Making someone else’s house your home

One thing about housesitting that is patently obvious, but nonetheless can be unexpectedly difficult, is this: it’s not your house that you’re living in. On the one hand, this is great! After all, you don’t live in that awesome French neighborhood, or on that body of water, or near that ski resort, right? You don’t have that remodeled kitchen, or that cool array of shops and pubs nearby, or that amazing garden. And to be able to experience other kinds of lives, even for a few weeks or months, is what makes housesitting such a rich and unforgettable experience.

On the other hand, if it’s not your house, it’s not your home. You have no emotional investment in the place. (Of course, once you meet the adorable animals you’re looking after, that usually changes somewhat!) Your family and friends are far away—yes, even though we live in a world where video chats via Skype or WhatsApp are easy and practically free. It’s not the same. So the challenge becomes: how can you avoid feeling isolated, alone, ungrounded?

How can you make someone else’s house feel like a home?

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One way we do this is through continuing to pursue the hobbies and things we love. For example, Zach is an amateur musician whose preferred instruments are guitar and piano. But…we’re already fully loaded on manageable luggage (what to pack and how to choose the right bags is something we’ll get into in a different series of posts), so bringing even a small guitar along on our journeys isn’t remotely feasible. But what is possible is to find a second-hand store and spend a wee bit of money everywhere we go to get Zach a guitar that we can leave behind at the end of the sit. Just this small thing (the guitar Zach bought in England set us back only 8£) can be a comfort in an unfamiliar place. Figure out what little items you might want to bring along—or what you can pick up for cheap when you’re already on the road.

The other way we make someone else’s house our home is to maintain our regular spiritual practice of mediation. (You can read the term “spiritual” here however you like, but at the least it means something that is related to the inner life. Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show “On Being,” calls it “the inner work that accompanies our outer lives,” which seems a solid workable definition.) Even though space in our luggage is at a serious premium, we “waste” half of a large backpack with our heavy, buckwheat meditation cushion, or zafu. That ought to demonstrate the importance we assign to keeping our heads on straight in the midst of our ever-changing living situations! Add in an assortment of small talismans and comforting bric-a-brac, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a homey niche, carved right out of an otherwise unfamiliar space.

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