A Home is Meant to Be Lived In, Not Looked At

A Home is Meant to Be Lived In, Not Looked At

Last Monday, I found myself at the front of a convoy of vehicles travelling to Squamish. I was driving my friends’ truck filled with furniture, a few boxes, and my bedding and linens. She and her daughter (my “niece”) were behind me, driving my car filled with kitchen supplies and my clothes. My dad was at the back, driving his truck filled with more furniture. We were all heading up the same highway, en route to catch the same ferry that would take us to the same place: my new home.

It was the first day of spring, and the weather truly was on our side. With a week of solid rain behind us and another full week of it ahead, we were gifted a 24-hour pass to clear(ish) skies. The drive up to the ferry terminal was easy, with no traffic or construction or other bumps in the road. Our sail over was smooth; the waters calm. All three vehicles arrived at my place within seconds of one another. And not even 45 minutes after parking, every last item was unloaded from them.

When we were done, my dad turned around and made his way back home, while my friend brought in a bag of “sleepover stuff,” as I called it when I was my niece’s age. With the rain still holding off, we decided to lock up the mess and go explore outside. We drove up to Whistler, where there was still snow on the trails. It was compact and felt more like ice beneath our feet, serving as a reminder that winter had only retreated one day before. The sun desperately tried to come out from behind the clouds. It was warm. We played every song my niece requested on the drive back, and sang our hearts out.

That night, we emptied the contents of all my boxes and put almost everything away. My niece then cut holes out of one and turned it into a house for her stuffed animals to live in. We ate pizza on the floor, played cards, painted nails, and laughed at things only girls can laugh at. And in the place where a couch should be, we setup my tent and they camped on my living room floor. We woke up to discover the rain had started sometime overnight. After filling our bellies with a delicious breakfast at The Crabapple Cafe, the girls returned home. It was the perfect beginning to my story here.

It’s only been a week but I have already started to get comfortable in my new home. I’ve moved furniture to places that felt more like where it should be, and done the same with certain appliances and dishes in my kitchen. I’ve bought groceries, done some batch cooking and eaten healthier than I have all month. I’ve explored some of the trails around my building, gone back to some of my old faves, and started a bucket list of places to check out this year. And I’m learning the sounds of the area, including which hours the trains go by (which seems to be more frequently on weekends than weekdays).

I’m comfortable here, but my home is still a work in progress. I didn’t bring a few key pieces of furniture with me (couch, coffee table, desk). Without those in place, I don’t want to hang anything on the walls yet. There’s a lot of white and black and stainless steel. My friends and I have been jokingly calling it “50 Shades of Squamish,” but not for the imagery that might otherwise come to mind. It’s a beautiful space, but it’s missing those key pieces and the colour that makes a house a home.

When I first announced this move, I got a number of requests to share pictures of my new home after I settled in. For a minute, I considered it. I shared some pictures after I decluttered in 2014, and I can understand how seeing someone’s progress can be inspiring. But if you read the post about why I sometimes hate calling myself a minimalist, you know I’m now acutely aware of my privilege. Couple that with all the lessons I learned from the shopping ban, and I’m also committed to never selling you a picture perfect lifestyle (and especially not naming products).

I will fully admit that I have struggled to find compassion for the interior design industry, since doing the shopping ban. I hate that we are constantly being marketed to and sold on the idea that our homes must look a certain way. Personally, I have had it all. I bought all brand new, matching furniture and decor when I was 23. But I later realized I had done that for all the wrong reasons, thinking it would somehow make it seem like I had achieved a certain level of success (or reached adulthood). I had not. All I had done was purchase brand new, matching furniture and decor.

Since doing the shopping ban, I have learned it’s fine to want your home to be comfortable and to feel like “you”. But it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks when they see it. It doesn’t matter what my home looks like or what your home looks like. It doesn’t matter what “decorating style” we are, what colours we are most drawn to or where we bought everything. And it certainly doesn’t matter if it all matches. All that matters is that we use it. Because at the end of the day, your home doesn’t need to be ready to have its picture taken. Its sole purpose is to provide shelter.

So, I’m not going to share pictures of my new home. If you want to see what my life in Squamish looks like, I’ll continue to share pictures of the outdoors on Instagram. And if you’re really curious, you can go back to my old post and just imagine the same furniture against different white walls. But here is what I will share: stories about what happens in this home. The friends who come to visit. The things we do. The memories we make. And the adventures we go on, when we walk out and lock the door behind us. That is what life is all about.

