There comes a point in every life where your dreams are run over by the steamroller of reality. For me, it was the idea of a home that looked like something out of "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Over the years, I hoarded vintage everything and anything, sacrificing space, sanity and occasionally my shins as I'd knock into a too-low nightstand found for $5 at a thrift store. While I had imagined a man living with me in this outdated wonderland, he was a vague apparition that I assumed would periodically offer me a martini as I carefully guided a jaunty chandelier into place.
When the man materialized, however, he was one with a strong "collector" streak. He came complete with an unusually large amount of comic books, Swedish death metal t-shirts and seemingly hundreds of WWE figurines that often became hazards. After Rowdy Roddy Piper landed squarely on my head, there came an ugly moment where I screamed "I'm going to THROW ALL OF THESE THINGS OUT."
And it was at that very moment where I recognized the voice as not being my own. It was the voice of an a**hole.
My significant other subscribed to the ersatz "Mad Men" fantasy, as long as he could have his (many) things in the picture. Bumps on the head aside, it's nothing to freak out about. In fact, it's what keeps our home from becoming a museum. You might not see our place on, say, Apartment Therapy or Design*Sponge, but no one ever looks at the apartment and asks: "How can you live like that?" There is no official "taste police" that'll punish you for, say, eating off of a souvenir plate of Lititz, Pennsylvania. Your only enemy is yourself.
In the spirit of embracing one's home, flaws and all, here is an unofficial list of other things that make your house into a home.
The "House Smell"
No, it's not a disgusting smell, or one that indicates filth. It's the distinct aroma of a (clean) home that you only notice when you leave for an extended period of time and return. Everyone's house smells different.
Your Pet, Where It Isn't Supposed To Be
I can buy Cookie all the beds she could ever need, but she'll still curl up at the precise corner of my bed where a sunbeam alights at exactly 3 p.m.
The Mass Of Books, DVDs and CDs That Resist Progress
They fill our shelves, yet we can't get rid of 90% of them.
An Obstacle Course Of Shoes Strewn Through The Hallway
Because there's no greater feeling in the world than taking off your shoes after a long day.
The Hand-Me-Down Piece Of Furniture
It's not vintage. It's not an antique. But it used to be in your grandmother's house and it was given to you for your first place. Of course, it doesn't match anything. Who cares?
Your "Unloading Zone"
This is the place you throw your keys, purse and mail as soon as you get in. It could be a small table, a counter, a bookcase or even the dining room table. It is usually characterized by a mess.
Cheesy But True: Happiness, However You Define It
It nearly hurts me to write this, that's how cheesy it is. But, if your home is relatively a happy one -- even if you define happiness as zoning out in front of repeat viewings of "Regular Show," which I'm told is not something successful adults watch but who really cares -- then your mess magically becomes more acceptable. If you spend your evenings screaming into the void, a mess is then a warning sign.