What makes a house a home?

Since we are getting ready to begin a life of packing up and moving around every two or three years, we have been trying to figure out how to downsize our collection of stuff, without getting rid of things that make our house feel homey.  Depending on where we’re posted (next week!), we may not be seeing some our belongings for months.  So we’ve been trying to come up with a list of what we should pack in our air shipment to ease our transition when we land.  Some items were obvious to us: pictures, an internet or phone connection to NC, our bathrobes and cookbooks.  Others were a bit of a surprise to us as we settled in to our new apartment in DC.  

Wedding memories

We have a couple of items from our wedding that remind us that we’re in this together, whether we like it or not!  First is our heart box, which was a gift from Cormac’s Uncle Gerard.  We both wrote a note to remind us why we love one another, and then Gerard locked them away in the box.  Whenever we get mad at each other (which is never, obviously), we are supposed to think about what we wrote in our notes and remember why we vowed to stick it out until the end of time.  

The other thing we kept, is a few of the peacock feathers used in the centerpieces at our wedding reception.  The feathers have had a special place in both of our homes.  A few of our friends ended up taking some of our feathers to their houses too, so it also reminds us of some of the antics that went on as the wedding celebration got a little bit rowdy! 


Our Heart Box


Feathers from the centerpieces at our reception


Shower head

This one was really surprising and kind of silly.  In both of the houses we’ve moved into together, we have had really crummy shower heads.  I’m quite short and have pretty thick hair.  The shower head in our apartment sprayed the water out in a big ring, with a hollow center.  I was practically hula-hooping to get my hair wet and rinsed!  Replacing that thing was the best $7 we’ve spent so far! We’ll be sure to pack that in our air baggage, if not in our carry-on. 


My little piece of heaven

Holiday decor

Growing up, my mom went all out decorating the house for every holiday.  Decorating our house makes it feel cozy, and helps mark the passage of time.  That last part will be particularly important if we end up somewhere without seasons!  Someone in Vietnam last summer told me that the only way they knew how long they had been in country was by how many babies had been born.  Most of our decorations ended up in storage, but I did manage to bring along our spring and patriotic holiday decorations.  


It’s America season

What do you need to feel at home?  Any thing you think we’ve left off our packing list?


5 thoughts on “What makes a house a home?

  1. Hi Lauren, I’ve commented before, and I had to comment again here. I grew up all over the world as the child of a State Department employee who later became an Airline exec specializing in helping foreign airlines build and grow. I still travel in the US and internationally, (to winter and summer homes, and occasionally take consulting jobs that take me away for months at a time) so I’m very familiar with the challenge of wanting the comforts of home — in a portable way!

    I would respectfully suggest that virtually every recipe in the world is now available on the internet, and most good cookbooks are available in digital format, so you might want to consider getting a kindle or other e-book and not spending your precious shipping allowance on cookbooks. You might also consider putting many of your pictures on CDs and just bring the ones you want to display. I will warn you from experience that sometimes shipments are damaged and sometimes things don’t make it, so you’ll want to make digital copies of pictures that are precious to you anyway.

    I would definitely suggest you get a magicjack, with a US area code so you can call home and talk to all those folks who aren’t set up for skype without spending big bucks. I still remember when my mother called my father in Bahrain from my phone in my college apartment in Santa Barbara, CA, where she was visiting me. They had a very long conversation, and the bill arrived days after she left. Trust me, $165 dollars for a single phone call was a HUGE bite out of my college budget in 1976, and international phone calls are still expensive. Your parents and close friends might want to get magicjacks as well. NO, I’m not affiliated in any way. I just used one when I was consulting in China to call my husband every day, and it made a huge difference to hear him say “I love you” every night before I went to sleep. I wouldn’t have made the calls every day if it was going to cost us a lot of money, but with a US area code on my magicjack, it was included in the annual fee I’d already paid.

    Many houses in third world countries don’t have central heating, so warm bedding would be really important, and make sure to get pillows you love and are comfortable with, because they may not be easy to find. A quilt made by someone you love is always a great reminder of home.

    Your shower head idea is really good! My husband and I have a favorite that we’ve automatically started installing every time we move, simply because water pressure isn’t always good everywhere you go, and this shower head seems to even it out. I don’t remember the exact name of it — I seem to recall that “Incredible” was in the name. But it’s wonderful. Since you’re very happy with the one you’ve got, if it gives you good pressure wherever you are, you’re probably fine.

    Contact returning State Department employees and missionaries coming back from the country to find out what things they wished they had that they didn’t bring and couldn’t find on the local market. It might be things like allergy pills, baby wipes, sewing machine, vacuum bags for your vacuum, your favorite shampoo, cosmetics, toiletries. You might find that bringing artwork and decorations isn’t the best use of your shipment, as you’ll be building new experiences and memories as you go forward and it’s fun to shop for new decor that is native to the area – and it’s inexpensive, easy to find, and you’ll want to bring it back with you as souvenirs and gifts to friends. It’s also wonderful for the local economy to buy the things you can from the people in that country, and it helps to build relationships.

    I’m so excited for you! If I were at the beginning of my working life instead of retired (and running a charity and occasionally consulting) I’d do what you’re doing in a heartbeat! You GO, Girl! I can’t wait to hear where you’re going!


    • Carla,
      Thanks for the advice! I hadn’t heard about MagicJack and will definitely be doing some research on that option. I have a feeling that many of the packing tips you’ve given us will come in really handy when we’re racking our brain to figure out what we’ve forgotten to put in our shipment!

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