The Cozy Protective Mantle of Home


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“Studies of hunter-gather societies show that a person’s turf helps provide identity, privacy, intimacy, and protection from stress.  One reason our homes are so precious to us – and being homeless is so debilitating – is that every time we cross the threshold, we wrap ourselves in a cozy protective  mantle of memories that helps sustain our persona.” The Power of Place, by Winifred Gallagher.

As you may know, I have been reading The Power of Place and thinking a lot lately about my personal space – both my physical location in Dallas and my personal space at home. I love to travel, but I don’t desire to be a digital nomad for any longer than the length of my next trip.  The connotations of being location independent (or maybe location flexible) are more appealing to me since my work can really be done anywhere I have an internet connection, but I still want the benefits that a dedicated home has to offer.

I don’t think that being location independent means that one should have to do without the benefits of feeling at home either.  I’m intrigued by what makes a place really feel like home, what makes it more likely to provide the “cozy protective mantle” that gives relief at the end of the day when you finally cross that threshold.  What do you think? What does being home mean to you?

My Favorite Apartment

I remember clearly the feeling of coming home to my tiny 600 square foot apartment in Washington, D.C. after traveling somewhere – dropping my luggage near the door, collapsing onto my tiny green couch to enjoy a few minutes of interrupted quiet, and thinking “I’m home.”  There was nothing inherently beautiful about this apartment.  I rolled out of bed in the morning directly into my tiny galley kitchen, the air conditioner sounded like an airplane ready for liftoff, and the place was really drafty.  Admittedly, the location of the apartment was great – five blocks due west of the White House, a few blocks north of the Lincoln monument, and around the corner from my classes at GW law.  I’ve lived in a bunch of different apartments since this studio in DC, and most have never evoked the same feeling despite the additional space, amenities, and often cheaper price.

Making My House Into a Home

About a year ago, I bought my first house.  Needless to say, I have learned a lot in a year about the cost and effort of maintaining the physical structure.  Now I’m focusing more of my energy on creating this feeling of home and changing my physical space.  What I do know is that too much stuff can stifle any feeling of comfort, relief, or creativity.  I have focused on the outside of the house, so now I needed to focus on the interior and some home organization.  So I have begun to eliminate excess clutter from my space.  One garage sale, two eBay postings, and a big trip to Half Price Books later, my space is feeling homier again.

10 Clutter Busting Tips

As a part of the larger effort to rid my life of excess stuff, I’m still working on improving at these things.  Like balance or being present in the moment, ongoing effort is required, and I don’t ever expect to feel finished with this effort.  There are still a few more piles to go through, and there always will be.  These tips are a little rigid for me, but I think they hit all the important points.  I’ve used tips #1, 5, 9, and 10, but the rest are where I’ve got room for improvement!  I think the most important tipis probably #2.  Never let it get too bad!  What do you think?  Any other tips to offer?

  1. Open your mail over the trash
  2. Do a daily 5 minute cleanup
  3. File newspapers and magazines once a week
  4. Purge wire hangers monthly
  5. Clear closets yearly
  6. Arrange wardrobe by type
  7. Fold sheet sets inside one of the pillow cases
  8. Don’t overstuff drawers
  9. Eliminate unused items in kitchen
  10. Make a list before you shop

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Technomadia July 28, 2009 at 9:42 am

I went through a lot of these considerations over the years as I became a full time nomad.

At first, I ran my software development company from my home in Florida, with the idea in mind that I could theoretically work from anywhere. At that point, I didn’t utilize it much more than taking my work poolside from time to time.

And then I started integrating in personal travel and taking my work with me.

And then, after a couple of hurricane evacuations – I really started to evaluate just what made a home. That allowed me to make the leap into creating a life fully in motion and still have my home with me. For me and my life partner, that’s been traveling in a small solar powered geeked out travel trailer. I’m always in travel and always at home.. it’s been a great confluence of fulfilling my wanderlust and homebodyness. And, I still work as I travel full time.

I found I needed to have my own space, not be a guest in someone’s home or a hotel.. to feel at home. After two years on the road now.. it feels awesome!

– Cherie /


Heidi Farmer July 31, 2009 at 7:26 am

I’ve lived in many a small apartment. My favorite was in Colorado Springs. It was a basement no-frills apartment, and I just LOVED it. Now that we’re in a house, I often miss the simplicity of those days. But I couldn’t imagine having two kids there!


Angela July 31, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hi Heidi! It is amazing how much MORE comes with a house, isn’t it? I think you’re right that the memory of those places is improved by the fact that times were simpler then… But I love living in my little mid-century house too.


Taylor Davidson August 12, 2009 at 8:02 am

Being a nomad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be :)

Personally, I’m able to create the same security and comfort of being at home rather quickly and easily, but that’s me. It’s more in my mind than my surroundings, my attitude more than my possessions; thus for me the important step is to clean the clutter from my mind. Make lists, take the time to clean it out, filing ideas into folders, tucking them into other ideas, and getting rid of the ones that simply aren’t good enough. That’s how I create my “protective mantle of home” everyday…


Angela August 14, 2009 at 6:36 am

More about the process rather than the space… Some food for thought. Thanks, Taylor!


Pat Chiappa June 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Both myself and my husband work from home and although it’s very convenient, I’ve been really wondering about whether I actually enjoy sharing my private sanctuary, my home life, with my work life. We don’t live in a huge space – just 1,800 sq. ft, which considering there are 2 offices in our home, is quite small. And we are both really disciplined in switching from work mode to live/play mode at the end of the workday – but I was thinking that somehow it feels to me a little disrespectful to merge the two worlds – as though I’m not fully honoring my life/live space. At the risk of sounding too new agey, I do believe the space you live in, your nest, your haven, your home – is sacred space. And although work is sacred as well, it just feels different to me. (this is something I obviously need to explore..) My husband would disagree with me – he has no problem merging the two worlds; he even enjoys and actually thrives in this environment. Maybe because I’m a female and my nesting instincts are different than his…
We are currently looking for a new home, and besides my usual requirements of sunny, quiet, private, 3 B/R, 2 B, I did promise myself that our next place would have a detached unit for working.


Angela June 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Hi Pat – I agree that home is sacred space and have tried to confine my “work” to only my home office – whether it’s my day job that’s been brought home or the other projects that keep me busy. Good luck with the house hunting! A detached work space sounds perfect. :)


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