The importance of Home
Over the past few months I have been on a journey of rediscovering what ‘home’ really means.
In Cape Town, it’s almost as though people have forgotten the importance of home and family life. People get stuck on attaining or maintaining a certain lifestyle and lose the sense of family along the way. It is like how a teenager would experience peer pressure, to act in a certain way, or have certain things in order to fit in. If you don’t have those things then you get excluded and isolated. It can become quite materialistic and superficial. I have met a few families, who outwardly appear to be living the dream, live in an amazing house, with great lifestyles and many great possessions; but lack authentic and meaningful relationships with one another and their community. Often those people seem really happy on the outside but deep down inside there seems to be a missing piece from their life puzzle.
I myself have struggled with this while starting my adult life here. It’s difficult to discern what is really needed for a successful home and family life. This is why I am so grateful for my six month hiking trip last year. Stripping life down to it’s bare necessities really helped, I realised all you really need to live a fulfilling life is meaningful relationship, shelter, food and water. Obviously, one cannot sustain a life like that in a city where bills must be paid and things need to get done, but it’s the principals we’ve (my husband and I) learned that we can use to adjust our lifestyle to fit in with our new set of values.
I’ve written some of the things I have learned below:
- Family connection is vital
Such a necessary part of life is meaningful relationship. We were designed for it, and without it, we don’t function properly. In a busy life, a bit of genuine human connection can go a long way. Often in times of hardship or change, your family relationships can be the rock that holds everything together. Strong relationships take time and effort to maintain. Every family is different, so will have different ways of expressing love and enjoyment. It’s important to find activities that everyone can do together regularly. By regularly, I mean as often as you can.
These activities can vary from going for a walk, reading a book together, playing a board game, competing in a game of tennis, having a braai or even making a family musical. Ideally, something that has minimal distractions from technology and focuses on aiding in conversation, affection and quality time.
Over and above the ‘extra’ time spent together, daily activities should be centered around the family. If you are able to, share a meal together daily. If you have children, have reading time before bed. Cook, play and learn together. Investing in your family will be one of the most rewarding things you can do in life, and it’s something money can’t buy.
If you don’t have a family as such, don’t forget to include friends, neighbors or others in your community into your circle of trust. It can be hard being single or alone, but try your best not to isolate yourself.
2. The true meaning of hospitality
If you’re visiting somebody in their home, what makes you feel welcome? Well for me, it would be a place where I felt safe to express myself freely and the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. Everything else becomes unimportant. Things like how messy or tidy the place is, what kind of decor there is or the quality of the coffee become redundant when hospitality is done out of love and not out of social pressure to perform well.
I have learned that it’s ok to invite people round even if my home is a little messy. I need to have more grace for myself. There is benefit to learning how to make good wholesome food, you don’t need to buy expensive ingredients to make a tasty meal. Take the time to sit down and listen to your guests, and I mean really listen, what they have to say is important. Lastly, get creative! Find things that get your creative juices flowing and focus on enhancing your guests experience with that. This could be anything from cooking, baking, decorating, plants, art, books and board games, technology. Whatever floats your boat. If you’re doing something you love, your guest will appreciate it. And don’t be scared to do weird or crazy things, just be you.
3. A handmade home
In our consumerist society, people get locked into buying everything they need and want for their home. Skills like woodwork, sewing, art, and horticulture-ing are losing their place in society to more ‘convenient’ things, which is incredibly sad. These things might not seem convenient to many because they take time and effort but often it is so much more economical and quite satisfying to make something of your own.
Some things are definitely worth buying or paying for, for the detail or workmanship that you might not be able to achieve on your own. But other things can easily be made at home by relatively unskilled hands, depending on what you’d like to make. Don’t be scared of trying something new, you might find that you’re actually good at something like sewing or graphic design. If you have always been interested in doing something, find a way of trying it, give it a go and you might be positively surprised at the result. It is so satisfying to be able to make something yourself, and be proud of. It may take a few tries but you get to customize whatever it is and make it just the way you want. And then you can stand back and feel proud.
Have you always wanted to learn about plumbing or interior design? Or horticulture? Or cooking? Or software development? The possibilities can be infinite, and a good way to start is Google and YouTube with endless tutorials and ideas. Another important thing to do is to connect with people who might be experts or know more about this thing you’d like to do.
If you can’t make something yourself, try buy local products. By supporting our local artisans, you are helping an individual, building local economy and probably buying more sustainable products.
4. Lowering your waste production
When you spend six months in the wilderness, you become acutely aware of the amount of waste you produce, and how much of that waste is unnecessary. We were placed on this earth as stewards, meant to take care of our environment for future generations. Caring for our planet can be done in many ways, often it’s the small things you change in your daily routine that make the biggest difference.
In the USA, there is a movement called the Zero Waste community and it’s inspiring to see how families can reduce their waste to a medium sized mason jar per year. As amazing as that is, I’m not sure how possible that is in South Africa, but one thing’s for sure is that it’s possible for everyone to reduce their waste somehow. Take a good look at your waste, and find ways you could reduce it.
One important way is recycling! There are many materials that can be recycled these days, you only need to do a bit of research as to what, how and where. Find out where the nearest recycling center is to you, or look around for recycling bins in your community. We are lucky at our block of flats, somebody comes to collect our recycling once a week, which is super simple but we didn’t know about it for ages. Another important way of reducing waste is by composting organic waste like food scraps, fruit and veggie cut offs, etc. You can either do this yourself, or find a person who won’t mind you adding to their compost heap. In terms of buying groceries, try buy in bulk if you can, it saves on packaging and money. And buy products in recyclable materials like glass, paper or cardboard, material or recyclable plastic.
An important thing to remember is that waste is not just garbage, but it’s also wasting resources like water, fuel, and electricity. Learning and adapting our lifestyles to lower our wastage of these valuable resources will make a big difference to your monthly bills as well as help in being more earth friendly.
I think I’ll do a separate post on specific ways to reduce your waste production and be more earth friendly. I don’t want to fill up this post with waste reduction tips! If that’s something you’re interested in, let me know.
In conclusion, my point is that there is more to a home that just a house. Prioritize your family life and you’ll never regret it. There are many other ways to improve and enjoy family life and I would love to hear how you have made changes in your own life to do so. If you have any other tips or opinions, please comment below, I would love to hear from you!