If you've been here for a while, or you know me personally, you know that about four months ago, I moved into my grandmother's townhouse. When she passed away in March, my father and his brothers inherited it right away - but in her final days, I had been watching over the place to keep it company while she was in the hospital. Had she made it home, I likely would have moved in with her as a caretaker for the way out. In essence, there was a quick and tenacious connection between this little house and I in those early spring days, and even years before when I would come to visit. Though I thought, having just turned 24, that owning a house would be too far a stretch, I talked to my dad and uncles about it, and they loved the idea. They wanted nothing more than to keep the house within the family. I bought it from them officially in June, and Mikey and I moved in in July.
Had you asked me my future housing plans only a year ago, I would have begrudgingly retold the plan I had formulated in the depths of college debt: I'm living with my parents until I can get my loans paid off. Yes, I know Mikey and I have been together nine years. I know it's time we move in together, but we just don't have the means.
Here we are though, funny enough, making it work.
I find this to be a highly common theme with peers my age; we're all just sort of stumbling around right now, trying to "make it work," and I don't mean that negatively. As we get older, I think we realize adults might never actually have their shit together like we once thought they did. Debt lurks behind the shadows. Relationships are messy. Work often sucks. Grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning become something we don't have time for, or are just too tired to carry out every single day. I hate to use the cliché, but it's true: Adulting is hard! From filling in my grandmother's shoes, living in her home, I've learned a few ways to combat this. First and foremost, we have to relish in the things that make us feel like we're doing a good job. Like we're not just functioning, but even maybe thriving.
For me, there are fortunately a lot of activities and hobbies that bring forth the feeling of accomplishment. But we're on the topic of home ownership today, and whether you're in the same boat, or renting, or still living with parents or roommates, there is a space that's yours and there are ways to cultivate its magic, your magic, to its maximum potential. Nothing makes me feel like I actually have my shit together more than the process of turning a house into a home. Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to do this - a little different from any blog post before this one! I'd love for this to be a collaborative effort, so if you have practices beyond those I share here, I would be so happy to hear about them.
Freeing up space
You know how good it feels when you can clean out old files and photos on your phone, making room for another gig or two when you were threatened with the "running out of storage" notification? Well, doing this to your space is 100 times more gratifying. This first step varies depending on your unique living situation, but I'll speak from the experience of Grammy's house first. When she lived here, she lived alone. She liked it cozy. She liked to make the most of her space. Though there is really only a front hallway, half-bath, kitchen, and living room downstairs, she managed to make space for an entire dining room too. When it was just her here, it was perfect - but get the family together, and it was genuinely tough to move around.
When the house was put under my name, we immediately began some renovations on the lower floor, and divvyed out most of her belongings to family, in order to free up some space. Right when you walked in the front door, there was once a closet immediately to the left which made the space feel claustrophobic. We took that out, rearranged some of the kitchen counters and appliances, and did away with the dining room. We kept her teeny tiny (but very cute) outdoor table and used it for the new eating space, cozied up by the front window. I recently bought a MCM-inspired storage bench off Facebook Marketplace for two or three more seats at the little table. It works doubly as a great place to keep larger countertop appliances, like a Crock Pot or toaster. Wherever you are, imagining ways to make for a cleaner, more open space to live makes a world of difference. Even if you are more like Grammy, and you like the feel of close-quarters, you can balance the two worlds to your liking.
I have been an avid Pinterest user only twice in my life: the first, when my mom decided we needed to freshen up our entire house with budget wainscoting, fresh paint and new décor, and again when I knew I'd be renovating Grammy's. I didn't have a name for the type of interior aesthetics I liked, but I just started searching. Mid century modern came up frequently, along with walls of vintage framed art, rooms full of plants, wood accents and rattan shelves...the keywords kept coming as I added onto a board of things I just found pleasing to the eye. I can't say our home looks exactly like any of those pictures, but garnering ideas to go off of can make it so much easier to style a room, rather than going into it blindly. It's a pretty small matter at the end of the day, but something about putting together a bunch of random art pieces, plants, rocks and trinkets that look nice on a shelf together can genuinely make my day. If you know the name of a certain decorative trend you're into, or even want to start with a certain color scheme, keeping these ideas together on a Pinterest board makes it so easy. I could really go on about my love for this app, but my favorite it digging back into the depths of a board a few months later to see how my tastes have changed, or how I've fulfilled some of the ideas. Below is a screenshot of what mine looks like, and some ways you might like to lay yours out.
The above shows some of the main ideas I've saved - plants, framed photos, and soft, muted colors.
The above shows one of my favorite features of Pinterest - a board within a board. Though there's not much in my "exterior" board yet, this is my place to save plans for our outdoor space...to come when it's warmer!
Of course, Pinterest is not the only place to go for ideas. Take any friends' spaces, or elements of nature, magazines, Instagram pages, or beautiful and well-loved items from your past to build your own world from. A few of my other muses include Joanna Gaines and the Magnolia Journal, which is likely the only magazine I'll ever subscribe to, my dear friend @samfromplanetearth, and her family of farmers and artists and small business owners, who always keep their shop looking fresh and new, but inspired by the old. Whatever you love about this life, whatever your eyes love, find a way to get it into your space.
With all of that said, here are my absolute favorite home-makers - the things that make it so much more than a place to rest my head:
I didn't expect to be a plant mom at the level I currently am. I don't know how many plants we have in this house, and I sure as hell don't know how most of them got here. Still, they bring the house to life, and I'm really not sure it would feel nearly as "home-y" without them all here. Even if you're not the best with plants, I would suggest looking into some temporary greenery with the winter approaching! Try filling jugs or vases with Christmas tree cuttings or ivy. Even fake garland, or real-looking-fake plants do the trick, and obviously require less work. Any way to bring the outdoors in is a win in my book.
Change with the seasons
This is a big one. I have always been very driven by the seasons, looking forward to each and missing them when they go by - but now that I have a place to run wild with that concept, I take full advantage of it. As we settle into winter, for example, I'm replacing the wheat wreath on the door with one adorning holly berries and birch. The pumpkin spice candle has burned down, and we've replaced it with a pine forest scent. Change the brown towels out for white and green...you get the idea. When it warms up again, I'll dust out the windowsills and open them up to listen to the birds and the breeze. I'll take down the garland and fill the space with fresh flowers. I'll rearrange; I'll let go of the winter's minor hoardings. It feels so good to facilitate this frequent change, but also to stop in the midst of each season and let their magic infiltrate. They each have something to offer, and I gotta tell you, after practicing this for a few years, I have found a huge appreciation for winter. I used to dread it, but what the good in that?
When you come home, does it feel good? That's really all that matters. Ignore all of the above if it's not what's going to bring you a sense of peace and surrender. The entire elevation from "house" to "home" comes from the comfort you get when you rest there. Again, even if this is just your bedroom in your parents' house, any place that you can call your own can be your home. For your highest wellness, do what you can to keep it feeling good, cozy, refreshing, calm, whatever you need, as much as you're able. Just like the phone decluttering analogy from earlier, it's important to keep this in mind to maximize the power of your sacred space. Make visible what you love most, and stash the rest. This is a great place to start.
Friends, I would love to know what sort of methods you use to make a home wherever you find yourself. How do you cultivate the magic? Leave a comment below and let's chat about it! Since this was also quite different from my regular posts, I'd love to know what you thought of it. Anything you'd like to see more or less of? As always, I want Lead to Gold to be a place where we can collaborate and share what brings us all to our highest selves. Whatever that may be for you, I want to know how I can bring more of it.
Love you so much. Talk soon,
- Erin 🤍