Lessons From Mom: The Home & The Heart

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For Mother’s Day, writer Steffani Cameron recalls the lessons she’s learned about making a house a home, from the best expert she’s known: her Mom.


With Mother’s Day looming, it’s hard not to think of my dearly departed mom. She’s in my mind a little more this year as I gear up for a life of travel, which involves dismantling this home of mine, the most “adult” home I’ve ever had, and one I know she’d love.

Nearly everything I ever needed to know about making a home, I learned from my mother. In her honor, I’d like to share some of that simple wisdom here with you.

With creative tastes, no one will know cash is tight

We didn’t have a lot of money, but between my mom and dad, resourcefulness ruled. Whether it was them salvaging wood floors from houses being demoed, scouring yard sales for steals, or just learning to do renovations themselves, you wouldn’t know that money was tight for us. We looked like the wealthiest family on the block, simply because my parents were smart about their choices.

A lot of my common sense advice I write about here stems from that frugal-but-sharp eye that filled our home with budget antiques and great finds. But it wasn’t all fancy antiques. I remember my mother once finding bold printed bedsheets on liquidation and deciding she’d repaint a room and then make the sheets into nice custom-made curtains. For what would be about $100 today and a weekend of work, she created a wonderful guest room.

A great home keeps friends close

When your home is comfortable, inviting, and spacious, it’s easy to invite people over for dinners, parties, and barbecues. With the right friends and great hosting skills, it’s easy to organize potlucks, get your guests involved in cleanup, and keep entertaining and socializing as simple as it needs to be.

We grew up with grand parties that included guitars and singing and great merry-making. I wouldn’t trade those wonderful events for anything. I can’t imagine a childhood where once a month the home didn’t fill with 20, 30, 40 people with ear-to-ear smiles, bringing great food to share, and sheet music getting pulled out at some point in the night. If you never grew up with that legacy, Martha Stewart’s classic “Entertaining” might help you figure out the basics to becoming a friends-and-family kind of party queen.

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Change is fun, not scary

My home never looked the same for more than two years at a time. Bedrooms were repainted, constant improvements made. We had black-background floral wallpaper in a bathroom once. Loud blue-and-roses wallpaper in the dining room. Once, the sunroom was painted sunshine yellow. My brother had a chocolate-brown room another time. My own bedroom was sand, pale green, bubblegum pink, and sky blue at different times over the years.

When I see other people agonizing over paint chips, I can’t understand the tension they’re going through. In my home, color was a state of mind, a passing phase, and if it didn’t look great, it wasn’t the end of the world — it was easy to repaint and just meant another weekend of paintbrushes and jeans. “Relax, it’s a paint chip” might as well have been a motto written on our walls. That’s a lesson that transferred into the rest of my life as I’ve gotten older. Change? It’s like paint chips. Don’t like it? There are other options.

Beautification is never time (nor money) wasted

Obviously you can spend your money badly when fixing up your home, but in Mom’s books, if you found a good deal and could inexpensively improve a space, it was never a waste of time or resource.

It’s hard to explain what being proud of your home feels like. Until you’ve loved where you are, home improvements can seem like a frivolous thing, but I assure you. That’s the stuff that satisfies your soul.

A loved home leaves a long legacy

Home truly was where my family’s heart was. It comforted us, embraced our friends, and all that time my mom and dad spent in making our home such a great place has left even my friends and family nostalgic about my home.

When I recently published this story about “The House That Built Me”, on my childhood home, all kinds of family and friends came out on Facebook to write stories about how much they had loved, and missed, our home. Some of them have even gone out of their way to take their family and friends past the home in recent years, to share it with them, because we made such great memories not only for ourselves, but for all those around us.

Truly comfortable, welcoming home

I’m proud that, when I left my apartment of 13 years in 2012, it was almost as much an end-of-an-era experience for my friends as it was for me. They lingered, looked around, and knew they’d miss the space too. I made a truly comfortable, welcoming home, and my friends seldom turned down an invitation to just come over and sit around.

For some of us, there’s no greater compliment to our decorating attempts than when our friends simply feel as comfortable as we do in our home.

I might be dismantling my life for now, but I already know I’ll love finding a new home one day and making a new space inspired by who I’ve become, but also that loving, welcoming home my parents blessed me with.

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