When friends stop by my house, especially if it's during the day and when I am on my own, the word they use to describe my living room is "peaceful." The beautiful elementary school my children have attended is across the street, and my front window directly faces the original part of the building, which was constructed in 1922. In my foyer, I have a lovely little picture window and the branches of a flowering tree fall partially into view, so that for much of the warm months I see pink blossoms and now, in the autumn, shades of yellow and orange.
My home is a refuge from a rather frenetic life. My commute to work is an hour each way, and my job is what most people would consider challenging, although I am certainly not curing any diseases or changing any lives. My children keep me busy, though this phase of parenting seems mostly about driving them from place to place.
The small things make my house feel this way. Although most of my home decor comes from Target and Ikea, it's carefully chosen. (My daughter tells me I veer into an overabundance of red in my living room, but I have to do something to overcome the bland carpet my landlady installed too many years ago. Plus red makes me happy.) When flowers are on sale at Central Market, I buy the yellow ones and put them in a beautiful crystal vase. My bedroom has nice linens. I have fluffy white towels and launder them every couple of days. I buy wine that costs ten dollars instead of six, and I cook a good meal every evening I am home.
For many people, these are extravagances, but in my defense I call upon Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project. One of Gretchen's rules for happiness is this: what you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while. Having a comfortable home with some nice things--and I pick and choose according to what I really care about rather than spending for instant gratification--gives me a space where I can regenerate. Yes, I could save more money, but I'm not in debt and I have a decent cushion financially, though I don't have a title on a house. I do my best to walk the line of responsibility while still finding ways to make life delicious.