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  • “But here is what I will share: stories about what happens in this home. The friends who come to visit. The things we do. The memories we make. And the adventures we go on, when we walk out and lock the door behind us. That is what life is all about.”

    Love that mindset. This is something that we could use a lot more of in our modern culture.

    Also, congrats on a successful move! Glad everything went smoothly for you.

  • I also love this mindset! Like you said, I can understand that seeing pictures of others’ success can be inspirational to some, but it also just keeps fueling the comparison trap. We close on our home in a couple weeks and we have a lot of projects – like, gritty work projects – that we’ll be doing. I want to share some visuals of the process, but it’s more because I want to help tell the story of why we’re doing what we’re doing and how it’s part of what’s important to us in making a “home”. I am not a decorator, the house is tiny, we are on a budget, and it won’t be glamorous work, so I can guarantee I won’t be sharing too much that’s pretty and Pin-able.

    I love this: “Because at the end of the day, your home doesn’t need to be ready to have its picture taken. Its sole purpose is to provide shelter.” Function over fashion!

    • Yes! I should have added that I love DIY stuff, as well as the gritty work projects. They are real, hands-on and create less waste. I also think we appreciate our homes and our “things” more when we do the work ourselves. Share away, my friend.

  • I wish you all the best in your new home!

    I can relate to this, I have fallen into the trap of having or house a certain way, to be acceptable to others. I still struggle with this sometimes. But for the most part it is furnished with thrifted things, colourful things – and just enough things. And I finally feel comfortable and at home. As long as it serves all the basic functions that you need it too, and nothing about it jars with your sense of comfort, then that is a home.

    • “As long as it serves all the basic functions that you need it too, and nothing about it jars with your sense of comfort, then that is a home.” – :) <3

    • Ahhh, so you like exteriors/architecture? That’s cool! I remember when my dad replaced all the windows and put up new siding on his house – it made a huge difference (to the value, too). That was the best home makeover :)

  • Congrats on the move. I had to laugh when I read about the tent in the living room. It reminded me of when I was younger and we used to “camp” in our garage (which was more like a second house and we brought an old mattress to sleep on) – we didn’t have the proper gear but we used what we had! :D But it’s those things that make the memories. Although I do love interior design programs, a home is all about you and functionality – your style, your lifestyle, your needs, not what a magazine says is your needs. Homes evolve just as we evolve but I believe the heart of a home is being a place where we feel mostly ourselves. Enjoy getting to know the place :)

    • Ha, thanks for the great visual, Sharon! I still don’t have a couch, so wonder if there will be more camping sleepovers here in the future ;)

  • We still haven’t finished furnishing all of our rooms (October is year 4 here and our house isn’t big!). And most of our walls will always be blank because that’s our style :) There are so many ways to make a house a home and a reflection of the people who live in it without adding and buying a whole bunch of stuff. And if stuff is someone’s thing, awesome. Ditto for interior design. But it doesn’t have to be. Congrats on the move! Cheers to more outdoor adventures!

    • It’s funny, I’m sitting on the one chair I have in my living room, looking around and thinking… a couch would be nice, but this is totally fine for me. Maybe I’ll change my mind in another few weeks, but I feel totally content in this space right now. I’d rather spend the money on outdoor gear ;)

  • The whole “home Inspo” thing baffles me because it makes people’s homes look like something to look at, not something to live in. I find myself scrolling through these doors from time to time and contemplating things but then it’s like, what’s the point? Pineapples won’t be in next year, palm leaves may go out of style in the best, get what makes your place comfy and homey and LIVE IN IT not just around the things you bought for it.

    • Ha, well yes, trends like that certainly seem like something worth ignoring… I still get why people want to create homes that look good, but the goal should only be for it to provide comfort to THEM, not a camera.

  • How true is that Cait
    My life exponentially got better after I stopped caring what was in our house or how much we have. Our last piece of furniture we bought was a couch almost 4 years ago when we moved across the country. With our move we took the opportunity to purge so much of our belongings and do our best to not let it creep back in.

    Our home is for us and we have nobody to impress, my friends and family don’t care one bit about my home. I like that and remind myself that once we transition to a mindset of not worrying about what we own as something that says who we are life is so much better.

