It’s pretty common to feel unsettled and not “at home” in a new house. In this episode, we’re talking about how we bonded with homes when it didn’t come instantly.
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast, this episode is about how to bond with your home when it doesn’t come instantly. It can take months or even years to have that home feeling when you walk through the door. Keely’s here with me today filling in for Emma, who’s taking the summer off for maternity leave. I asked Keely to join me on this episode because she also had a slow bond in her home. It’s normal to have feelings of doubts or feelings of letdown or even regret when you first move into a home. It makes sense when you think about it, because buying a home is one of life’s biggest decisions. Change is hard, and when you first move in, it’s often the ugliest your house is ever going to look. It might even smell weird. So it’s all normal. Maybe you miss your old home, whatever it is, sometimes it just takes time to bond with your new home. If you’re not expecting this reaction, it can feel weird. It can even feel wrong. I know that I struggled with feeling ungrateful at one point, so hopefully this episode will help anyone who’s going through the awkward transition to feel normal and give you some practical tips for how to make your new house feel like a home as fast as possible. So Keely and I have talked about this at length, and we think that it’s like a very normal thing. So if you haven’t experienced it, then maybe this will kind of give you, like, I don’t know, like maybe you’ll have a friend who goes through it or maybe you’ll go through it at some point and you’ll be prepared for it. I know that I wasn’t whenever it happened to me for the first time was when we moved to Nashville and we moved to a house that was like much bigger. It was a very like grandma house, like it was very un-updated. And when we first spent the first night, there was like blue carpet everywhere. There was carpet in the bathrooms. And then as the months went by, it took a little while for me to bond with our new part of town to find things like, you know, moving…we moved to a new state. All of my comforts were gone. And I was like, where is my cute little wine shop? Where is my cute plant shop? Those things took time to find and they were there, but it just took time to kind of find that. And I think that at first I felt like almost like a lot of regret, like, did we make the wrong decision?
Keely: That’s tough…
Elsie: Tell me about your experience.
Keely: So we have moved around a lot. We moved seven times in the first six years of our marriage.
Keely: Yes. And all to apartments in different parts of the country. So when we came to Nashville, we bought our first home, which was so exciting. I had dreamed of our first home for many, many years. My husband and I met when we were fourteen and like I had always just like dreamed of having a home with him.
Keely: I know. And so when we were twenty-seven, it finally happened. And so you can see how I’m already having a lot of sentimental value placed into this home. So this home was…oh she was in rough shape. They fostered a lot of animals in this home. So it smelled like really intense. It was — there was bleach thrown on the walls like it was in really rough shape when we got a hold of it.
Elsie: I feel like the smell thing can really throw people off.
Keely: It can really throw people off.
Elsie: Because you don’t know until you’ve done it. You don’t know that that’s something that can be fixed.
Keely: Right. So we pretty much gutted the entire home and we did a special loan where the mortgage of your home is rolled into the renovation. So you’re paying for all of that at the same time, like every month it’s all rolled into one. So we had to have a contractor and our contractor let us down in every way imaginable, which I think is everyone’s story.
Elsie: It’s pretty common.
Keely: I don’t know anyone that’s like, oh, our contractor was amazing. Lots of like blood, sweat and tears into this very sentimental home. It was exactly how we wanted it. It was absolutely perfect in every way. My husband had — he has a Zillow obsession like a lot of people do, and he found a home that had been on the market for a couple of months. And this was about two years after we had been settled into this, our last home. And he said, I love this house. I would love to take a look at it. And I said, no, like we just redid this house, like it’s exactly how we want it. I just can’t even imagine, like, it felt like cheating on our house just to go look at this other house. And of course, I see this house and I fall in love with it. And we’re hoping to maybe someday grow our family and do foster care. And our home previously was very small. So this home was much bigger. And we just were like, OK, the price was right. We knew we could make it exactly what we wanted and we ended up buying the house, so. When we first moved in, I had major feelings of ungratefulness, like you had mentioned, because it was so much bigger than our last house and it’s a really beautiful home, but I just felt so disconnected from it, I felt like we made a mistake. We had this home that was everything we ever wanted and we left it. And it was so sad. I just knew it was going to take a long time before our new home felt like everything and more that we wanted it to be. And it just it was a bad, bad feeling. It felt regretful. It felt ungrateful. And I didn’t realize that that was a normal feeling to have that a lot of people encounter when they move into a new home. So I think now that I know that that exists, I wish I knew at the time it would have helped me cope with it a little bit better. But we were able to do some things that made it feel like home really quickly. But the smell like we can talk about that when we get there.
