What makes a house a home?

I live about a 15 minute drive from the nearest town. Every time I drive into town I pass a house on my right that clearly does not belong. It simply feels wrong. And I know I am not alone: most everyone in my neighborhood feels the same way. We all call it “The motel 6,” because it looks a lot like a cheap motel.

Somehow, the people that live in the house also don’t feel like they belong: every 2 or 3 years someone new moves in. The current owner changed the color of the house from stark white to a darker green, which made the rest of us very happy. After all, the house is standing in the middle of a beautiful 5 acre (green) meadow. Also, on my last drive-by, I noticed that there was some tree planting activity going on, in particular right around the house. In a strange way the house belongs now a little more. And perhaps the current owner also feels like he belongs a little more too.

People living in houses that belong will tend to have stronger feelings of belonging as well. For people, the feeling of belonging is rooted in one of those basic needs that is linked to our need for survival. A sense of belonging is directly related to concepts such as tribe, community and culture and consequently with feelings of security, safety, stability and purpose. People who don’t feel like they belong are unhappy, insecure, afraid. Those who feel like they do belong feel the opposite: happy, secure, loving.

The more your house becomes a place where you feel like you belong, the more it becomes a “Home.” In this context, “home” is not just a cozier word for house. More so, The term “home” can be better understood by looking at it as ever-evolving, metaphysical and dynamic.

A good home is ever evolving, it is not static. Small and big changes to the house, the yard, the furniture, the kitchen table, even the lights, will increase or diminish the quality of the home. So does the arrival of a new baby, the turning of the seasons, a new job or retirement, kids or parents moving in and out and the make up of the neighborhood.

Which leads us to the fact that the term “home” is not just physical, it’s metaphysical. A true home is the physical reality of a house, augmented by thousands of other activities– laughter, cooking, eating, washing, singing– that help create the feeling of home. Thus a home cannot be separated from the people living in it. A house with no people is a non-home. It’s just a house. (realtors sell houses, not homes).

Therefore it is vital to consider “Home” a dynamic concept. the physical reality of the home influences the events that take place. And as the events change, they will inevitably bring us to change the physical reality of the home.

For example, say someone is given a bouquet of flowers. She puts the flowers in vase on the table. Being around the flowers reminds her that she would like more flowers around the house, so she goes and buy some pansies to put in the yard. As she is digging them in, she starts up a conversation with the neighbor. They both decide to have a BBQ together this weekend, for which she will need to build a table for the yard…

In the above example, the home is constantly evolving. There are physical changes (the flowers, the pansies, the table), but there are also changes in feelings, relationships, and connections. We should think of a home as a dynamic, living process rather than a static, dead product. A home is nothing less than a house that feels alive!

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