You may not know this about me, but I have a super power: I can make pretty much any space we land into a place we can comfortably call ‘home’ an I can convince all of my family members - and often, our friends who come by - that we have an amazing house. Pretty awesome, huh? And, luckily, this is a super power I get to practice over and over as we bounce around the globe.
The power is not without its drawbacks: I do find myself trying to invest a little too much effort into making vacation spaces ‘home’, too. Not getting to unpack and stow suitcases causes me great stress. We like to use Airb&b, and will occasionally end up with a rental that is someone’s actual home and this is even more challenging because someone else’s stuff is (rightfully) right where I feel mine should be... I know, this is not really a hardship.
Anyway. Homes. Every single house and apartment we have lived in has had many many redeeming features. Most have also had challenges, too, likely weird little bathrooms in odd places, steps/edges in inconvenient locations or a different type of tile in every single room. Some of them would not possibly work for a different phase/chapter (read: the growing boys need a lot more space than we ever realized three humans could possibly). For the time and ages that we are, though, each as been exactly what we needed.
How do we (I) manage this?
- Your enthusiasm for your space is infectious. Every single house, every single space has good qualities. Focus on those, appreciate those, and not on what your space doesn't have. We are fortunate in that the employment that hubby does comes along with housing and furniture, so every place we move overseas, we get housing and basic furnishings provided. Some might argue that having someone pick your house and what goes in it can be a little frustrating, but I look at it as one less thing that I have to worry about, and then look for what I can appreciate about it. We currently live on a street where the houses are all built very similarly. We love our house and garden; the neighbors (with the same number of kids)? Not so much. But then 'house envy' can sour anyone's enjoyment of their own space. Sure, your friends might have better houses than you do; I bet there are a number of qualities of your own house that others greatly appreciate. So focus on those, and stop thinking about the grass on the other side of the fence.
- Manage expectations. Is it bad that I just expect rock-bottom minimal? Then, no matter what, I am pleasantly surprised. :) Seriously, though, before our very first tour overseas, hubby told me that no matter what, unless the house was literally falling down on top of us, we would not ask to move, so I should just appreciate what we have and make the most of it (there are many employees and spouses in our same line of work that do not go by this motto, and ask to move for a variety of reasons, some legit, some completely trumped up; suffice it to say, I can't imagine adding additional moves to our already-transient lifestyle). Our furniture is not super amazing, but it's fine and suits the purpose (though at this post, the last group of folks ordered 100+ sets of the same color of furniture. We all have the same color of sofas, arm chairs, etc. I guess that way, there is no 'furniture envy.' I prefer to think of the color they chose as 'mustard'; others at post think of it as 'baby poop yellow'... tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to.) You know what? Some throw pills, art on the walls, and covering the seats of the dining room chairs with fun fabric, and you've got your own spin on things.
- Make it your own. As I just said, add your own flair to your space. We refer to the color of most houses overseas in our line of work as 'GSO white,' but you think of it as a blank canvas to which you get to add your own color and design, it's perfect! You can paint. You can add art. You can add rugs, and amazing local furniture or decorations. You can bring in potted plants. You can add fabric to the walls. You can change the curtains, or better yet, take them off: adding extra sunlight to a room can make a huge difference. You can pile on the throw and floor pillows. I think up to removing a wall, you can probably do pretty much anything to 'own' the space (okay, be sure to get permission beforehand if the addition/change is too drastic).
Set up the space how YOU want to; it doesn’t matter what the last residents did. For us, this means more living spaces, less sleeping spaces (bedrooms are for sleeping, not hanging out.); it means tv out of the main living area; and, currently, it means spending as much time as possible outside in the near-perfect weather, so a great living space on the porch too.
- Unpack unpack unpack. If you haven’t unpacked it within 3 months of arrival - even just to open the box, identify what it is in it and then reseal it - you do not need it at your space. Send it to storage or give it to someone who needs/wants it more than you do.
- Reduce your load. When you get cluttered, you get stressed. There is no such thing as packrats who are happy. People who do not know how to get rid of things they no longer need are not happy because they are surrounded by clutter. Have a yard sale, participate in a multi-house garage sale, give it to a charity, give it to your friends, donate donate donate. Just get it out of your house because you do not need the stuff and you do not need the clutter. Even the most beautiful of houses is cramped and unappealing if it is crammed full of flotsam.
- Encourage your kids and spouse to help you reduce stuff. Especially with your kids, teaching them skills to reduce, reuse and recycle is a good thing. It's good for the pocketbook, good for the environment, and good for mental well-being to stop needing and wanting so.much.stuff.