Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Making A House A Home

A house is just a house but how do you turn it into a home? You would think that since I've already done this too many times I would know how by now. But in reality, it seems as though the more we move, the more complicated it all seems to be. Selecting the right Belgian house for us was both exciting and overwhelming; after all, our last two houses has been chosen for us leaving us to make do with what we were given. I didn't love either house but knew our time in each of them was limited and as such, never put in that extra effort that is needed to turn a house into a home. They were functional and not much else. This time is different. While we know we will only be here for three years, this time around we got to choose our house and I am determined to make this one a real home. So where do I begin?

A new house is like a blank slate--you can do anything or nothing with it. It sounds exciting until you are faced with the reality. As anyone who has moved knows, when you move into a new house you must start over with restocking your kitchen and pantry. Kitchen basics like oil, milk, and flour just aren't there. Neither are cleaning supplies, brooms, and laundry detergents. I am literally starting over from scratch. We first moved into our new house last week with just our suitcases and some inadequate loaner furniture. That was it. The tall ceilings and tiled and wooden floors that had seemed charming when we first looked at the house were cold and echo producing in the stark and cold darkness of our first night. Having sat empty for several weeks, it took a long time for the rooms to warm up once we turned on the heat. Without an active Internet connection or even a radio the only noises we heard were the sounds on the streets and the unfamiliar house noises that come with every building, making me call into question what was normal and what wasn't. At that point, the house was anything but homey leaving me to wonder whether we had made the right decision. (At least when someone else assigns you a house you don't have these moments of self doubt). The house seemed cold, unwelcoming, and honestly, a mistake.

Although this is our second European tour, we had been provided with everything we needed at our previous post--furniture, linens, rugs, even a microwave, vacuum cleaner, and coffee maker. It meant that upon moving into the house we were immediately set up and good to go. Not this time around. We essentially had nothing. I even forgot to pack bedding so we spent the first night sleeping on new sheets and a borrowed duvet. Again, starting at square one can be exciting but it is also exhausting as we have spent our all of our weekends to date traipsing from one store to another, one country to another (because we are in centrally located Belgium, trips to Germany and France are easy day trips), setting up house. Shopping quickly looses its appeal when finding the right item becomes a necessity. Since we first moved overseas when Sidney was still sleeping in a crib, we never invested in bedroom furniture for him; now we find ourselves having to buy that as well. Without a single closet space in the house, we are becoming frequent shoppers at Ikea as we buy every type of storage apparatus imaginable. As an American I didn't realize how much stuff I hid behind closed doors until I didn't have any.

We are still waiting for the arrival of our living room and bedroom furniture from a long term storage facility back in the United States, but yesterday all of our personal goods arrived from Tirana. We're slowly unpacking each box and finding homes for all of our worldly goods, which I'm already realizing is going to necessitate more trips to Ikea for additional storage bins. (We have half of the square footage here than we did in our last house so fitting everything in is going to be tight with many items being stored in the surprisingly ample attic). In the meantime piles of books, baking sheets, and wardrobe boxes are lining the walls of every room.

But even in the midst of all of this clutter, this house is already beginning to feel like a home. Our cherished rugs, purchased during our travels, are muting the echoes of the house while making it feel like our home. In fact, upon returning home from school yesterday, Sidney's first exclamation was "our Albanian rug". The kitchen and pantry may be small but with my pots on the shelves and spices lining the kitchen counter the room is slowing beginning to feel like my kitchen. Eating dinner last night off of our dishes with our own silverware made even the simplest pasta dish taste so much better. (Paper plates and plastic ware do not a dinner make!). We don't have pictures hung on the walls yet but I'm visualizing where our artwork and many photographs will go once we find a drill. With the arrival of Sidney's toys his room already looks like the cluttered playroom in our old house.

It will be slow going for sure but give me a few weeks and this house will soon be our home. I am sure of that.

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