These renovation shows have a lot to answer for.
While they are promoted as ‘family entertainment’, my experience is that they are more a form of frustration and torture.
Let’s make it clear — I’m not talking about the process of knocking down walls, decisions on tiles, or colour schemes, or what size couch to put in the living room. To me, that seems to be the easy bit!
I’m not even referring to the unrealistic deadlines, building mishaps and backstabbing that goes on.
Oh no. I’m referring to the finished product. These beautifully finished, furnished homes that are fit for the pages of a magazine. And how that causes many of us to feel, when we compare our house to theirs.
Sure it’s nice to see how they have decorated their lounge room. I mean, it’s a novel idea, limiting the décor to an expensive couch, enormous rug and some designer drapes. Oh, and don’t forget the ‘quirky’ finishing touches when it comes to lighting and wall art. But where is the wine-stained carpet patch?
As for the colour co-ordinated, neat-as-a-pin furnished kids rooms with plenty of storage and a neatly made bed, go right ahead and rub that in our faces. What happened to the lego-covered floor that you have to navigate through in the middle of the night? And where are the dirty socks?
Who has a home like that?
I don’t know about you, but my experience of the ‘average Australian family home’ is a far cry from what is flashed on our TV screens each night.
Looking at my lounge room right now, we have an assortment of items that would never grace the pages of a home decorating magazine. Along with the usual suspects (couches, book cases, TV, etc.), we have a mismatched bean-bag that no longer fits in my son’s bedroom. It is bright red, while the rest of the colour scheme is green and cream. Then there is my daughter’s music stand, a large box of Barbies, with a plethora of plastic arms and legs sticking out of it that resemble an echidna (like a hedgehog for you non-Australian readers). Beside the Barbie box is a range of Barbie cars, a dollhouse, and a princess castle. Underneath one of the couches is a large collection of lego that really needs to be stored in my son’s room. We also have a guitar shoved in the corner that no one plays anymore. Various DVDs ranging from (yep, you guessed it) Barbie and Disney Princess movies, through to Wreck it Ralph and Top Gear, are strewn across the couch. The crowning glory is a little grey-that-used-to-be-pink rabbit, with no ears and no stuffing left, called “Flippy”, who is propped up next to the DVDs.
That’s just my lounge room. Don’t even ask me about my daughter’s bedroom. The bookcase and bedside table is covered in trinkets and things that have ‘special meaning’. To my eyes, old lolly wrappers and torn bits of paper are really fit for the bin. But what would I know? In all honesty, a mini-skip is pretty much required for her room.
Some days I live in fear of people ‘dropping in’ and needing to use the bathroom. Who knows if the kids have flushed the toilet or not. Not to mention the toothpaste that is smeared all around the bathroom sink and sometimes on the floor.
I could spend all day picking up, putting away and cleaning my house. Just to keep it looking presentable. But in as little as 30 minutes, the two little whirlwinds who are my children can have it looking like a tip again. Sometimes I think, “What’s the point?”.
Some days it can be quite depressing.
While the idea of renovating and starting with a ‘blank canvas’ (like they do on TV) sounds exciting and glamorous, we don’t really have the time, money or energy to commit to that. No doubt that blank canvas will be filled with basketballs, tennis racquets, an abundance of art and craft supplies, and more Barbies, before too long anyway.
Last week, I was feeling particularly disheartened by the seemingly endless mess and untidiness. So I made a cup of coffee, and indulged in a fantasy. I imagined the house as I wanted it. Everything in its place, no mess, no huge amount of ironing needing to be done. Just neat and tidy and perfect.
I imagined walking from room to room, admiring the very perfectness of it all.
But something was missing.
My children weren’t there.
That’s when I realised that the ‘perfect home’ that I was after probably wouldn’t happen until they had left home — and taken all their mess and chaos with them. That made me feel sad.
And then another realisation — that while they are the source of untidiness and mess (and sometimes frustration), they are two of the most important accessories to my home.
All of a sudden, I didn’t really want the neat and tidy house if it meant they weren’t there. The perfectly ordered house that I was walking through in my imagination was just that — an empty, orderly house. Not a home. There was no laughter, no cuddles, no pens and paper littered across the dining table. There were no little people bringing me drawings and letters that they had written. They were gone.
It dawned on me then, that perhaps I already have the perfect home. Sure, there are crumbs on, around and under the table after most meals, and it seems like I am never up-to-date with the ironing. School bags are dumped in the family room and wet towels are not always hung up.
However, what we have created here is a home where people live and love and create, and chill out. My children have their own space (be it messy) where they feel safe and accepted and are allowed to be kids. They have their toys and games and electronic devices. They have two parents who love them and who provide for all their needs. They have a place where they can create memories. Most importantly, they don’t care what our house looks like.
So for a while at least, I will try to remember that a home is more important than the perfect-looking house. While dirty tissues under the bed are slightly annoying at times, it is not really worth getting upset about.
Our house will never feature on the pages of a magazine but I hope that it exhibits signs of life, that it can be a safe-haven for our family and a place where people can come, and feel at ease.
Just phone first, so I can make sure the toilet is clean!