Lately I’ve been reflecting on what makes a place feel like home. Our family moved from Toronto to Pittsburgh this summer and I’ve found that the act of “settling in” is made up of a myriad pile of puzzle pieces. They come in a jumble of shapes and sizes and when painstakingly put together (in any order), they somehow make “home” happen. The big ones that spring to mind are these:
Bringing my family with me
How lucky am I that I get to bring my husband and children with me wherever I go? They say home is where the heart is and it’s true. Making memories with my family in our new home makes it feel like we all belong there.
Annoying bureaucratic “grown up” chores
In my humble opinion, this is the worst (but necessary) part of moving. New driver’s licenses, finding a new bank, new doctor, new dentist, school paperwork, transferring information from the last place you lived to another, letting EVERYONE know your new address…does just reading this stress you out? It sure has that effect on me so let’s move on to the next category.
Figuring out where staple places are located
The grocery store (not to mention how to navigate said grocery store), the library, the best spots for buying clothes and shoes for your family, a hair dresser…all the essential “will visit regularly” places. This is Step 1 of this piece of the puzzle. Step 2 is that glorious moment when you go out to run an errand and don’t need a GPS.
Discovering local treasures
Local parks, restaurants, date night destinations, zoos, museums, theatres, eating any signature foods that your new area is famous for (Fries on salad, anyone?). Soaking up local culture and charm always makes a place feel more like home to me, as if by sampling the treasures, I get properly adopted by my new city.
Of course, let’s not forget this big one:
Figuring out how to arrange things in a new layout of cupboards and closets is a puzzle unto itself. Our strategy is to get the kitchen functioning and beds set up and then everything else gets unpacked in a trickle. Sometimes that trickle becomes a gush when we have sudden bursts of energy, but usually it’s one or two boxes at a time, often punctuated by the questions, “Do we really need this?” or “Why did we bother packing this?” Noticing the things we don’t need any more and letting them go can help me feel at home too—like I’m really adapting to where I am now, rather than clinging to what worked before. But the big thing about unpacking for me is slowly being surrounded by our own precious things. Setting up our Word repository is an especially huge homemaking marker for our family.
Unpacking the last box
This is the big “Ta da! You have officially moved in!” milestone that we celebrated with ice cream. There is something so liberating about being completely done with boxes. With that last box unpacked, you officially know where everything is in your house—okay this may never happen, but maybe you at least get the sense that you know where stuff goes. Whether or not it always (or ever) winds up there. No judgment.
Buying new Furniture/Getting Rid of Old Furniture
We have been very fortunate this move to be upsizing our home, so we actually didn’t have nearly enough furniture for the space. I enjoy bargain hunting, so this was a treat for me. My favorite was getting a dining table that actually filled the center of the dining room. Suddenly that space felt so much cozier—like we were really supposed to eat meals there.
Hanging pictures on the wall
Here we have the famed hallmark of being truly settled in a new home. It’s usually one of the very last things to happen and it really does do so much to personalize your space and just tie everything together.
Getting rid of the empty boxes and packing paper
For a while, a solid third of our sizable dining room was covered in a precarious avalanche of flattened boxes, bubble wrap, and packing paper. You would think my three children transformed into kittens overnight with the way they wanted to batt the stuff around and jump in it. Recycling all of the things we no longer needed allowed us to move freely in our new space made all of the difference.
Having Friends and Family Visit
This is a big one for me. Few things are as grounding as sharing your new home with people you love beyond your immediate family. Making memories with familiar people in a new place is like taking the tags off a new outfit. This home fits and it’s mine now AND just knowing that loved ones can picture me where I live makes it more real. Sharing makes things come alive.
All of the other stuff I’ve listed is important, but this piece is the one that brings the whole picture of “home” into focus. We are blessed to have a built-in church community that has helped ground us in all of the places we’ve lived. It’s a safe jumping off point for meeting neighbors and making connections. But I just want to acknowledge that not everyone has this immediate community center when they move. Moreover, not all built-in communities are as warm and welcoming as the ones we have been so blessed to experience.
So that’s my list of “homemaking” to dos and milestones. They are mostly very “natural world” type things, but as I’ve been reflecting on the moving process, I’ve realized that the Lord is present in every detail. How could He not? Moving literally takes us places, but it also makes us grow spiritually, if we let it. I look through this somewhat scattered list of things we’ve so recently navigated and I feel a bizarre sense of peace. I know I have more settling and exploring to do, but lately I’ve been feeling like “I’ve arrived.” I really live here. And I think the real key to it all is that I’ve had enough experiences here now—from mundane to truly life-changing—that I can finally see how I fit here. How the Lord has brought us here. He is the peace in the pieces.
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Genesis 28:16
I would love to hear from you about things that help make a place feel like home to you. What are your go-to actions, rituals, or milestones that help you feel settled in a new place? How do you feel the Lord guiding you through the process of making a place feel like home?