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An Empty House Is Not A Home

October 23, 2014

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I adore my house.

I mean, I really, really like it.

From the moment I walked through the front door, so many years ago, I have always felt as if the house hugged me.

It's old and sweet and full of charm, constructed during an era of craftsmanship and care. It's a short walk from the beach and located in a great neighborhood, in a town I love.

My husband and I have spent years updating it, decorating it, enjoying every minute within its walls raising our family.

Stone Fireplace And Table Set For Two

It's my sanctuary, it's my base and it brings me great joy to just be here.

It's home.

The mere mention of moving has always been dismissed. It's never been an option. As a matter of fact, I've had crazy discussions with people trying to defend my belief that if I were to win millions of dollars, I would not move.

Move for what?

A larger house doesn't buy happiness. I am happy here, this is the dream home. My dreams don't have to match those popularized by people who do crave a bigger house.

This is it.

This is the perfect house, the forever house, no matter what...and no one could ever convince me otherwise...until this weekend when my home was just a house.

My family went out of town and for a myriad of reasons, I was unable to get away with them. I stayed at home.

I knew that I would miss everyone.

I mean honestly, my husband and I are homebodies. We have left the kids for one night, maybe two, but in nearly two decades, I have not been separated from my kids, or my husband, for more than 48 hours at a pop.

This time, they were gone for five days. Five days is a very long time, but I was prepared. I had lists of things to keep me...distracted. I was going to finish sewing pillows, decorate for Halloween, clean out a few cabinets, read, write, visit with friends.

Mostly, though, I was kind of excited to spend time at home.

Summertime Kitchen Decor

Rooms would be cleaned and stay clean. There wouldn't be the endless pile of dishes in the sink, the daily drop of clothes on the floor or the baskets and baskets of laundry to wash, dry, fold and put away. Bliss.

Or so I thought.

Now, you already know where I'm going with this, I'm sure...and yes, I have read all the cutesy quotes about a family and love making a house into a home.

Moreover, I have lost very precious people in my life, my dad when I was just twelve, and my mom more recently, so I know what's really important.

Yet, I was so completely unprepared for the amount of cold disinterest I had in the house almost the minute after my family left the premises.

It was actually rather shocking.

At first, I puttered around, trying to decide what mess to tackle, but then the kids started emailing me from the plane.

Mom, it's so cool, here's what we're doing, here are some pictures of us...blah, blah, blah...I read every word with bated breath, it was all infinitely more important than anything in the house.

When the emails stopped, the house was quiet again.

I went about my business, but I wasn't really enjoying myself. So I gave up. I left. I left my sanctuary. and I escaped to my sister's house, a place filled with family. It was lovely and her house looked so pretty and warm.

It smelled like Sunday dinner and good times. I went home after dark.

My house just smelled empty.

I looked around and realized that I was never tied to my house.

Love Banner Made From Puzzle Pieces In Kitchen

My adoration was misplaced. I adore my family, who just happens to live in this house with me. As cliché as it sounds, their presence is what makes this house a home, it's what drives me to decorate, to feather my nest.

It is from them that I draw my strength.

Not the house.

As a matter of fact, while they were gone, I got sick.

Really, really sick.

The doctor said it was viral, rest he said.

So I did and it did nothing.

For days I was comatose on the couch eating Triscuits. I had no energy and couldn't do anything.

Yet amazingly, on the morning of the day they were coming home, I had enough energy to clean the house, make a huge dinner, complete with a homemade cheesecake, do laundry, change sheets and shower.

I did have to rest at times throughout the afternoon, but I felt better than I had in days.

By night's end, with everyone tucked into bed, the rooms completely destroyed, dirty laundry and suitcases everywhere and my toes curled up against my husband's, my house, my beautiful, charming, sweet house hugged me goodnight.

And suddenly, for the first time in five days, I was home all over again.

Kim Signature

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  1. I loved your story "An Empty House Is Not A Home" So true that things don't make you happy, people you love make you happy!

  2. Love this post! Our youngest child leaves home next year and I know I'm actually going to miss the stinky socks in the living room.

  3. It's so funny, Hope, I've always known that it goes fast and I should be enjoying the kids and their mess...and I do. I just never thought that the house would lose its magic so completely without them. I always thought that being home would comfort me. Live and learn! I hope your next year goes by very slowly! ;)

  4. Thank you, Sherri! I completely agree with's all about the people! In high school and college when friends would ponder where to go and what to do, I used to say that it didn't matter where we were, as long as you're with the right people, you could have fun in the driveway. :) Thanks for taking time to comment!

