I think our culture has always pushed the worker. And, when we are young we hinge a lot of our self worth and value on the status of our job and our level at our job. We work a lot, and we are encouraged to be consumers. So for a lot of people, especially when we are younger, we don’t see where we live as home as much as a place to keep our stuff.
I was not a homeowner until I was 36 years old. I had been a renter. And I moved a lot. I lived in only 4 places by my Junior year in high school when we moved to another state, Illinois. I moved from my parents home to a friend's home, then onto an apartment in the burbs, and then to an apartment in NM, and then new roommates in NM, then back to IL with my mom, then into the city of Chicago with a roommate. In Chicago I think I lived in approximately 13 places in the 1987-1999 window in Chicago alone, plus 6 other rentals in 3 other states. When we finally moved to Wisconsin in 2000, we had 2 rentals at about a year each before we purchased our first house. When we moved to Wisconsin I was 34, and had lived in 24 places or so. When we purchased our first house I was pregnant with my 2nd child and A was only 15 months old. It felt so good to have a home. And, it felt really tied down. It took me 12 years in that home to feel that maybe being in one place might be ok. We then moved to a new home thinking that would be it, but 3 years in, we found this house and knew we wanted to live here.
We moved into this place a week before my 51st birthday. It was the first home that felt like a grownup house. It was the first place that felt like a real home and not some cookie cutter in a planned neighborhood (we had bought in new developments due to financing options).
The reason I’m sharing all this history is because I lived for so long being able to pick up and move using a car or a van for so long that having a whole home felt so weird. I still have panic attacks that we now have so much stuff it would take a semi to move. I don’t like “stuff” but with 4 adults living here and a 2 acre homestead with chickens and a coop and ride-on mower and tools and all of that, it is a lot. I don’t think we need to own a place for it to feel like home, but for me, owning a place was the first time I slowed down enough to be in the space and feel like I wanted to make it a refuge for me and my family, and to feel comfortable and enjoy it.
That was when I finally started thinking of a house as a home and not a place for my stuff. I have always been more of an introvert and wanted to raise my kids being happy and content being at home. Being OK entertaining themselves and not always searching for some external stimuli because they couldn’t be alone with themselves. Being at home and homeschooling meant we had time to do things intentionally - bake our bread. Can and pickle foods. Grow herbs and food. Preserve the harvest. Have cats. Get a dog. Have chickens. Anyone with animals that are not cats know that basically you cannot leave your home for more than 24 hours ever again.
Last night I was reading about how in France there is a huge problem that people get animals and in August before the entire European continent takes off on their month of summer break, tens of thousands of people dump their pets next to the highway, in local parks, at interchanges, by gas stations. France animal shelters have already picked up over 12,000 dumped animals and it is only the 16th of August (and that is only what they have found - how many were hit by cars, are in the woods or in cities fighting to survive?). If where we live is only a place to keep our stuff, then our animals are our stuff, and they are disposable like everything else. We have no connection and deep bond with the land, the space, the wildlife that lives here, the habitat, the pollinators, the plants, the pets, the family. When we send our kids to school/sports/summer camp their whole life as well, I wonder if kids fall into that disconnect a little bit as well. Other people take care of them, and we can barely keep up.
I’m not saying that people who have to work outside the home are callous or selfish, I’m saying our capitalist system keeps people so busy working and consuming that it can be hard to feel fulfilled or content spending time at home. Our fast-paced, consumer-driven culture often pushes us to prioritize external stimuli and achievements, leaving little time for meaningful connections and self-care. We know that when lockdowns happened and more people worked from home, people were suddenly gardening, spending time with their children, walking their dogs over their lunch break, and people felt for the first time that they had more work/life balance while also getting more work done. People were wanting to be more healthy and make their own food and grow their veggies. More people had chickens for eggs. Why can’t we take that momentum to create a system that doesn’t exploit the workforce with excessive hours and allows people to do things like (gasp) see their children for more than 30 minutes before bedtime.
We will always be busy. Our world today makes people busy. But what if we all took more time to just be at home to read a book. Bake a loaf of bread. Grow a garden with herbs and food. Learn new things. Connect on a deeper level to everything around us. Perhaps with that time comes caring, and to care for the world around us, the plants and animals, and our role in preserving things before they become extinct, we can make a bigger change.
Making your abode a home is not about owning, it is about settling in, I think. It is about finding joy in making your room cozy and comfortable. It is about spending time at the kitchen table with your kids while the bread is in the oven. It can even be about simply sitting down on the couch with a blanket and a book to wind down. They say you cannot love someone else until you love yourself. Maybe it is that way with the world. If you don’t care for yourself how can you care for all of the living things on the planet that are threatened and endangered right now. If you can’t care for your family in the frantic pace that is life, how can you care for everything in the world?
Promoting a work-life balance, fostering connection with nature, and encouraging more intentional living are essential steps towards a healthier and more sustainable way of life. In a world that often celebrates constant movement and rapid progress, the reflection on the meaning of home stands as a gentle reminder of the profound value in settling into a space that nurtures our souls. To find joy in creating a comfortable sanctuary, where the simple acts of baking bread, tending to a garden, or sharing moments with loved ones become cherished rituals, is to embrace a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. This connection extends beyond our personal boundaries, weaving into the very fabric of the earth we inhabit. As we learn to care for our own well-being, we inevitably extend that care to the environment that sustains us.
Amidst the constant whirlwind of the modern world, there exists a path to slowing down and truly embracing the art of being present at home. It begins by carving out intentional pockets of time, where the demands of external commitments fade into the background. Set aside moments for yourself, your family, and the space you've crafted. Unplug from the ceaseless digital chatter and immerse yourself in the tactile world around you. Engage in activities that ground you—whether it's savoring a homemade meal, tending to a garden, or simply relishing a quiet cup of tea. Create rituals that anchor you to the present, allowing each moment to unfold without the weight of multitasking. Through these deliberate choices, you transform your dwelling into a sanctuary of serenity and connection, fostering a harmonious coexistence with your surroundings and nourishing your soul in the process.
Time can be a privilege, as is having a place to sleep and put our things. That doesn’t mean we should not work towards more balance in our own lives. By having time to shift our own perspectives and embrace the richness of the present moment, we not only unlock a deeper connection to our surroundings but also gain the capacity to extend our hands to others and take time to build community.
I see designing a life that is meaningful and connected as a part of permaculture. It aligns with my own system design for my life and family. That design includes community, giving, reciprocity, and using what we have to help others as well. You can design your life to make an impact for not only your family, but your community.
Interested in designing your own permaculture space? Interested in being a more self-sufficient herbalist? Join us for the launch party for The Regenerative Herbalist Online Course and get started on a journey to self-sufficiency and wellness. This launch party is part party and part free masterclass to get share more about what we will cover in The Regenerative Herbalist course launching this fall. Visit the website to join the waitlist!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, permaculture designer, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.
©2007-23 Denise Cusack, all photos and text. Feel free to share my posts on FB or Twitter or online media or pin on Pinterest (thank you!), but please keep the links back to my website intact (meaning please do not take or copy my images off of this website and share them unattributed or without linking back here or use them without permission). Thank you! :)
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