“Let’s make our house cozy today, Mom,” said my five-year-old daughter on a quiet, rainy morning last week. This comment delighted me but at the same time surprised me. I wondered what caused her to say this, and if it was something she heard me say. Although I was not expecting her to suggest we make things cozy that morning, the idea now makes perfect sense to me. I also love that warm, snug-as-a-bug feeling when we’re enjoying a morning together.
On an average day, our house is not clean. On most days of the week, there are dozens of books on the floor, and a village of Polly Pockets in the middle of the kitchen. We have a child-sized art easel and Play-Doh center as permanent fixtures at our breakfast nook. Although clutter and commotion have become the norm, I like to think of our home as warm and inviting. Creating a cozy house has nothing to do with decorating, finances, or housekeeping skills. Cleaning house is not my specialty, and I have learned to accept and embrace this notion. Certainly, I could clean more, and could probably learn to be very good at it, but I don’t want to put cleaning and chores above savoring the gift of time with my children. I love that our house is messy, fun, and filled with laughter.
Creating a cozy home and environment is all about atmosphere and attitude. Some ideas we have adopted for our own cozy-appeal include lighting our favorite candles, dimming the lights, turning on lamps and overhead lights off. I have intentionally learned to leave the cell phone and computer in another room when spending quality time together – focusing on email, texts and anything online clearly communicates to children that they are less important. My girls and I often sit on the floor, read stories by our old, worn, window box with wavy glass. We pick up inexpensive Chinese take-out, when possible, as a treat for dinner to ward off the stress of a frantic dinner rush. We laugh, we snuggle, and this week we’ve watched the leaves on the trees rustle outside, wondering how they change from green to gold in such a seamless transition.
Below are 5 tips for creating a cozy atmosphere in your own home:
- Turn off technology. Leave the cell phone in your purse, or another room, and schedule time to check emails, facebook, etc. There is not a text or facebook post that can ever be more important than your children. You are the best gift you will ever give them – treasure the time.
- Leave the dust as it will always be there tomorrow, and when you dim the lights on a chilly evening in October not a person in the house will notice.
- Laugh, sing and dance. Children love to laugh and so do adults. It is when we learn to take ourselves too seriously that we lose our spark for the unexpected wiggle, giggle and rhyme.
- Stress less about dinner – clip coupons and get take-out when possible, or make pancakes for dinner and eat on the living room floor with candles burning while you listen to old fashioned movie soundtracks, such as The Sound of Music or Saturday Night Fever.
- Live with a grateful spirit. Our mood as parents sends a clear message to our children. When we are happy, calm and attentive, they are encouraged to feel at peace. Adopt a family prayer, or time of thanksgiving that you practice daily. Faith in God is a constant thread in my life, which encourages and gives me strength when challenges arise.
Although my daughter loves when we have the candles lit, our vintage butterfly lamp all aglow, and her favorite Wiggles CD playing, I know that her feelings go deeper than these sensory experiences. What she enjoys is the feeling that comes into our home when we “make our house cozy,” and she also enjoys what it does to her Mom. When we step aside from the busy-ness of our world to savor the moment we have been given, we feel beauty and joy. As we make hot chocolate together before reading a story on our old woven rug, we are able to leave the rest of the world outside and cherish the opportunity to simply be together and to nurture our human need for love and connection.
Our house was built in 1875, and we adore it. Our house is old, well-loved and filled with character and blissful imperfection. I have never been happier than I have been in this house because it is in this house that I have been able to bloom as a mother. I have learned to mother – to sing with my children, to dance and be silly with them, to pray for and with them, and to make messes that I know will someday be gone.
I have learned that when I focus on the needs and voices of my children, we all bloom – we grow together as a family and we grow as individuals. The days of early childhood pass so quickly, and perhaps with the transition of my oldest daughter starting school, I am more sensitive to how quickly the doors of preschool life closed. However, as there is always the promise of autumn leaves turning from green to golden, the promise of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a story of love awaits the girls big and small in our home.