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My Rather Imperfect Home
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

I have 173 framed photographs of our family on display in my house. Interior decorators would likely have a heart attack, because not all my frames match. When you have 173, you’ve got to rely on some thrift store frames. I don’t do the matching art thing, or the minimalism thing. I blow up pictures—any pictures—and stick them somewhere. On my latest picture-hanging frenzy, I realized we were in danger of running out of wall space on the stairs. What would I do when the girls get married and have more photos? Thankfully, I discovered that my bathroom is still picture-free, so all is well.

My kids’ friends think we’re rather endearing—or at least I hope that’s the word they’d use, rather than “bizarre”. The most frequently asked question upon entering my door is, “Do you have any more pictures up, Mrs. Gregoire?” But that’s not the only idiosyncrasy these teens tease us about. One particular friend who sleeps over frequently has confessed to my girls that she always enters our kitchen with trepidation, in case she finds my husband and I “making out” in there. So she’s always careful when she turns any corners. My kids just think our displays of too much affection are normal, though that doesn’t stop my 13-year-old from grumbling about it. But I figure love is what makes us a home.

And it’s that feeling that I’m aiming for when people visit. My house may look like it lacked an interior decorator, but it still makes me feel comfy, even if I do have too much stuff—and not just pictures, either. We have well over two thousand books in our bookshelves. I have hand-dyed yarn in containers scattered everywhere, waiting for my next project. I have various colourful blankets the girls and I have knitted on every couch. And I have lots of people to hug. That’s what I want people to see, because that’s who we are as a family.

I don’t actually want my house to be perfect, because I think that’s rather boring. Besides, when you try too hard to have a perfect house you’ll never have anybody over, because they may see how you actually live. With all the decorating magazines and home and garden shows, it’s easy to feel inferior when you look around at your own house, with its cat hair, or its endless stream of laundry and dishes and clutter. But too often that feeling that we’re not doing things right causes us to hibernate. Apparently fewer than half of Canadians had anyone in for dinner last year. Most of us are too busy watching TV, cocooning because we feel inadequate.

I think our society would be a whole lot happier if we stopped trying to have designer houses and just realized that we all lived in actual homes—and those homes should reflect us. If I visit your house, I’m not going to notice the crumbs on the counter nearly as much as I’ll stare at that 30-year-old wedding photo, or the baby portrait. I’ll glance at the titles of your books far more than I will judge the level of dust. Why don’t we stop judging each other based on what we own, and instead just celebrate getting to know who people are? Isn’t that what real community is?

So if you ever come into my house, feel free to laugh at the pictures, leaf through a book, or even pick up some knitting needles. Just be careful when you go around a corner.

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At 11:46 AM , Blogger Lori Alexander said…

I, too, have pictures ALL over the place. Friends comment that they are getting all faded but I tell them I would rather have them out for everyone to see then sitting in a drawer where no one can see!


At 4:28 PM , Blogger Susan said…

Amen! You said it beautifully Sheila. I can definitely get caught up with thinking that my home isn't like the magazines, so why bother with having people over? Love your thoughts on this topic!


At 10:22 PM , Blogger Hippie4ever said…

Sounds as if your house would be a warm and wonderful place to visit :)


At 12:15 AM , Anonymous Heather said…

Can you talk to my husband? LOL He thinks we have too much clutter. Of course, I look at it as books, games, movies, pictures, craft supplies.

Seriously, I agree with you 100%. I love to have the photos on the wall or in scrapbooks on the table. I love to have the books/games/movies on shelves for all, not only see, but to use. I've given up on magazines and show rooms, I'd just like to have a little more space!


At 11:14 AM , Blogger Tina Hollenbeck said…

I live with three packrats - and homeschooling requires a lot of "stuff" AND means our house is way more lived-in than for families who are all out each day. I sometimes stress about how messy things can get, but I when my girls were younger, I'd say I decorate in "early American preschool" - and I was happy to accommodate them rather than have fancy stuff all around that might get broken. Now the girls are older, but their toys still abound, and my decorating is still very basic. "Mostly clean" is my mantra when it comes to how things look; I grew up with a mom who never cleaned (though she was home all day with no one else around) so I'm sensitive about allowing too big a mess, but I also am glad I am comfortable (for the most part) with real life as it really is.


At 12:13 AM , Blogger Wendy Eckwielen said…

Love this post, and I love pictures too, especially of my family!


At 4:43 PM , Blogger Jules said…

I would love to have you visit! I wouldn't worry about the threadbare carpet or the mismatched furniture because I'd know that you would be appreciating all our photos and books and the handcrafted items made with love. I just hope we'd have a chance to talk!

How easy it is for us (me) to forget what a home is all about and to fall for the lie that it should look like the magazines.


At 2:08 PM , Blogger Susan said…

Thank you for this comforting blog post, Sheila. I'm with those who have too much clutter and struggle with "housekeeping." Whenever my mother visits, she cleans, even though I tell her it's not her job. She is coming over for Easter. Today I am having my house professionally cleaned (first time ever!) in hopes that my mom will take a break...


At 8:36 AM , Blogger Fonda said…

Perfect timing to read this. I have my mother arriving tomorrow to visit us for Easter. The spare room has remnants of my college son's visit last weekend and is lined with boxes from my home office that is undergoing renovations. I was beginning to stress about it...but really, this is just LIFE. And the perfect home is not what this holiday is all about anyway.


At 9:47 AM , Blogger THEE QUEST said…

Hi Sheila,
Our kids find our Marriage so perfect(It's not) that they have a hard time finding partners that image Pierrette & I.
Kids today have values, even if they are not ours.It is a shame that Parents do not share many of those values.Our kids and us do.We love them and they love us.Our bond is strong and family "is" everything to us all.
Thanks for being there Sheila.
P.S. We also have pics all over the walls

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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