As some of you know, I recently moved. Despite my copious complaining and a ridiculous amount of packing tape, it wasn’t the Herculean effort I made it out to be. I threw things in boxes, I occasionally labeled said boxes, and I rented and drove a moving truck for the very first time.
The real excitement came after I moved in and started setting up the new place. This basically involved moving around countertop appliances as if they were commas, and wise discernment over where to put the silverware.
Finally, the last box was unpacked, and I was finished. Or so I thought.
“I love it,” said my beau as he took stock of my new abode. “But it kind of looks like a serial killer lives here.”
I stopped mid-coffee slurp. “I’m sorry?”
He gestured at the barren tabletops, the blank walls, the naked shelves. “There aren’t any photos or personal stuff. No sense of your humanity, who you love, what matters to you.”
He was right.
Other than a few items in my office (and the chloroform dish towel), there was nothing that offered a glimpse into my personhood. No archival shots of marching band practice. No awkward school photos of my children. No kid artwork. No useless knickknacks impulsively purchased while on vacation.
It was as if I didn’t exist.
I contemplated this dearth of personalization. I wasn’t a blank slate. I’d made good use of my fifty-some years on the planet. I’d lived, lost, and loved. I’d had home perms. I wanted my interior design to match my internal landscape.
So I unearthed cherished tchotchkes. I dug through photos and retrieved old favorites. I ordered recent photos that reflected my new life.
In short, I doubled-down on décor that reflects who I am, right down to my overfondness for Monty Python and mockumentaries.
This exercise called to mind the importance of setting. In addition to grounding the reader, creating atmosphere, and providing a stage for the plot to play out, setting–especially one that’s defined by a character–can offer a glimpse into a character’s mind and heart. A character whose home is chockablock with dolphin figurines is likely different from one who favors lava lamps and beaded room dividers–or one who has nothing personal at all (which may or may not mean she’s a serial killer).
Post-revamp, my house looks less serial killer-y. Best of all, I finally feel truly at home, in every sense of the word.
Dear friends, what makes where you live feel like home? Do you have a photo, memento, or keepsake that says something about you? And where is the “right” place to store silverware?