Elsie: What did it smell like?
Keely: Patchouli, really strong, patchouli. I think they used like a patchouli dishwasher detergent and it filled the whole house. But sometimes when I open my cabinets under the sink or I open the dishwasher, I can still smell like the faintest hint of patchouli.
Elsie: Funny. That’s random.
Keely: Yeah. I think patchouli can be a wonderful scent for some people and in moderation for me, I enjoy it, but it was extremely strong and it was just like it completely took me out of the house. Like it was like this is someone else’s house is how it felt.
Elsie: Yeah. Smells in like house shopping is like…we could do a whole episode just on that (laughs) it would be a very boring episode, but we could talk about it for a long time because it’s such a big thing. Like I can like close my eyes and remember the way different houses smelled that we toured one time, which is so strange.
Keely: Such an intense sense, like sense of smell. It can really transport you in a good way or bad way.
Elsie: Yes. Yeah, we are going to talk all about that. So, yeah, I guess just first off the top, we wanted to say like it’s OK for it to take time for you to bond with your home. It’s actually like really normal. And for my little daughter who doesn’t like change, it actually took about six months before she stopped talking about missing our previous home, which, you know, like a part of me wanted to be like this home so much better like this — we did this for you, you know, but like I think that when you’re dealing with a child, it’s easier to see this than when you’re dealing with yourself. But the best way to approach it was just to honor her feelings and let her feel sad and then know that like it’s not going to last forever. And that is — that was definitely true. It didn’t last forever. And so it’s OK if you’re an adult and you move into a house and you’re like like I kind of miss my old house or like this doesn’t feel like home yet, you know, like that feeling does not come instantly for most people. So, yeah. Let’s take a quick break and hear from our sponsors.
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Elsie: Let’s jump into ways to bond. I think this is a really, really inspirational subject. I really love this episode. So first we’re going to talk about how to make your house smell like home. This is so important. So when Emma came to visit us for the first time in our other — house where we lived for six months, she the first thing she said was, oh, this house already smells like you, which is the biggest compliment to me.
Keely: Such a compliment.
Elsie: Because that’s something that it’s it doesn’t always happen instantly. But OK, so I am a little bit — I’m like very into smells. So when we went to China both times, because you’re there for like two whole weeks, I like fully packed my essential oils like diffuser in my bag. And I do it whenever we take our long family vacation trips too. And the reason why is because it makes our bedroom or our hotel room always smell like home, which I think is really comforting. And like at least for me. And when you’re in a situation where like you’re like little bits of alone time are going to be in this room. So yeah, I think, pack a box with like all your smells and everyone’s different. Like some people love candles. If you have a certain candle then I would say like by like three or four of them, you know, just go for it. I love my essential oils. I just — like I just like how they smell. And I’m used to it now and it’s just like my thing. So I always use those.
Keely: The thing about essential oils, that’s so great too like, even if you’re not an essential oil person in the sense of like, oh, I have this blend that I diffuse all the time. Like, I love this specific oil. They can be very cleansing, like rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus…
Elsie: It’s true it can like freshen.
Keely: If you’re trying to get rid of something. I feel like lemon…those are some really good ones to kind of like drive out and kind of create a blank canvas for you if you’re trying to get rid of something from before.
Elsie: I totally agree.
Keely: Or paint fresh paint. That’s another big one. If you feel like your room smells like smoke or whatever, like.
Elsie: Yeah, yeah, I definitely agree with that. And even just like opening your windows for as long as you possibly can. In our home where we live now, we can open kind of like all the doors to the back part of our house and it feels so good. It’s the best feeling ever. So first step is to make your house smell like a home, just pack a little box with your supplies and start using them immediately, like hook up your stuff right away, especially if you have old carpet or if you have any kind of cigarette smell or anything that’s like hard for you to deal with that you can’t fix right away. Just control what you can.
Keely: Absolutely. And this is probably a no-brainer. But like, if you can before you move in and you have carpet, like, just get somebody to come clean your carpets. Like, probably, again, a no-brainer, but I really feel like if there are smells lingering from the last people, it’s really, really hard for it to feel like your home. It feels like somebody else’s house and you’re in somebody else’s house.
