We are constantly shifting. Sometimes it feels like the dust barely settles before we are picking up all our things and transitioning again. A home means something else entirely when your surroundings rotate so often. It has to. If we can’t feel rooted where we are, what makes a house feel like a home?
I asked every member of my family this question, and we all had different answers. My 10-year-old daughter said once all our things are unpacked and put away then it feels like home for her. She dislikes the limbo and the moving process. It unsettles her. She feels better when her new home is set up. My husband said it’s just the people. The family being together settles him. He isn’t the type to get attached to places or things. My 5-year-old son said it’s the calm. When things feel calm, he feels at home. A safe place for him to unleash all his exuberance is what feels like home to him. I have to agree with all of them, and I love their answers.
Here are a few simple things that I like to do to help make a space feel like home:
- Find something positive about the new house and appreciate it. We all get to experience so many living spaces. We get familiar with making it work with whatever we have to work with. No doubt you have a mental list of all the things you hated or loved about all your previous houses. There is always something different. We are currently settling in a new duty station, and we have so much storage space. I’m literally so excited about all the linen closets because I actually have a place to put all our sheets, pillows and blankets. Even though this seems simple, finding something to appreciate starts your new relationship with your house on positive terms.
- Find your new routine. I like to evaluate what our routines were like in the “old house” and make some adjustments. It’s like a New Year’s resolution every PCS. We are changing the rules about screen time and focusing on cooking more in our new house. We also evaluate how the extracurriculars were working for our kids in our last place and changing that up as needed. It’s fun for them to try new things and get excited about pursuing new passions. It also makes our life feel fresh where we are. Like we are curating our own stories in a new place, instead of living Groundhog Day every day and every duty station.
- Start building a community outside your home. At the end of the day, connections and relationships are what mean more than belongings and to-do lists. A sense of belonging inside of a community is what can make us feel rooted during constant transition. But it is by far the hardest thing to accomplish. It takes courage, energy and confidence. We all have negative experiences that can bring more fear into a new space. But every place is a new beginning. For me, it seems like the longer we stay in the Army, the smaller it gets. I always think a fun way to start is pursuing a new hobby or exploring your new area with the intent to find all your new spots. In theory, it is a simple concept, but this step always takes me the longest.
In conclusion, feeling grounded is a process. We each have a priority of what it takes to feel settled. There are some simple things we can do to aid us in feeling at home in our new space.