit sparse feels good too! Balance – I guess that’s what I’m trying to say! Find your balance between comfortable and temporary. Have a good week.


17 farrah September 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

Agree! I agree with you 100% and we’re going for it. We emailed the landlord today to make sure it’s ok, and hope to pick up the paint tonight. I already have it picked out. How funny that this took so much thought?


18 Robbie September 8, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I’m going to say paint…it will make it feel a bit like home and you don’t have to worry about packing it into a box.


19 farrah September 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

That’s an excellent point. It’s something that doesn’t need to be packed up!


20 Travel Mother September 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I know what you’re feeling–we live about six months in each house, and they all have blank white walls! When I first move it, I think, “If I paint them now, we’ll have six months to enjoy them.” But, then a month or two goes by, and my time is dwindling. What’s the point when we’re moving in 4, 3, 2 months? Looking at my current white walls, I am glad we didn’t paint them–because then it would hurt even more to leave (and we might need to repaint them white to get our deposit back!). So, I say: If you’re going to be there more than six months, paint. If less, resist the urge and save your extra bucks for the next plane tickets.


21 farrah September 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

We’re here for at least an entire year longer (hoping to squeeze out an additional one) so it fits your code πŸ™‚ And here we are- on the cusp of one year down so I completely know where you’re coming from there as well. How did that time go by so quickly?!?!


22 Chasing the Donkey September 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Screw it, get painting, get buying. Do whatever it is that will make you happy. You spend so many hours at home, it has to fee like a part of you. And if you buy stuff from IKEA, you can always donate it to a charity when you move back. It will cost less than shipping and you’ll being doing good.


23 Ann September 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Paint the walls! Buy little decorative items that will always remind you of your time here.

A friend if mine who grew up military had an interesting thing her mom did. They lived in turkey when she was very young and her mom bought tiles there. They carried the tiles with them as they moved from place to place. 25-30 years later they bought a home and used those tiles to frame the fireplace.

My grandfather in law has a cabinet filled with things he bought on his travels from 14 years as an expat.


24 Denise September 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Go for it…..says me who started out with a cat….two cats actually. Then an Irish husband. And then a DOG!! What was I thinking? (Well the husband was a good choice).

You do need to make it feel like home for your family. We have an expat community here that is always selling on stuff to other expats when people leave….maybe you can find something like that when the time comes.


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