Elsie: I’ve never had a big problem with it. I have…when we’re touring houses a lot of times is a big problem because they’re still like pets in the home and there are still like just, you know, everyday smells that are like, wall plug-ins or like things that like someone else might love. But it’s like an aversion to you. But once we actually move in, the only time I had a big problem was the carpet house because there was so much of it. So do what you can. Do it at the speed you can. My next tip is buying flowers right away, even if your whole house is demolished or it looks like…we moved into this house without — we moved in the day after our closing day, so we moved in without any kind of renovation, which was different for us in the past we would typically renovate at least a little bit or maybe a lot before we moved in, which is great if you can, but we moved in the middle of covid times and it just was not a priority to us to renovate any room. So we moved in right away. And I think that sort of like turning your brain off to all the things you want to change is hard to do. So giving yourself little things to focus on that are happy, I think is a really good tip. Flowers, art, maybe like hang a photo, just like things that like little views of the home that are perfectly how you want it. Like if you can like, hang a curtain or you know, like just do something that’s the way you want it and then stop thinking about the things that like we still have…we’ve lived here almost a year now, but we still have things that we cannot change yet that bother me every day.
Keely: Yeah. And I think that leads really well into the next point, which is like find one corner or area that you can fully decorate and just enjoy it. And this like I can really relate to because our house like it, it just felt like so bare and so sad. And we did our main bedroom and we felt like we can like go in there and retreat and get away from all the stress of what’s going on in the rest of the house.
Elsie: Mm hmm. Yeah. This. Yeah, the doing one corner. One area first is a really good tip for people who are going through renovation or you’re moving into a home where you can’t do everything you want to do yet and you’re going to be living with like rooms you hate, which is a valid thing. But I think that if you can find something to appreciate and focus really quickly, that’s really good. So maybe that means like a phase one, or maybe it means painting a room or even just like making one view look good so that you can have like one little spot, like we always like to have our one little spot for Instagrams, you know? (laughs) I think that that’s a really great tip. The next one is to pack a comfort box. So I did this for my kids, but I also did it for myself. And my box was very weird. It had crystals, it had the oils and then it had a candle. My husband likes candles, so we had a candle. It had a few like family photos and little like photo books, just like things that feel very nostalgic. Pack a box with just those that you can pull out quickly, because a lot of times it’s hard to like get through all your boxes and you might live months like I have without unpacking all your boxes. So I think packing the things you want to unpack right away in one box all together is a really good way to approach that.
Keely: Great tip. Yeah, because if you’ve got stuff in different boxes, you’re digging through those boxes trying to find it. That’s not fun.
Elsie: Yeah, my next step is especially great if you have little kids, but I would do it for absolutely anyone in any phase of life is stock your fridge on day one and I mean go like full HAM. So unleash yourself at Kroger and make your fridge a delightful place to the open. (laughs) Why not? This is an easy one.
Keely: Absolutely. That is such a huge part of feeling like you’re home is feeling like you can nourish yourself. I wish I would have done that.
Elsie: Yeah have treats! Becuase you’re probably going to be unpacking a lot and unpacking is like for me it’s like if I don’t have a treat or a reward waiting then I’m not going to be as motivated.
Keely: I feel like every place we’ve ever lived in, we end up having like a frozen pizza as our first meal in the house. And I’m just like, never again. Yeah, I’m not doing that again.
Elsie: Like, we always have pizza the first night and I love it. I love it though. It’s like but like ordering pizza. But…
Keely: Oh yeah. Totally different. (laughs)
Elsie: I love the feeling, like…and if you paint like ordering pizza I think that’s like such a nostalgic little…
Keely: It’s like a Disney movie!
Elsie: It kind of is!
Keely: Up! That’s what it reminds me of.
Keely: Except without the sad parts.
Elsie: Yes. The next tip is to take a photo with the moving boxes and basically start taking photos right away. You’ll love having these to look back on later. I think a lot of us have the tendency to avoid taking pictures of things that we don’t feel are perfect or we don’t feel or finished. But honestly, that’s most of life. And if we don’t, you know, appreciate our home in its transition, sometimes you’re waiting too long to appreciate it. And like sometimes like in the case of my house, where I only lived six months, I would have just like never gotten there, you know?
Keely: I really wish we would have done this. I was very sparse with the photos — like a lot of the photos that I have to refer back to are listing photos of the house, because, like you said…
Elsie: A lot of people have that!
