Will You Be “Home” for the Holidays?

place social connection Nov 22, 2022

Over dinner, I asked a friend what she was doing for Thanksgiving. Recently widowed, her life has been disrupted, her routines broken. The loss of her husband has created and revealed gaps in her life. She is excited to spend the holiday with her dad at her house in Florida as he will help fill an important void at an important time. Because she also maintains a residence in Illinois, I asked if her house in Florida is home. She responded, “Ryan, that’s the trouble, I don’t know where my home is.”


Place vs. Home


Place and home are the not the same thing. According to Websters Dictionary, place is limited to physical attributes as in a “physical environment”. Place is a composite that includes our country, region, metropolitan area, neighborhood, streets and physical dwelling, such as a house.

Home is much more. It has economic, psychological, and social dimensions. It is a feeling. We are at our best when we have an attachment to home. Living somewhere but never having a sense of home can be reason enough to move. Home should inspire us and be a pathway to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Home has a time dimension, as well. Our connection to home can change without necessarily moving. Friends and neighbors move. Interests shift. Household chores can become too onerous. Physical limitations limit enjoyment or, worse, present risks to our health in an existing home. The perfect home for one point in time can be an awful place later on.

We all live in a place, but how many of us live in our home? In a sense, many of us may be “homeless”.


 Your childhood house may not be home for you today (Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash)


Home is Often Neither Binary Nor Static


When we meet someone, a common question is “where is home”? The social convention is to talk about where you are from. Seen through this lens, it suggests that home is fixed. It is limited to your origin story. For those that are born, raised and settle in the same place, it is an easy question to answer. However, in our transient society, living in different places is more the norm. There can be a host of locations to consider as home. Or, more accurately, home is a composite of places and feelings.

Further, we may not be fair to ourselves if we believe there is only one, fixed answer. And, if there is, should we see ourselves as failures if we’re not living at home?

A more helpful aspiration may be to focus on how we can make each place that we live more home-like.


 Art, photos and furniture can help a place feel more home-like 

Some Tips For Making Your Current Place More Home-Like

There are always opportunities to make your current place more home-like. Here are several tips:

One, look for ways to showcase art, pictures and furniture that evoke feelings of home, family, and friends. My wife and I have had three distinct place-based chapters: one on the West Coast, another on the East Coast and now in the middle of the country. We have artwork of each house prominently displayed to elicit memories of those life chapters. To make our many family pictures more accessible, we’re creating a gallery in our upstairs bedroom hallway of our most joyful memories. We also have a large kitchen table from our prior house featured in our current house. By bringing together positive emotions from our homes of the past, these touches make our current house feel more like home.

Second, invite others to your place. Home has inherently social dimensions. As Robert Frost puts it, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Make your place a welcoming spot for friends and neighbors and others are likely to reciprocate. This creates “social capital” that is valuable to everyone. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough: an invitation for coffee is far easier to pull off than a gourmet dinner. Have a bias towards action.

Third, create more memories in your current place. Lean towards having holidays and special celebrations at your place, even if it’s not perfect. If you always look to spend the holidays away from your place, it may never become home. Committing to hosting for the holidays may also create that urge to do more to make your place more home-like.  


Making Home Not Just for the Holidays


If you are not “home” for the holidays, use this time to reflect on what home can be or look like for you. It could create that spark to create or find a better place.

My friend and I made a commitment to catch up after the holidays. I hope to be helpful to her and unpack ways in which she can find the best home for her next chapter in life. It may not involve moving; she may find that spending Thanksgiving with her father in her current house may be a step closer to making it home.




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