Let’s give it up for our houses. Over the past year, they have really been there for us. Like a good partner, they’ve provided solid support when we needed it, stood by (or over) us in bad times and worse times, through thick and thicker, in sickness and in more sickness. Now it’s time to show them a little appreciation.
Being in a relationship with your house is like any long-term relationship. After a while you can get complacent. You let certain niceties slide. One day you’re both picking up your clothes, managing your mail stack, washing your own dishes and wearing cologne, and then human nature kicks in. Yet as anyone in a lasting relationship knows, many small loving gestures over the long haul are what bind relationships together. It’s the partner who brings you your coffee just the way you like it first thing each morning, or turns down your side of the bed each night. It’s no different with houses.
I (and I’m betting you) have not been holding up my end at home. That is, I’ve asked a lot of my home this past year, and haven’t given much back. This week I felt motivated to change that. As more people put COVID-19 in their past, either by surviving it or getting vaccinated, I see glimmers of a future where we aren’t so tied to our houses, where we can go on (gasp!) non-essential outings.
This optimism drove me to look around my home for ways I’d been remiss, for opportunities to show my gratitude. I didn’t have to look far. Starting at the front door, I saw, oh my, that doormat looking like the loser of the national mud-wrestling competition. How had I overlooked that? (Hint: Because not seeing is more convenient.) The crumbling, shabby unwelcome mat was the same one I dragged from the front door of my old house three years ago just temporarily. It needed replacing then. Now it needed an exorcism.
I hear an echo of myself saying in a former column: “Your home’s entryway is your handshake to the world. Keep it nice.” I decide to follow my own advice. I order a new, upgraded doormat. Even if our only visitors these days are Door Dash, UberEATS, Instacart, UPS and Amazon Prime, we owe it to those drivers to make their visit pleasant, and not to feel they need to don hazmat gear to come to the door.
Next, I note the empty ceramic container on the dining room table. Pre-pandemic it always held fresh flowering plants. Why splurge on flowers nobody sees? I wrongly reasoned. Because you see them, that’s why! I take the vessel to my favorite flower shop and ask the florist to fill it up with life.
Now, I’m on a roll. The yellowing ceiling vent covers in the bathroom needed painting. So do the once black burners on the kitchen stove, which through use have come to look as scuffed as the sole of an old shoe. The kitchen towels should be demoted to the rag bin, and so on. Check, check, check.
Though your list might look different, if you, too, want to express some house gratitude, here are eight small, inexpensive moves to show your home you care.
- Replace what’s worn. If your doormat is in tatters, your area rugs have run their course, and your dishtowels look as if they were last used to wipe down a car engine, get new ones.
- Fix what’s broken. If you’ve been living with a window blind that only hoists up on one side, or a busted faucet you have to turn on and off with a wrench, put an end to that.
- Remove what’s dated. If you still have an obsolete intercom system stuck in the wall, a keypad for a security system that went in when Gerald Ford was president and that no one knows the code to, or a landline phone jack in your bathroom, pull them out and patch things up.
- Paint what’s faded. If you, too, have a once-white ceiling vent cover that is now the color of aged gouda, take it down, and spray it with white paint. Then take a can of heat-resistant flat black spray paint made for stoves and grills and restore your stovetop’s burners and your fireplace grates.
- Touch up what’s worn. If the well-trafficked corners of your home are looking a little banged up around the edges (and aren’t we all?), run over them with a Magic Eraser or a little touch-up paint. White-Out and Sharpie pens are also your allies when touching up white trim and wood furniture.
- Restore what’s beat. If your sun-faded, rusty mailbox looks like a lunch pail salvaged form a World War II bunker, repaint it, or, if your homeowner’s association allows, get a new one.
- Clean what’s neglected. If the main signs of life outside your house are bugs in cobwebs, get out the pressure hose and power clean. Pay special attention to windows, doors and walkways. Then, get out the glass cleaner and step ladder and clean the carriage lamps. Replace burned out bulbs. These outdoor lights are your home’s jewelry. They should sparkle.
- Bring your house some flowers. If the vase on your table has been sitting empty all year like mine, replenish it with something fresh and alive. It will remind you that it’s high time we got back to living. As the doors of our homes begin to crack open again to the long-forbidden world, bringing your house flowers is an excellent way to say thank you for being there.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home — What to Save, What to Let Go and Downsizing the Blended Home — When Two Households Become One, and coming in June What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want. You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.