Remember the scene in the film 500 Days of Summer when Tom and Summer are running through Ikea holding hands, stopping here and there to banter and pretend the showrooms are theirs? It's a dreamy idyll--upon repeat viewings, I've realized that scene is actually meant to function as more of a dream than a reality of domestic bliss--yet shopping together for your first home, picking out items you'll use daily, imagining the rooms and items and meals and nighttime whispers that will be yours, really does impart a powerful allure.
Depending on your age, careers, city, and financial situation, you might be starting your marriage as homeowners, or maybe as renters. In my experience of three moves in five years, my initial temptation with renting apartments was to not treat them as "real" homes--sort of like an extension of dorm living, only with a husband--not just in decor, but more importantly, in my heart. In the years since living in my first married apartment, I've realized the peace and value in treating my home, however short-term, as just that: a home. Here are our tips for making the most of a rental experience.
Your lease might be finite, but your furniture and other home purchases will most likely see you through multiple dwellings; that is, if you take the time to choose pieces you truly love, at the best quality you can afford. Investing once in a favorite, top-choice item will most likely yield greater contentment than the restlessness or quality issues that might accompany a string of runner-up selections. A beautiful piece of furniture can elevate even standard-issue apartment surroundings.
Utilize your space for all it's worth.
First living spaces, particularly apartments, tend to be short on space and storage. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, make an effort to cultivate mindfulness in the amount of items you acquire or bring with you--periodically donate old clothes, for instance, or identify areas of your life where you can opt to go paperless. A small space also presents a creative challenge in the use of vertical space and storage. As time passes, you'll find through experience what your space does and does not accommodate well. Personally, it took me a little too long to have the insight that buying things like paper towels in bulk, wherein the entire package sits on the floor as it dwindles, drove me crazy and that smaller quantities were more suited to our storage situation.
Employ strategies that highlight the good and minimize the drawbacks of your floor plan.
Layering your lighting to provide more options than the overhead lamps that are already there, using rugs and furniture to define specific areas in an open space, opening up a room with mirrors, painting or hanging temporary wallpaper...the internet is rich with ideas to help you create a space you love.
Decor is one thing, yet an even more significant aspect of living together as man and wife is the need to create an emotional and spiritual sense of home. And with prayer and attention to the rituals that naturally develop in your married life, it's possible--even in humble conditions or with secondhand furniture.
It took me a long time to separate my sense of home from my sense of wanting new things for our life together and designing a pretty place for my husband and I to live. About a year into our marriage, I read an article by a mother of seven who described how much she'd loved creating a specific family culture over her years of marriage and raising children, one that started to change my outlook. The culture she described included family prayer rituals, games and stories and favorite foods specific to her husband and kids, and spontaneous choices that formed the seeds of new traditions.
That is home: a personal, unrepeatable life unique to you, your husband, and, God willing, your future family. Strive to create that for yourselves, whether you're starting your marriage in a brand-new house or in an apartment that's more drab than you might have envisioned for your newlywed life. Through prayer (we love the thought of developing your own personal Litany of the Saints), recipes, and newly born traditions, it really is possible to feel at home in temporary quarters.
No matter how long you'll be there, your living space should ideally reflect a care and intention that make it feel like a true place of rest. Yet all domestic trappings aside, don't lose sight of the fact that through your marriage, wherever you live is your domestic church. When you think about it, all of us are in our temporary home as we walk the road to our divine one.