From the pictures on the wall to the way I speak to my guests, here's what I learned when I took stock of my house.
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I use a five year journal, where each day I answer one question in a few sentences, and every year on that same day I answer the same question again. Then, over time, I can go back and look at what answers I gave from one year to the next.
Yesterday’s question made me put the book down and think for a long time. The question was a fill-in-the-blank that read, “I cultivate an atmosphere of ________ at home.”
Hmmm … What kind of atmosphere do I cultivate in my home? Do I even try to create and nurture a certain atmosphere?
Decoration is part of this. How I arrange the furniture is part of this. But my attitude, and the way I communicate, is also part of the atmosphere of my home. I decided to take stock of how I welcomed people and what message my home sends to people.
First off, I imagined what atmosphere I want to create in my home. In other words, what do I want people to feel when they came to my house? Then I considered other angles. When someone comes to my house will they see who I am? Does how I decorate reveal what is important to me?
I decided I wanted people to feel welcome, calm, and comfortable when they enter our space. So, I looked at how my house was set up. When anyone first walks into our home, they are greeted by a large entryway. Usually, I use that entryway to store things. This is helpful to me, but it gets cluttered up very easily. Clutter doesn’t instill a peaceful or calm feeling, so I decided it was time to declutter the entryway, and consider a different way to store the things I usually keep there. Having less stuff there helps me feel calmer, and that would allow me to pass that calm onto my guests.
Next, I looked at the main spaces where people sit and visit when they are here–the living room, dining room, and kitchen. The chairs and couch seemed to be laid out in a way that was conducive to conversation. I noticed a few little things that I made notes of to try to improve in the future — like maybe adding a small bench for people to put drinks on during a conversation, placing some blankets nearby in the winter months, and adding some kind of seating in the kitchen when someone is visiting while I cook.
After considering how I want people to feel, and whether the logistics of furniture and clutter help or hinder that atmosphere, I turned my attention to decoration.
Do my decorations around the house add to the atmosphere I want to create? What do they say about who I am and what is important to me?
I first assessed how many decorations I have – how many paintings, pictures, wall hangings, etc. Was it too cluttered or poorly arranged, leaving a sense of overwhelm instead of peace? Or was it too bare, making it feel impersonal and empty? I think my walls verge into the poorly arranged category, and so noted some things to rearrange. Each piece of art has a story, from the many religious images we have, to the art pieces created by my husband or purchased on travels. I noticed that I didn’t have many pictures of my family, and so figured that would be a good thing to add. Overall, though, I felt that the decorations around the space adequately show what is important to me and my family, and add insight into who we are.
Disposition of the heart
Finally, I turned inward. I know that some of my biggest struggles with hospitality is my own lack of spontaneity and my struggle with small talk. I also realized that if I exude hospitality and peace, my presence is a more powerful atmosphere than anything I could create with my decorations and furniture flow.
What stresses and insecurities can I eliminate to help myself be the peaceful, welcoming atmosphere I want? What good questions can I ask to let the conversation go deeper, where my guest can feel more known and loved, rather than staying on the surface?
I put together a list of baby steps to improve the atmosphere of my heart, and thus, of our house. And instead of a short answer for my five year journal in this slot in 2022, I think I’ll just write in the link to this post. We’ll see what next year brings!