What we call a “homelessness problem” is truly a “houselessness problem” mostly caused by disfunctionality in our social and economic systems. We also, however, do have a huge, homelessness problem, in the sense that houses are less and less places where people find affectionate and harmonious relations with place and people.
For years now I have been teaching people how to build natural houses. However, in time, I have come to understand that the real reason people come to take a workshop is because they want to create a “home” and their first step in that process is learning how to build a “house”.
Our homes are very dear to us. They can be seen as one of the most important confluences of our physical and spiritual world. A home is a house that gives meaning to the lives of the people in it.
I believe that there is a lot of confusion and misleading propaganda surrounding the word “home”. Building professionals, realtors, home improvement centers and magazines give us the impression that homes can be bought, that a home is actually a product.
In reality, a home cannot be bought, it is not a thing, nor is it ever finished. To some degree, it would be more appropriate to talk about “home making”, which can be described as the never ending process of improving the affectionate, harmonious relationships among people and the place in which they live.
Here are 7 strategies that will help you “come home”:
1. Live in your house. Most houses are frequently empty. Everyone works or recreates away from their house. Our houses have turned into mere switchboards for our activity loaded lives. Even if our bodies occupy the house, our minds are often elsewhere, distracted by the television or computer. Just like an instrument gets better as it’s played more, so it is with the house. Look for ways to spend more time in your house to transform it into your home!
2. Bring on the homemaker. Believe it or not, homemaking takes time and dedication. Very few houses have homemakers anymore. These are the people that warm up the house with crafts, cooking, listening, gardening, organizing, laughing and more. Most of all, they have the time to do the things that appear to be non-essentials. Of course this job can (and maybe should) be shared by all occupants of the house.
3. Value your house. When asked about the value of their house, most people will come up with a dollar amount. The real value of your house is measured by the extent in which it provides a home for you. The average American moves every 5 years, often treating their house mostly as a real estate investment. Constantly being uprooted wildly disturbs the process of homemaking. The concern for resale value often negatively effects the choices made in regards to the house, which is counter productive for the home making process.
4. Stimulate harmonious family life. An empty house is bad enough, a house where people have dysfunctional relations can be worse. Make “getting along” with people who share your house one of your highest priorities. Bigger houses that provide private (bath)rooms for each person might seem like a way to go; unfortunately they just separate us more than we already were.
5. Become part of the neighborhood. The separation within our houses (everybody on their own) also takes place within our neighborhoods. Houses these days are often designed and operated in order to isolate us from our neighbors. Your house becomes more of a home as it grows to be an integral part of something larger: A collection of other homes. Create as much shared time as you can with people in your neighborhood, find common ground. Food always helps!
6. Create engaging activities. Cut down on separating activities. Do things in the house that encourage conversation, the sharing of skills and laughter like eating together, music making, games, etc.
7. Design for making a home. The layout and overall character of a house can help you make bigger strides in the above 6 points. Most houses are not designed, built, furnished or decorated for the purpose of creating a home, even though that is what we really want. The size and shape of spaces, orientation, lights, windows, color, texture, proportionality and the relation to the outside and street are all important factors to consider in designing a home. They all effect how we relate to our place and to one another.