    It appears you are firmly in that place mentally, stoked for you.
    Get those trails figured out fyi , I am coming to visit soon :)

  • We are just about to move into a new house and have been inundated with advice from well-meaning friends and family about paint colors, landscaping, renovations, and furniture placement. It’s so overwhelming! But I’m taking heart from your words and standing firm about making our house look and feel like the house WE want to LIVE in – not look at. Thanks!

    • My advice to follow theirs would be to only do things when you NEED to, or in the list of priorities that makes sense for YOU. :)

  • Cait! I love your writing. And I love this idea. I have to admit, I fall into this trap a lot. I drool over home design photos and equate good design with traits like mindfulness, simplicity, and happiness. It’s a little silly because, in reality, it’s just stuff. Pretty stuff, but still stuff. This is a good reminder not to prioritize style over substance.

    • Well and there is certainly something to be said about your eye catching an image and liking something about it. We all have taste, and we all find comfort in different things. The important thing is just to make sure you value using it vs. buying it simply to curate the perfect-looking home.

  • I just moved this weekend…… and I will share a photo of my room. Because I downsized in a big way, and people should see what 1100 sq ft looks like crammed into 300 sq ft. (It looks like an episode of Hoarders). But I’m sharing for educational and amusement purposes, not to show off how awesome my place looks.

  • Hi Cait. It’s been a long time since I’ve commented on your blog.

    I needed to read this today. I’ve been avoiding inviting a friend over because she lives in a beautiful brand new house that she keeps saying isn’t her dream home and she will eventually buy again and I live in old basement apartment. I’ve got an extraordinary deal on my place and I’ve been using the extra money to travel while still socking a little away for my eventual downpayment. But I am not in a hurry to buy. I’m enjoying the financial freedom that comes with renting. Maybe I should bite the bullet and let her see the modest apartment that I find super comfortable.

    I’m glad to see you’re doing well. I hope you enjoy your new place.

    • HI TRISTA! It *has* been a long time! And it sounds like you have figured out what you value, which is the most beautiful way to live. Invite her over and tell her a travel story :)

  • I started caring more about how my home looks and feels once there were two of us. All of a sudden how we were using the space mattered far more. When you’re in 1200 sqft as a single person, you have plenty of room, but with a second person, it’s key to rethink how you’re using the space. We bought a sectional last year along with a smaller coffee table, larger TV stand and a room divider and it has made all the differences. But it isn’t the aesthetic doing that, rather the function and arrangement of the pieces.

    For decoration, I’ve always printed out photos I’ve taken and framed them. It’s a great way to inexpensively personalize a space.

  • Congrats on the move, Cait! I think making your space your own, a place that brings peace and comfort, is what makes it a home. And that looks different to each person. I love being at home because we’ve created a space that represents all the things we love – not a picture from a magazine. :)

  • Growing up I used to tell my mother I was going to have a very spartan apartment, mainly because I hate dusting tchotchkes and having to move a lot of things to clean. Somewhere along the way I got sucked into the idea that my house had to look a certain way and be filled with lots of stuff to show the world who I am. Then I began to realize why I never felt truly comfortable in my home but did at my mother-in-law and sister-in-laws’ homes. Their decor is very simple, unfussy, but still very elegant, the way I feel most comfortable. I have been clearing my space little by little of the excess stuff and keeping only what I truly use and treasure. I figure if I enjoy using and maintaining it then the item can stay.

    • That’s my thought process too, Annie! If I use it (and don’t mind maintaining it), it stays. If not, it’s out the door. Good luck clearing out your space :)

  • I too love this opinion. I remember in my 20’s I was told it would be a good idea to get a two bedroom apartment or condo in case I had visitors as a single female… what a waste that was! Perhaps only a couple of friends came by and they could have easily slept on the couch! Just do what your heart tells you. What others think of one’s living space is their business… 🙂

    • I used to think about doing the same thing when I was younger, Alexandra! But like you, no one ever came to visit when I was living in other cities… so I’m really glad I didn’t waste the money (sorry you did).

  • I enjoy sharing pictures of my home. I’m proud of the way it looks and how I keep it clean and homey for the people I love that live there. The end result of the loving work I put into it is worth it for me to share with other people. And to me, my home’s purpose is SO much more than providing shelter. Maybe because we’re homebodies rather than travelers, but our home is the safe haven, the cozy spot in a chaotic world, the place where I can invited people in and provide them with home cooked food and a (tiny) sense of community and belonging, and it’s where we spend the most amount of time and enjoy doing so. Perhaps it’s because I’m old enough to know that I don’t need to compare my home to anyone else and to just be content with what I worked so hard for, but I’m happy to share snippets of what our haven looks like.
    Just another perspective.

