Why Handmade = Home?

So, in all my time looking for solutions to the lack of “home” feeling I’ve been struggling with over the years, there has almost always been the general recommendation of filling the home/apartment/residence with handmade goods, regardless of whether you make them yourself or not.

The handmade recommendation is often buried in a mountain of “Buy this! Buy that!” but it is so important that, even on websites aiming for sales of whatever product, it remains included.

I’ve wondered for a long time why handmade items would really make a difference. Wouldn’t having a handmade product (especially if it is from someone else) be exactly the same as just picking something off the shelf at the average big box store?

Well…. no.

Compare…

We’ve all seen those gorgeous rooms in magazines where everything is staged perfectly and there’s not a wrinkle, or a spot, or anything out of place. The magazines often also selling all the featured items with the promise of “You can have this, too!”

Photo by Vecislavas Popa on Pexels.com

Those rooms are most certainly beautiful and they are also, in a strangely undefined way, cold.

I’ve (guiltily) admired those rooms in magazines while my own house looked like a tornado (or six) had just gone through it.

I’ve (rationally) longed for the order and “perfection” that is represented in those images, but I’ve never felt like actively trying to make my house look like that in spite of feeling lazy for not doing so.

It’s only very recently that I’ve understood why I didn’t truly want to reach for that flawless magazine look (aside from knowing it is virtually impossible with children in the house).

If you’ve never walked into a room that is filled with handmade goods, you probably haven’t encountered the incredibly comforting feeling that it creates. Although I’m sure most of us have encountered it at at least one point (grandma’s house, anyone?).

Call it an aura, spirit, presence, or soul, it really doesn’t matter what you think it is, but it is there. It is as tangible as it is indescribable and it wraps you in a hug as soon as you walk in.

Walking into a bedroom, for example, with only a handmade blanket on the bed, handmade drapes on the windows and a few other small personal effects spread about just feels different. It feels home-y even if it’s not actually your home. But…

Why?

I’ve thought about this for longer than I’d like to admit and finally came to a fairly simple conclusion: It all amounts to, essentially, time.

Let’s consider the average “quilt” you find at the store in the U.S. today. With its printed “piecework” and “perfectly” aligned stitching, it probably took mere minutes to put together, quilt, fold, stuff into a bag, and toss into a shipping container.

That “quilt” spent significantly more time wrapped in plastic and floating around in a shipping container than it did in the hands of an actual human being. To the point where any time it spent in human hands is truly negligible.

Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com

Functionally that blanket is exactly what is “needed”. A bunch of fabric to keep you warm and comfortable at night.

And nothing more.

Meanwhile, a handmade quilt, with its individual design carefully planned, its colors and patterns of fabric carefully selected, cut out, and stitched together. Its layers assembled and sewn together by one, or maybe two, people…

A handmade quilt is a manifestation of multiple dozens, sometimes even hundreds of hours of work all in a single object. All of it done with the care, even affection, of an individual person. With their hands. Their individual dream brought into reality.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

But the time spent on that individual handmade quilt is not all the time invested into it. It is also a reflection of the years spent by that individual refining their skills, practicing, working, failing, and trying again.

That one handmade quilt is filled with, well, I don’t know how to put it any way other than human spirit.

A factory-made blanket warms the body, but only a handmade blanket can also warm the heart.

2020

This may look like a tangent, and I guess it kind of is, but bear with me because I think it’s still relevant.

If nothing else, 2020 has been good for drawing attention to how badly we all need each other. Humanity is fundamentally a social species and even the most introverted of us need at least occasional contact with other humans.

Being essentially locked in my own residence for months on end against my will has allowed for a great deal of frustration *cough* reflection on what exactly it is to feel at home in any given place.

Frankly, if it weren’t for 2020 I’d probably still be struggling with trying to define why my house just doesn’t feel like home. In all fairness, it still took me months of stewing and restlessly fiddling with everything in my residence in a desperate attempt to make my home feel more pleasant. Granted, living in a place for more than a couple years at a time might (definitely) help, but that’s not always an option and home really isn’t just a place.

2020, or more specifically COVID-19, has also drawn attention to the fact that none of us know if we will see tomorrow, next month, next year. Is this going to be our last holiday season with someone? Is this our last holiday season? Holidays? Birthdays? Vacations? What will the next family gathering look like? When will we be able to hang out with friends again? How long will it be before any of that even becomes an option?

So much has become uncertain.

Back to the Topic of Time

So why does handmade feel different just because, well, it takes longer?

You have to realize that time that is invested into creating something is time that is never lost so long as that object exists.

We all have a finite amount of time in our lives, whether we like to think about that or not, and while we don’t know how much time we have left we can at least be fairly certain we have now, and we had then, but then may as well no longer exist as time is immaterial. The past, in many ways, is literally a figment of our imagination.

So when we take the time to create something ourselves, that time is converted into something physical. Something harder to lose. Sometimes, something that will remain long after we are gone.

In this era of instant gratification, where everything has to be now, sitting down and slowly, ever so slowly, crafting something by hand seems… wasteful.

At least that seems to have become the collective attitude of society.

Why on earth would you waste time by making something that you can get now (often also much cheaper, maybe better looking) at the store, or even simply shipped directly to your front door if you’re willing to bear “waiting” 2-3 days.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Drive a few minutes, poke a button, just get what you need and be done with it! Your time is valuable isn’t it?

Yes.

Yes, your time is more valuable than you know, but are you really using it to the best of your abilities by just buying various knickknacks to fill an unnamable void as fast as possible?

Should you buy whatever premade junk items you need because you’re time is better spent elsewhere… on what exactly?

Watching videos? Browsing the internet? (Yes, I realize this is rather tongue-in-cheek writing this here… on the internet. But we’re all here so where else should I reach out to you?)

If you truly don’t have any time to learn a craft and make something by hand, you have my deepest sympathy. I also implore you to consider investing in someone else’s handmade goods to add true depth and soul to your residence. Buy handmade local. Buy handmade from some third world country overseas, if that is your preference. Just make sure it is handmade.

If you know the name of the maker, that’s even better. Just make sure that somebody cared. Somebody carefully invested their limited time. By doing so you can begin to nurture that connection to your humanity.

Nurture your human side.

We are all makers at heart. This has been the key to our success as a species, after all. Even a few minutes each day of making can help nurture that core essence. Over time, you can add to your home. Make it your home. Not something replicated millions of times all over the world with millions of exact copies of impersonal objects in every conceivable way.

Handmade items, these things that were made with precious time invested, can travel with you from one house/apartment/residence to the next.

The feeling of home, that most often develops where you’ve spent a long time in any given place, might also become portable. Take your handmade goods with you wherever you reside and maybe, just maybe, the place itself wont be as relevant. The invested time is in your handmade items not, by default, in the place you reside in.

When moving frequently, the time invested passively by default in any given place will always be lost forever.

So investing the time in handmade items… that’s what I hope I can use to make my house finally feel like home.

So, my reader, what will you do?

What will you invest your time in today?

What would you like to create?

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