  5. We both love our home of 10 years. Just us, as all children were grown, with families of their own before we moved here. My Hubs still works a very long shift, and is gone from 1 pm to 12 midnight. You would think I'd get SO much done during my extended days, but for some reason, I'm always more productive on the weekends when he's home. It's just more enjoyable with him around ... even when he just sits in his shop & watches football all day! He's still here, and that makes everything feel right! Happy to say he is retiring in 36 days! Yay.
    Really enjoyed your post today (but always do :)

  6. Beautifully written, Kim. In the words of Dionne Warwick's song A House Is Not a Home:
    A chair is still a chair
    Even when there's no one sitting there
    But a chair is not a house
    And a house is not a home
    When there's no one there to hold you tight
    And no one there you can kiss good night

    Hugs, Nancy

  7. Oh Kim, I mean this....this should be an article in a HOME design magazine to put a jolt in the readers. I understand exactly what you are experiencing. When my husband has to leave me for business trips (he hates to leave me, and I too don't like for him to be gone), I usually say, "WOO HOO! I'm going to read, write, do this..." but only after about two hours of him being gone, I am lonely. We too love our home that we fixed up together, but without him there, it's not the same. What would I do, God forbid, if I was alone....maybe change the dark sofa he loves to a lighter shade, but after the initial joy of having a lighter shade of sofa wears away, I would still be alone. This is a very well-written draft for what I think could be an article in a home magazine. People need to know that even if they don't have their dream home, they can still be happy, and I AM.

    Big hugs to you as you enjoy the coziness of family dearest Kim! Anita

  8. Oh Kim... I just swallowed a huge lump in my throat. This was really beautiful. Said SO WELL.

  9. Nancy, believe it or not, that is one of my all time favorite songs. I know every word by heart! It's so sad, but it's just so beautiful and such a true sentiment. xoxo

  10. Sally, you are so kind, thank you. This one put a lump in my throat, too. ;)

  11. There's just a different energy in the house when your family is home, I agree, Cheryl...even if they are just watching tv!! I hope that those 36 days pass by very quickly and you can start enjoying your time together! How exciting!! :)

  12. Anita, your kind words really touch me. I have never been a material girl, far from it actually, but for some reason this particular house has always held such a special place in my heart. I expected it to provide me with a sense of comfort when my family was gone...I thought, well, at least I'll be in my beloved home. I was truly shocked at how cold and empty it suddenly felt. You are correct, that the dream home is wherever your loved ones reside! :) Thanks for the warm wishes Anita!!

  13. I understand this so much! My husband has always had to travel for his job. I miss him quickly once he's out the door. Now that our kids are grown I'm here alone sometimes. For a few hours it's nice and then I want someone to come home. At the very core of my being, I'm a wife and mom. Without that I'm kind of lost!

  14. So true dear Kim! After all is said and done, love conquers all. ENJOY! Anita

  15. Wow Kim this is beautiful and heartwarming. It's amazing what we think we want until we have it. Peace and quiet, time to ourselves, no laundry, cooking or chauffeuring sounds good, but sounds like the quiet was deafening and lonely. Amazing how you felt better on the day of their return and how you found the energy to strip beds, cook and clean. Sometimes family is the best medicine.
    Wonderful article and sure hits the mark about what makes a house a home !

  16. Such a lovely post. I had one go away to college and now she's back and the other left and he comes home every weekend. The house is so quiet when they are both gone (my daughter travels for work now) and then when they are home it's a cheerful chaos. I know I'll only have a couple more years of this and then my house will settle itself. I'm already planning to make a move to a new house that will reflect my new life when both my baby birds fly this crazy coop!

  17. Now that's probably the best definition of what a good marriage and happy family and home means that I've ever read! :)

    What a great post.

  18. Deb, your comment just totally made my day. I printed it out and put in on my fridge. I guess when you boil it down, that's what the post was really all about...

  19. Debbie, thanks so much for leaving a comment. How luck you are to still have some of that "cheerful chaos" to cherish...enjoy every precious minute of it! :)

  20. Thank you, Tracy. I really appreciate your comment and your insight. I have always know that I prefer the messy rumblings of a full house to the still of an empty one. I just really thought that being home, in my favorite place, would bring me some measure of comfort. Boy, was I wrong!

  21. I agree with you 100%, Stacey! I have always said that I was born to be a wife and mother.

  22. First, I am sorry you weren't well, but it sounds like you are better.

    Second, yes, family is the essential accessory to any home. I am glad that everyone is back and everything is right with the world.

  23. This is a beautiful post, Kim, and I totally agree with you. Each stage of our adult life has to go through an adjustment period that we usually have to work into before it seems right. When your children are babies, it feels like you will be changing diapers & putting food in little mouths forever. Then they go to school, and that's a whole different stage. When the last ones leaves the nest, there are usually 2 stages you go through -- one is that of elation that you survived and that you have helped them reach a certain level of maturity (hopefully) and independence. The second part of that is a feeling of emptiness, sadness and a longing to hear those sibling spats. But you will survive that and realize that you now have the freedom to create a home for your spouse and yourself, and it won't feel empty, just different.

