MAKING A HOME PLACE: The Real Reason Home Improvement Work Matters

Back in August 2016, my wife and I waved goodbye to our first child as we left him installed in his university dormitory for the first time. Joseph isn’t our oldest, but he is the first to go beyond high school, and when he came home from the University of Tennessee at Christmas that year it reminded me of something that I don’t think about as often as I should.

  • Reading Time = 3 3/4 minutes

Joe has always grown up in a house where we try to keep things organized, clean and in good repair. And like many kids, it was pretty well impossible for him to understand his boyhood situation until it changed. Even a fish doesn’t appreciate being wet until the lake dries up.

The view from our verandah into the house on a dark winter night. Order and beauty in a home matters more than most people seem to realize when it comes to happiness and contentment.

Four months of living in a dorm room with four other guys has a way of changing a young man’s outlook, and the occasional trip to houses off campus where light bulbs stay burned out for months and sheets hardly ever get washed had a positive effect on Joseph. One of the best Christmas presents he brought home was an appreciation for how a clean, organized, fully functional home makes life better. And that reminded me how home improvements and homemaking are about more than just practicality. They’re actually about creating spaces where the heart can set roots and flourish happily. Ultimately, home improvement is about turning the shell of a house into what I call a “home place”.

What’s a Home Place?

Any successful home place is both a physical thing – four walls and a reliable roof –plus a state of mind.  Good memories, feelings of safety, warmth, shelter, food, beauty and physical amenities that are both inviting and functional. Sounds simple enough, but according to Joseph’s experiences away from home, it’s not common for young people these days.

Joe has told us more than a few stories about students he met who were glad to be away from home and how these kids never got homesick. Visiting some of these places with his classmates he understood one reason why. Among other things, Joe realized in new ways how important home improvement work is in making an inviting home place, a zone where people make, miss and love the pleasant memories they create over time.

It takes work to keep the lights burning, the walls in good shape, the deck finished, the garage organized and home cooked meals on the table. And while all this might seem boring and ordinary in a world where everything is so often about flash and glamour and fun, isn’t the boring work of life usually the most important? At a time where so much is changing so quickly, and true home place experiences are getting more and more rare for young people, it seems to me that us old school DIYers need to be extra diligent about passing on the hands-on home place mindset to the next generation. It won’t happen automatically.

So what does this mean in practice? In my experience, successfully managing the practical side of a home place comes down to five simple habits that spring from the heart of the people in charge: First, keep a list of jobs to do. You need to record the jobs that need doing or you’ll forget to do them. Second, maintain a DIY shopping list. You’ll need to buy supplies to keep your home place homey, and nobody’s memory is good enough to remember everything all the time.  Third, set aside time to make home improvements happen. Consider making one day a week “screen free” and you’ll be amazed how much more gets done around the house. Fourth, organize your tools and supplies. Maintaining a home is challenging enough without the frustration of looking for essentials you can’t find. And finally, learn the skills required to keep your home place in good shape. So much of what’s needed isn’t complicated, and it’s easier than ever these days to learn the how-to behind creating a memorable and functional home place for your family.

I hope you found these thoughts helpful. Please consider “buying me a coffee” by clicking the button below. It’s safe, fast and much appreciated. It costs hundreds of dollars a month to keep this website going, not to mention the time I take creating content. Thanks to everyone who contributes regularly. By the way, that’s a young Joe with me in the photo, back in the good old days!

– Steve Maxwell