Keely: …it wasn’t perfect. And so I didn’t want to take photos of it because it kind of depressed me a little bit. But, man, I wish I would have had those because every little thing you do really adds up as far as decorating your space and making it your home. And you really wish you had those photos to look back on to say, look at what this looked like and look what it looks like now. Like it’s almost like before and after picture, but it’s deeper than that. Like it just kind of helps you to see that you’re you’re not like treading water, like you’re actually making progress.
Elsie: Yeah, I agree. Even if you don’t want to post the pictures for the love of God, just take them and just keep them in your phone. And in a year, you’ll…I love looking back on our listing photos and the photos I took the first day before we moved in now that it’s been a year, because everything is so different and at first you feel like it’s overwhelming and it’s like never going to happen. And then one day you wake up and your house is like halfway done or one day, hopefully all the way done. So let’s stop right there and take a quick break for this week’s sponsor:
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Next is to hang something, (laughs) break the seal, just hang something. It doesn’t have to be…just like an art print art from your kids, a family photo, whatever you have, hang it up, a mirror and make a hole in that wall. And then the other thing is to get plants! I think that getting a new plant is like the perfect little christening for your new home because you’re bringing something like alive. It’s like almost like bringing a new family member in. And I know it’s in a cheesy way, but I let my kids name the plants now and talk to them. And it has, I swear to God, it’s improved their lifespan. Medina told me that tip in her episode.
Keely: That’s a great tip.
Elsie: It makes a difference. It’s weird, but true.
Keely: I think another fun plant bonding thing with a new home is you probably have different areas of light in your new home, like you may be able to grow a plant or house a plant that you would have never been able to at your previous home.
Elsie: It’s true!
Keely: So going shopping and being like, oh, I have a bright — I have a bright, diffused light area. Now I can get this ficus Audrey or whatever I’ve been wanting forever. So that’s kind of another fun way to maybe like look on the bright side of your new space is like all the new opportunities.
Elsie: Yep, yep, yep. So the next thing is to start a new tradition right away. It can be as simple as our tradition of eating pizza, sitting on the floor on the first night. Let the kids paint the wall, if you’re going to be painting them later, just let them, like paint stuff on the walls or color on the walls. It’s fun. Update the height chart, hang up the kids’ art. Just do those little things that make it feel like a home right away.
Keely: That’s special.
Elsie: Ok, and then I wanted to just kind of mention one of our kids has a really hard time with change. And these are a few of the things that have helped her. The first one is to just let her talk about how she’s sad. She missed our previous home for almost a whole year and it was really bad for six months to where she almost like thought we could go back to it. And instead of trying to, like, talk her out of those feelings, we would just like listen and just let her love that house more. And eventually it passed. And I think that it’s like an extremely, extremely normal way to feel. And as adults, we probably feel those feelings, too. But we sort of like repress them and don’t admit them as freely as a five year old does.
Elsie: So, yeah, that’s really good. And then another thing that was helpful with our kids was just kind of taking them through the rooms and explaining to them, like, we’re going to have birthday parties here, we’re going to have Christmas, we’ll have a Christmas tree right there. We’ll have a pool party. We’ll have a movie night in this room. Just kind of talk about, like, all the happy memories that you can make together and then start making them. Even if you don’t have kids, just do it for yourself. I think that that’s a good way to feel like you’re bonding, like you’re not going to feel a bond on the first day. Maybe!
Keely: Maybe you will, yeah!
Elsie: Maybe some of us very sentimental people will. But even for me, like moving into my dream house, there’s still like a sense of loss of the house where you’ve built all your memories. Like…
Keely: Absolutely…I think that’s what it comes down to, is mourning a place where you have so many special memories and like such rich nostalgia.
Elsie: Yeah. Oh, OK. So even when you feel sad, celebrate how far you’ve come each step of the way. If you’re having a hard time, I highly recommend these mini celebrations, they get me through. Kind of like every struggle I have in my whole life (laughs) can be cured with Uber Eats or, you know, a can of champagne or whatever celebration thing feels right for you. All right. Everything we mentioned is linked in this week’s show notes. You can find that at Abeautifulmess.com/podcast. And you can also see all of the show notes for all of our episodes there. They’re full of links and they also each have a transcript. So if you need to, you can read the entire episode as well. And we have our new hotline. The number for that is 417-893-0011. You can call us with any question and we might play your question and answer it on a future episode.