Back to basics – What makes a home?


Hello to you all, from our home in Melbourne (which, no, doesn’t quite look like this, although how cute is it???)

We’ve been back in town for a couple of days, having spent a week in our home on the Mornington Peninsula, and are taking off by the weekend in another home, this time to explore the Sapphire Coast on the south-west coast of NSW. And – if we really think about it, we may also have more homes dotted here or there.

So – are we some sort of property moguls?

Not really – actually, far from it. It’s more the case of what we define as a ‘home’.

What do you need to make a home?

I read two articles recently on this topic. Both were very different and they made me think: What do we really mean when we talk about feeling ‘at home’?

Hannah Kent (author of Buriel Rites and The Good People) wrote an article, titled (appropriately) ‘At Home‘ in the January 2017 edition of Australian House and Garden. She wrote about how the physical place, and the permanence of it, was less important than how the place made her feel.

She stated:

When I think of home, I think of a place of belonging. Home, to me, is where it is enough to simply be as I am. Home is where I might seek sanctuary from the demands of the outside world and its questions, the bright chaos of its expectancy or judgment. It is a place of restoration and peace’.

Home, for Hannah, didn’t need to be a set place – in fact, it quite the opposite. Home is:

‘something that can be created – and treasured –in strange and transient places, as much as it can be fostered through permanent residence’.

Something – not even Somewhere. Home doesn’t have to be tied to a place. Necessarily.

By contrast – maybe – Alain de Botton’s The School of Life – writes about people’s desire to create a home (link here).

The author believes it is something intrinsic within us, ‘one of the most meaningful activities we are ever engaged in’and it is related to a sense of certainty, of knowing ourselves. As he (assuming it’s de Botton) says:

‘The quest to build a home is connected up with a need to stabilise and organise our complex selves. It’s not enough to know who we are in our own minds. We need something more tangible, material and sensuous to pin down the diverse and intermittent aspects of our identities. We need to rely on a certain kinds of cutlery, bookshelves, laundry cupboards and armchairs to align us with who we are and seek to be. We are not vaunting ourselves; we’re trying to gather our identities in one receptacle, preserving ourselves from erosion and dispersal. Home means the place where our soul feels that it has found its proper physical container, where, everyday, the objects we live amongst quietly remind us of our most authentic commitments and loves’.

At first, I saw these as opposing views. But now I’m not so sure.

Both authors speak of the need to feel secure, to feel safe, and to be ourselves.

They recognise there’s a need a space in which this needs to take place – where this living happens. (Notice – when we talk about where we live, we would always say our house, rather than, say, our work, or where maybe we ‘hang out’ – if that’s what we do. A whole lot of living happens in our homes!)

Different people will place different levels of importance on different elements of home.

For some, the items within a house, or its overall feel, are the crucial elements. For others, it’s the environment in which the home – usually a building, but maybe not always – sits. And for a third groups, it’s more to do with the people and community around them. I suspect, for most of us, it’s a bit of all of these.

And overlaid with all of that is how we feel ourselves. The external aspects could be fantastic, however, if we are feeling alone, or not able to ‘be ourselves’, then no matter the surroundings, we might never feel at home.

Home, therefore, is a many layered thing. We know it when we feel it – but we can’t always identify it. And many aspects contribute to how much at home we feel.

Back to (Home) Basics

These many layers are all important to how we live.

And they are why, even though I’m not sold on my blog’s name, I keep coming back to it.

Home, to me, is a base.

It’s that base that constantly intrigues me. And it’s where I intend to keep focusing over the coming year – in a little more depth in some cases -as I trust myself and my belief that this is the direction I should be taking with this blog.

While exploring the issues around home, I’m also aware that there are people who don’t have the choices many of us have about our homes. They may have no home at all. It’s easy to gloss over it, but it’s something that as a society, and as a blogger, I think needs more attention. Exploring the issues of homelessness, or in some cases, the impermanence of home, is also part of my aims for this year.

So – what was I meaning about my numerous ‘homes’?

Coming back to Hannah’s definition of ‘Home’ as somewhere to ‘simply be as I am’, we are lucky to have a number of places which meet this criteria.

We live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, in a house we bought nearly fifteen years ago. Clearly, we do not move around often! So yes, technically, when filling in forms, we would call this our ‘home‘. And it is – for the most part.

However, we have the benefit of being able to stay at a house which my grandmother owns. Of course, we don’t own it, but given our strong connection to it, it does feel like home. It’s been shaped, slightly, to suit our needs as well as others in the family. At the same time, it is very low maintenance (because we let it be so!). It is the base from which I spent a large part of my childhood, and am now able to share a lot of the similar experiences with my own children. The home hasn’t changed a lot over that time, and although the surrounds have become more suburban (and therefore, there is a lot less free roaming than we were able to do), it is still somewhere I feel very much at home.

Next week, we will be staying in our other ‘home’ – a caravan which is almost 40 years old, which we are taking to southern NSW. Thanks to the restoration by my husband, and a few homely touches, it does feel like home (although not necessarily for long periods of time!) And of course, with my husband and kids, that’s always part of my base, so I take my ‘homies’ with me.

So three homes at least! And spending time in them all this month.

I’m feeling very lucky – and really looking forward to our getaway too!

How about you – what do you believe makes a home?

17 thoughts on “Back to basics – What makes a home?

  1. Home for us is also a base to be who we are. It’s not really about the house but the people who are in it. My husband always tells me that as long as he’s with me and Yo, he’s home, even if that means we are in an entirely different country. Love your post! xx



  2. You’ve really got me thinking about what sort of home I want to give my kids this year Helen. I’m going to share it with my readers to get them thinking too. Happy new year by the way!


    1. Thanks Rachel – that’s an interesting angle, too. Thanks for sharing it -I’d love to hear what they think. Hope you’ve been having a good start to the year, too X


  3. This is lovely. We have a big house and garden and really should be considering downsizing due to health issues and other things but the feeling of ‘home’ we have here is so strong we can’t bare to think about leaving. Enjoy the rest of the holidays. 🙂


    1. My parents had a seven year plan, and moved at seventeen years. And Granny moved out of her unit at 101, ‘before I get sick and can’t manage it’ – I think it’s whenever you’re ready. Enjoy your garden while you can xx


  4. I’m of the ‘home needs to be my haven’ camp. Maybe it is the introvert in me? Even if I am away somewhere that makes me feel rested or comfortable, I am always happiest when I arrive home. Home feels safe, for me. It’s the only place where I can be utterly myself.
    But in a broader sense, I am ‘at home’ with the people I love, in this country, and at my computer. HOME. Such a beautiful, broad concept.


  5. I have to agree with old maxim home is where the heart is. My little boy (3) calls everyone’s house a home, e.g. “Can we visit at your home?” I think it’s so cute.


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