I found our coffee table at Goodwill almost eight years ago. When I bought it, it was an awful honey brown color and it was a beast. I’m actually not sure how I managed to get it home.
After giving the table a fresh coat of paint and adding about twenty more pounds through a mix of ceramic tile and broken plates, I had a piece of furniture I was proud of and one that I knew could last the long-haul.
Even then as a newlywed, I was buying furniture thinking about what would be good for our future children. I imagined matchbox cars being driven across the top, masterpieces colored in markers that bleed and crayons that smear, and plates and cups being spread across its surface as we hosted friends and family for countless gatherings.
The table has indeed seen abuse, much more than I ever anticipated. Play-doh. Train tracks. Tea parties. And three kids a’ leaping.
As I sat and watched them climb up on the table and jump off onto our couches over and over and over again, I thought about the kind of atmosphere I have tried to create in our home.
I’m glad that my couches are twenty-year old hand-me-downs because it means that I don’t worry about too much jumping or wrestling or little people piling up for an afternoon snuggle session. I don’t mind that my coffee table and end tables are from the thrift store, because it keeps me from stressing water marks or scratches from toys crashing into them.
I want my house to be LIVED IN. I want a house that invites fun, creativity, conversations, hospitality, and so on. In short, I want a comfortable house.
Lately, though, I’ve wondered if the balance and margin I’ve tried to create in our home between lived-in and tidy is enough.
I have given a lot of thought to this recently. And honestly, a fair amount of my thoughts were anxious, confused, and embarrassed. I had fallen into the comparison trap.
The thing about the comparison trap is that it leaves you feeling like nothing you do is enough– you’ll never measure up no matter how many changes you make or beautiful pictures you pin. The comparison trap is a black hole, even for those whom we aspire to be like.
My house will never be that well decorated. My kids will never be that tidy. My surfaces will never be so spotless.
I can’t afford… I don’t have time… I don’t know how…
The comparison trap says your home isn’t good enough and neither are you. But it doesn’t stop there.
If you’re not careful, the comparison trap will not only leave you feeling bad about yourself– you will start resenting the people to whom you feel you cannot measure up. Even if just subconsciously, you have to bring them down in order to start feeling better about yourself.
Thus the home I love slowly became a source of discomfort, rather than one of comfort. The very things I valued about our home were called into question– by me.
So how do you escape the crushing feeling of discontent and uneasiness?
By choosing gratitude and perspective.
Our home, ALL OUR HOMES, are a blessing and a gift. It’s true. Even with the walls the wrong color and the stains on the carpet and the bathrooms that need remodeling– your home provides your family with a safe space to be together. And is most likely larger and more accommodating than a majority of homes in the rest of the world.
My home, just the way it is now, is something to be thankful for. Practicing simple gratitude will both help me to relax over the less-than-perfect things and help to motivate me to take better care of what I’ve been given.
Perspective, too, is essential to get out of this rut. I forgot what was important to our family when I started comparing our home to those of other families. I had made intentional choices, but forgot them when I started comparing. I had chosen durable furniture over stylish. I had chosen to overlook house projects that need to be completed because the cost of not overlooking them is stress and tension. And, honestly, I have chosen to prioritize cleaning tasks because there just isn’t enough time in the day.
These are my choices. And I am comfortable with them.
The next time I am tempted to compare, to measure myself or my home, I will remember that I have chosen what is important for our family and others have chosen what is important for theirs. Neither is right. Neither is wrong.
Accepting these differences and seeing the beauty in our diversity is exactly what frees us up to go about the more important business of loving the people inside and outside our homes.
What about you? Do you struggle with comparing your home to others? How do you escape the comparison trap?