I Decorate In Deep Shades of We Live Here

In a quick snapshot of my house, there is a bedspread on the kitchen table waiting to be returned, a can of hair spray on the counter beside a messy pile of random papers, an extra coffee-table-turned-dog-bed in the middle of the living room because I've been too lazy to carry it to the basement, a collection of rubber ducks and an elephant on top of said extra coffee table, a plush Barney keeping my black velvet slippers company under the other coffee table, a bin of toys overturned on the sofa, a clipboard sticking between the sofa cushions, a pair of leather work gloves under a stack of notebooks on the recliner, a book on the floor, a pot the stove, dishes in the sink, and the trash is overflowing. That's what I can see, sitting on the couch in the living room. It sounds like a disaster up in here, but I'm sure my home looks very much like your home. We may have to exchange a few things, but the reality is that we don't live in magazines.

I have a theory that magazines show beautiful and spotless homes to show the world what life could be like if you spent all your time working to pay for that gorgeous home and never actually lived in it. I consider it a reality check.

As a newlywed, I spent all my free time cleaning the house. This was partly due to the fact that I didn't have a job the first winter we were married, and that winter was in Alaska. It's not like being outdoors was the best option available to me. When it's -40, you don't really want to be out enjoying the beauty of the landscape. Although I did walk to the library at the end of our street frequently. I'm not a total pansy. My house was very clean, and it was so nice.

And then we had kids.

If you have kids, you know this story. It goes like this: We work hard accumulating nice things to fill our home with, we have kids, we buy brightly colored plastic furniture and baby gear, All The Toys is now the color of our carpet, we no longer have nice things. And yet, somehow, the ending is a happy one.

This is one of life's great anomalies. Nice things are just that, and I love them as much as the next person does. But the kids that are the reason we have no nice things any longer make life so much more full and rich than mere things ever could. So our house is a disaster area every single day. So the dust piles thickly in the corners and under furniture. So I lose things frequently because the kids carry things off and nobody ever thinks to look for the missing fork behind the bathroom door. But in return I have a home filled with laughter. I have noise levels bordering on deafening because the family is all home together tonight. I have chaos and disorder because I allow my kids to live here, too, and not just pass through my museum space to their own bedrooms. My home needs dusted on any given day, and the toilets are always in need of a good scrubbing (again) and clutter threatens to overtake us in our sleep on occasion, but the love here is something that we value far more than we ever valued things.

So while I'm looking at magazine photos of beautiful homes with pristine rooms, I am thankful that we aren't afraid to live in the space that we call home, and invite our children to live here with us.

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