  24. Kim,

    You are a very lucky lady to have a house that you love, but a smart cookie to realize that when that house, no matter how charming, is void of loved ones, and all that that entails, can quickly become a trap of loneliness and misery. Enjoy the sweetness of yours, my friend!


  25. What are you trying to do here, make us all cry!!!!!! LOL No seriously Kim, this was such a heartfelt post. I enjoyed every word. You really have a beautiful way of sharing your stories. Your writing should be published. Then I could come to all your book signings!! You obviously have a great family. They are so lucky to have a mother and wife who adores them.

  26. You made me cry when I read this. I agree wholeheartedly! Family and those we love make all the difference in the world. Love that you inspired me when you shared your heart on this post.

  27. When my husband would go out of town on business I was always so excited. It was my time to work like a crazy lady on some project I had been dreaming up so that he would come home and be thrilled with my handiwork.'re so right...if it were just for me it wouldn't have been so meaningful. One year he went to Russia for 5 weeks. Five. whole. weeks. That was quite a few years ago. We could communicate via email. He would write a message...then someone would type it and send it to me...and then I would return a that individual who would drive 4 hours to get it to him. It was better than nothing...even though I heard from him only 3 times (not his choice). During that time... I was pretty mopey, too. A good friend dropped off three books for me to read. I read one a day. Yeah... that was quick. The house seemed so big and empty and this time it was different than those 3-day biz trips.

    A home is just a house without its inhabitants. So glad your family came home and you made a speedy recovery. {{hugs}}

  28. FIVE WEEKS! Oh boy, Diane! THAT is a long time. My five days pales in comparison to that trip and since this was not an international vacation, communication via email, text and even Facetime was all possible. Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing other people's tales. It really does put everything in perspective! :)

  29. Thank you, Judy. Family really is what makes a house a home. Of course, I've always known that, but when the house is empty, it certainly becomes more pronounced! :) Thank you so much for leaving a comment!

  30. Thank you, Brandi~ you just made my day with all of your sweet remarks! I would love to write a book someday and comments like yours keep me pushing forward toward that goal! :)

  31. It's easy to forget how quiet, empty and cold the house can be when no one is home. A little dose of reality every now provides perspective and puts all the pretty decor right back its place! ;) Thanks for the comment, Poppy!

  32. Carol, I so appreciate your words of wisdom and perspective. It was hard to be alone, but I know that more of those days are coming faster than I'd like! Hopefully, I will be able to adjust and appreciate the changes as gracefully as you have! :)

  33. Such an incredibly heartfelt post. I know the feeling of an empty, heavy heart. So glad things are back to normal dearie. So glad. xo Jen

  34. What a perfectly written and heart warming post Kim - I can only say you nailed it right on the head, cliche' or not, family makes a house a home. :-)

  35. Thank you, Vel and you are so right. I am sure that your house is even more homey now with the addition of that beautiful little girl! :)

  36. Thank you, Jen! Enjoy those lovelies while they are little and home!! :)

  37. Awww. This is such a sweet story. I love my wild and crazy home (filled with loved ones) too!

  38. I'm certainly glad to have them all back home...wild and crazy restored! Thanks for popping by Toni! :)

  39. There's definitely a different energy when family is around. I still remember asking to leave the hospital early after my last child because I missed the noise of my 4 kids.

  40. Barb, I can totally relate! With my first, I lingered in the hospital, but once baby number two was delivered, I wanted to get home to the chaos I loved! :) Hey, thanks for taking the time to visit and comment! TGIF!

  41. That is a really sweet post and is so true for everyone. I like your writing style. Living in the "empty nest" myself, so I can see where you are coming from.

  42. Thanks for the kind words, Kim. The ride goes fast doesn't it?

  43. I loved this post because I totally agree with you. This is such a testament to the fact that you make your family such a high priority like it should be. Thank you for sharing your journey without your family.

  44. Thanks Crystal. I met a friend yesterday who is anxiously awaiting the Thanksgiving holiday and the return of her children from college. She told me that "it's all good, but the house is so empty and quiet, you have no idea"...I told her, I totally get it. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! :)

  45. So excellent Kim . . .
    Made me think about my life now when my kids and their families are here for Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . everyone is talking, settling in from room to room, noise everywhere, my girls want to help "clean up" and I beg them not because I want to sit with them, cozy up . . . it brings me back to "used to be" feeling. Home . . .

    And then everyone begins to pick up their things, out the door, cars drive away . . . and that "alone" feeling returns, "empty" . . . House . . .

  46. Oh Lynne, I totally get it. I really missed them. I know this time together is fleeting, so on a daily basis and I do try to hang on and enjoy the noise and the mess, but when the house is silent it makes it all so much more real...and my loving home is just an empty house.