Lately, I’ve been reading this book called Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West. It’s a fascinating book about what it is like working in the residence of the White House alongside the First Ladies.
The author worked for six presidents over his 28 year service at the White House. From Eleanor Roosevelt to Pat Nixon, he worked with each First Lady and President and catered to their every whim and desire. He writes about the First Family’s visions for the White House, the daily routines and events, and the challenges they faced while living there.
J.B. West writes about the vision each First Lady brought to the White House and how the residence, entertainment, procedures, and events that took place during her time there reflected that vision.
Reading about how each First Lady had different characteristics she brought to the White House got me thinking…what are the characteristics I bring to my house? What would a “Fuller White House” look like?
Now, let’s be real, it’s unlikely I’ll ever live in the White House. But I do have domain over the home I live in, no matter where it happens to be. How does my home reflect my personality, hopes, dreams and desires to the outside world and the visitors that enter?
Casting the Vision
Once I started thinking about this idea, I made a list (because I love lists). My list was of things that people would feel and perceive when they came to my home. Words like clean, tidy, organized, fun, and obvious there are kids in the house, made this list.
Then I put down things that I wanted my family to feel and inherently understand about living here and how I run my home. Things like I run a tight ship, lots of laughter, take responsibility for your own stuff, and overwhelmingly full of grace made this list.
Once I had my lists, I did a little brainstorming session and walked around my house. First, I put on the hat of my kids and husband. I put myself in their shoes and wondered how closely my list of how I want our home to feel matched up with how they actually might feel on a regular basis.
I imagined different scenarios that take place during the day and how the outcomes of those scenarios match up with how I want the environment to feel in our home. I wrote down anything that popped into my mind when I put myself in their shoes – good or bad – and planned to come back to it later. After all, this is brainstorming time so anything goes.
Then I did the same exercise wearing the hat of a friend coming over. I asked myself, how do I host guests and visitors to our home? Do my actions make them feel how I want guests to feel? Again, I wrote down anything that popped into my mind.
The last thing I did was to look at the appearance of our home. Did the decorations, wall art, pillows, furniture placement, toys, etc. look like I want it to look? I jotted down some things I might want to change.
Making The Vision Your Reality
Now that I had my lists of what I wanted to change, I needed to go back through, decide what I wanted to actually change and determine the best way to go about it.
The decorating changes I wanted to make were the fun parts. I revamped bookshelves, swapped throw pillows, moved some plants around, decluttered some knick knacks and dreamed about someday making big changes like new paint or throw rugs. I told myself I couldn’t spend any money and had to use things already in our house, so it became a bit of a game to walk around and find things in one part of the house and try them out somewhere else.
The next (and also fairly easy) part was thinking through how visitors feel when they come over. I made a more final list of things I wanted to do whenever we have people over, or even when a friend/neighbor stops by. Where do I invite them in to? What do I offer them? Where do we sit or stand? Am I annoyed and try to wrap up conversation to get back to what I was doing or do I be the hostess I desire to be? Things like that were on my list.
The last (and hardest) part was thinking through the changes I wanted to make with my family. How did I need to behave with my kids so that they would understand I run a tight ship? How can I convey personal responsibility for each person’s own stuff? How can I laugh and have more fun on a regular basis? The last one is a real challenge for me…I tend to get way over consumed with my to-do lists.
I decided to write down all the changes I wanted to make. It was a fairly lengthy list, folks. Changing everything was too overwhelming, so I decided to start with two things I could do that would get me closer to my vision. I’ve been focusing on those two things and it makes me feel great making progress towards my end goal.
Once I feel like I’ve mastered those two, I’ll pick two more and so on.
Change is Hard
As moms, we get in habit ruts. We do the same thing each day for so many years that we don’t think about the why or what we are doing. It’s much easier to keep going than to stop, reflect, and think through what we do.
While the days with kids in the house feel long, the years feel short. They’re only home for a blink when you think about the span of your lifetime. The imprint we leave on them – the values, behaviors, and environment they live in – will impact generations.
Make your home the kind of place you want it to be. Have fun making your vision your new reality.