    • I agree Stephanie. A home is so much more then a reminder of what it missing from the pages of a designer magazine. It’s sanctuary, it’s a canvas to show your creative side, and yes it’s a place to store your stuff, but there’s nothing wrong with being proud of the space you’ve created.

  • I agree with every word of this! The funny thing for me in reading this is that I used to be obsessed with all the home magazines, HGTV, etc. (now I still watch HGTV when I’m at hotels sometimes, but mostly just to laugh at the ridiculousness of how much people expect to get for, like, no money). And when I decorated our city condo based on all of that stuff, it never totally felt like “home.” (Thought it sure was pretty!) But when we moved to the mountains, I stopped looking at home decor sources for my inspiration, and took the time to feel out what would make our house feel like home. So it’s definitely decorated, now, but with colors and items that are meaningful to us, rather than whatever is trendy. I love having a home that’s pretty, but now only think about whether it’s pretty to us, not pretty by the standards of others. That’s definitely not a minimalist way to view our home, but if you can’t stop worrying about measuring up to someone’s standard of beauty in your own home, where can you?

    • And I’m sure you know this, but so many of the shows on HGTV are filmed in Vancouver and Toronto, lol. “Our family’s needs have changed. We want to sell our house that’s worth $2.1 million and buy something for $3 million.” This is not real life! (Oh wait, it is here.)

  • I’m so happy that you’re in a place that makes you so happy. With trails nearby and the weather warming up, it sounds like paradise.

    As much as living a clutter-free life makes living better, it has to make moving infinitely better. One day to move and unpack is impressive!

    We stayed in an Airbnb last month and every flat surface was covered with knick-knacks. It drove me a little bonkers and I had to move it all to one area to make room for us to live in the apartment for the week (and to keep it out of reach of the toddlers). It drove home how much our decorating style has changed too.

    • That’s another point I’ve thought a lot about: my style has changed so much already in my 30s. I look at some of what I used to move from place to place to place and wonder what I ever liked about it, haha. But I suppose I was in my early 20s when I bought most of it! The fact that I’m so quick to get rid of these things now, though, makes me want to be REALLY sure about any decor I buy in the future… which will probably be none, for a very long time, haha.

  • Hi Cait, you know what is really funny? That your niece, who is actually not your niece, resembles you so much in the picture I’ve seen of you two (either here or on Instagram I don’t remember exactly), that I would have sworn she must be your niece, if not your daughter. That is so sweet, I think. Have a wonderful start in your new home.

  • Congratulations on your move. Your new place, and your moving day, sound lovely. I entirely support your views on encouraging people to appreciate what they have, and avoid the pressure to consume and conform. Feel a bit embarrassed that I’d still love to see some pics!

  • We’ve moved to a different country about a decade ago, so we only get to see our relatives and loved ones from ‘back home’ every once in a while.

    Just last Christmas, my dad came to visit.
    It wasn’t his first visit, but still I insisted on cleaning the house thoroughly, thinking I couldn’t welcome him in a less-than-perfect- home.
    However, I know now that mindset is totally backwards.. We would have had the same lovely time even if I didn’t scrub every inch of the house :)

    A home is indeed all about the memories and the good times :)

    • I’ll be honest, I probably would have done the same! But I bet he barely noticed, one way or the other. <3

  • I’m with you 95% of the time, but that tiny 5% of the time when I get envious of someone else’s stuff, or when I fall victim to some clever marketing can be very dangerous. Guarding against my moments of weakness is something I strive to do, because these moments of weakness can be very expensive and haunt me financially for years.

    Enjoy the process of making your house a home!

    • Oh, I wrote this post because I’m totally in that 5% of the time mode! I could take pics that would make this place look nice… but why would I share them? What’s the goal? What outcome do I want? I know that I do NOT want people to play the comparison game. I’m also sensitive to the fact that I’m a minimalism blogger and don’t want people to believe it’s a measure of aesthetics to live up to. So, I won’t play the game (and therefore won’t share the pics).

  • What a lovely journey you’ve embarked on. I hope your home brings you much joy, Cait.

