Not Every House is a Home

It is a common misconception that the perfect life will come to you once you find the perfect house. Many believe that when you have money to spend and spare, you will be able to buy this house, then head to the furniture store to bring home a knitted rug with a picture of your dog crocheted on the top or a coat rack because it reminds you of the one your dad used to adore. Next come in the custom wallpaper and the fancy wardrobes. 

But you soon find yourself in IKEA again. You soon discover that the doors of the fancy wardrobe — after you’ve opened them a thousand times — aren’t quite your style. This fixation on the materialistic aspect of life is dangerous, because it is not true that crafting the perfect house will guarantee you the perfect life. The perfect house does not make the perfect home; all that constitutes a home is an emotional connection and sense of belonging.

Looking at this argument literally, a house varies from a home in the very definition. Often when one refers to a house, they define it as a specific building that a person and their family reside in. On the other hand, a home is more abstract, as it can be anywhere a person or family resides. A house is concrete. A home is anywhere one can always come back to find comfort. A place to rest in between school and work. A home is not just a physical location that you can purchase and decorate. It has no set boundaries, and it can thus be a neighborhood where you met your childhood friend, or the field where you first learned how to ride a bike. A home is delineated by the memories and feelings associated with a certain space, unlike a fixed house. 

In some sense, “home” is a socially constructed idea that contributes to your self-identity, resembling who you are and what you cherish in life, regardless of size or monetary value. When you are focused on the material aspect of the ideal life, you will forever chase the bigger and the better. There will always be a bigger house in the next edition of your favorite interior design magazine. There will always be a piece of furniture that you claim you need to make your house even more pleasing. But that won’t necessarily make your house a home. The sense of security of being at home cannot be bought; it comes from the relationship of peace and comfort that one cultivates with a unique personal space. It won’t matter if it’s empty inside, just a table and a cup. There are limits to what mass production can produce — a home is not included. 

And if you are still adamant that a house and a home are interchangeable, let me leave you with one thing: a house is only the container for one’s possible home, and all of the sentimental value that comes with finding such a space; the house itself does not bring a sense of serenity. Like most properties in life, your house will eventually be passed down to future generations or sold to someone else. The sad truth is that the house isn’t truly yours. You simply take care of it. You pledged, not to ownership, but to the hope that your investment will be beneficial in the long run. Your house may provide you with the foundation to live a comfortable life, but a house is not permanent, nor can it provide permanent satisfaction or comfort simply by virtue of being a building used for habitation.

It is time society stops upholding the myth that a perfect life comes from a perfect house, which you will only be able to buy with a steady stream of income provided by a respectable job. It is not the perfect house that makes us content and happy with ourselves, but the perfect home, which can be anywhere that makes you happy. Your house merely serves as the shell that houses you and all that is precious to you. A house can never be as yours as a home. And a home is made up of the people and souvenirs that fill it — so cherish them instead of marble floors or sprawling gardens.