The first time I went to our parish priest’s house, I was very nervous. Every week he railed against the evils of money in his sermon and I knew he worked a good job when he wasn’t preaching. The fear of walking into his home and finding it fancily furnished with high end furniture was a real fear. It was a pivotal moment for me on whether or not I was in or out with the whole church thing. But when I walked in, I saw immediately that the furniture was used. The home was simply decorated with books, icons, and various items that reflected the family’s Palestinian/Russian heritage. It was welcoming and homey and I was all in. The message was clear–money and possessions were secondary to the family’s primary value…the gospel. I wanted our home to reflect our values as clearly as I saw them here.
People’s houses say a lot about who they are. It tells you what their values are. If you walk into a house with designer layouts and tons of expensive possessions, chances are that person’s values are about money and image. If you walk into a house that’s covered with pictures of their children and family–that person probably values their family. That’s why it’s fun to visit other people’s houses and get a feel for who they are as people.
I started watching the show Fixer Upper recently and got completely addicted. Like, binge watched. I couldn’t stop until I was finished with all three seasons available on Hulu. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to update our house…which we had not touched since we moved in eight years ago. We’d always talked about doing something like painting or getting new floors, etc, but we never got around to it. Minimalism had helped me accept the imperfections in our home and to be content but after watching this show, it was gone. I had fallen down the rabbit hole of consumerism and was determined to do something at any cost.
What I really wanted to do was paint. But the trouble is that when you do these sorts of “small” changes, it can quickly escalate in other things….like new wall decor, new furniture, new light fixtures, etc. I did my best to keep things on the cheap…Goodwill and Walmart were my go-to sources for purchase. And when we finished, it looked great…but the funny thing was that I didn’t feel any happier than I did before we painted. It was nice but I still felt empty. I began questioning why it was that I actually wanted to change things.
After further reflection, I realized what my real trouble was. I never wanted to be a suburban housewife. I wanted to be a hip globe trotter a la Colin Wright. I once ran into a friend at Target and he said, “You looked so suburban I almost didn’t recognize you.” It was intended as a joke but it crawled into my soul and stayed there. I cannot be associated with these women who strut around in their active wear because they can’t be bothered to dress themselves. I cannot be the boring, bland suburbanite soccer mom that is mocked in stereotypes. I had to prove it. And I was going to do it by updating my house to be the hip, cool place I wanted it to be.
Except that this did not reflect my true values. Aesthetics are important to me, but they are definitely minor values…as they are also to my husband. We discussed what it is we want people to see and feel when they come into our home and we both wanted the same thing…we want our home to be warm and welcoming and comfortable…not cold and untouchable like an art gallery. What is truly important to me is knowledge, my family, and my church (not necessarily in that order). Money is not my value and I certainly do not want anyone to walk into my house and think that money is our first priority.
A coat of paint is not so bad. We’ll probably finish painting the interior of the house now that we’ve started. But at least now I recognize that it is not going to cure whatever insecurity I have about my station in life. It’s not going to make me cool (and seriously, I’ve never been cool, so why try and start now?) and it’s not going to change who I am–a suburban housewife with a knack for writing and an obsession with research. It’s just paint.