    These days I’m leaning more towards appreciating the utility of a home rather than its decorative qualities. We hope to build our next home and I’d love to use materials that endure – cement or pine floors, butcher block counters, and a metal roof. I don’t want the stainless appliances I have now that need to be babied. I want good old Whirlpool white.

    • Ha, oh my goodness, ain’t that true about the appliances. (Can I add to that and say I don’t like glass-top stoves? They get so messy, so fast!)

  • Moving is always so stressful, glad to see it’s going somewhat okay for you. I liken this post to how I use to think my desk area should look (nicely colored supplies, neat and symmetrical,etc). In reality it’s really messy and cords go everywhere, but it gets the job done ;)

    I’ve been livin’ for the photos you’ve been posting on your Instagram!

    • Ha, you should see this one part of my kitchen counter. It’s the only surface I have right now (no desk or coffee table yet) and it is a cluttered mess. But it’s working!

  • Congrats on the move and enjoy your new home!! As you were describing it, I was reminded of the Sea to Sky highway – so pretty, it’s mind blowing!! I spent a year in Vancouver a LONG time ago, and my boyfriend (at the time) and I almost moved up to whistler, but we couldn’t find jobs, so we moved to victoria for a short stint instead. Such pretty country.

    Enjoy!

  • Hi Cait,

    You make me want to move… I feel like we are too spoilt in Canada (I originally come from Croatia). Too spoilt for space, for things, for what others think…
    I want an empty stone house on the coast somewhere, the smell of pine trees, birds chirping, coffee outside…. I could not care less about stainless steel fridges and hardwood floors… You are seriously making me want to move.
    Your blog is soothing. A cool glass of wine on a hot summer’s day.
    It’s so nice that some of us turn their dreams into reality.
    God bless and enjoy everyone you have in your life; from your librarian to your neighbour’s dog. What you have is sheer happiness money and shopping can’t buy.

    Keep bloggin’!

    Much love
    Mihela

  • I am so excited to have found your blog, especially this post, at this point. I’m headed towards a move next month and needed all of these reminders as the packing begins. Thank you for reminding me that my home is about how I live not how it looks. Congrats on your new adventure :)

  • Hi Cait,
    I really appreciated reading this, and I can see that you live in the Vancouver area too. Cool.
    My heart resonated with so much of what you said. My journey is a unique one too. I actually am an Interior Refiner, a term which I love because I have never been comfortable with Interior Designer. My work is about helping people use what they already have to create space that is beautiful and functions well. I am compelled to create beauty, so for me, that is an important component…but just that. A component.
    Our homes are meant to offer a haven to us and our families. It is intended I believe to be a place where we can be completely ourselves. Your focus is beautiful and I applaud you. You have it figured out. Until we can all come to the place where we create spaces that speak to our own hearts, we are slaves to trends. I’m all for freedom! Bless you as you bless those you love, in your home!

  • Three thumbs up. One contributed by JuggerBaby. My home is my HOME. It’s a place to live, laugh, love, eat and share good times with family and friends. I don’t care what it looks like in photos, as long as I enjoy looking at it, and living in it.

  • This sounds like the perfect way to begin a life in a new home. Making memories with people and handling the “things” as necessary. I think your priorities are perfect.

  • Sounds perfect for you. I am just beginning a paring down of my home. I am not sure I will ever be a true minimalist in the sense that it has been defined by most. We moved into a new home 6 months ago and have gotten rid of a dozen boxes of things and have more to go. I still have quite a few things in the rooms I consider “finished” but these are all things I love and enjoy looking at and since the goal of my minimalism is to be comfortable in the place I love spending the majority of my time, I am at peace with all my decorative things. Believe me, I have significantly less that I did in our old home. I am trying to not have things in my home I do not love or find useful as I read somewhere but that is the key-the things you love. For some it may be more than others. My house is not picture perfect and I truly have it designed in a manner that is only pleasing to the 4 members of my family who reside in it. I could care less about keeping up with the Jones’s or the latest trends. I am not where I want to be but well on my way.

  • I so enjoyed this writing! You have a wonderful way with words! But after all your descriptions, I still want to see a picture of your house inside and out! 😊

  • I do not like clutter but I’m not a minimalist either my motto in my house i have to love it or need it (practically). Otherwise it’s not necessary. My hubby would quite happily keep things “just in case”. But I just don’t x