Home is also where our stories are

by Aug 14, 2021

Home is many things

 Home is where the heart is – and where many of our stories originate.

At its best, home offers safety, security, privacy, control and a sense of belonging.  It also provides grounding, centring, and connection – to people and things that give our lives meaning.

The homes of our youths often give us happy memories of childhood, learning, siblings, family traditions and growth. They might also remind us of family loved and lost, of new relationships, first love, heartbreak, discovery.  Our earliest home can be a key part of what shapes us and can often leave an indelible mark on the person we become.  

Unfortunately, thoughts of home can also bring up negative memories, reminders of conflict, negativity, even abuse in many forms.  Those stories can be difficult to recall or to tell.

Tapping into our stories from places we have lived can give us insight into who we are and who we want to become.  It can also help you recognize reasons for your relationship to stuff and why you hold on to some of your belongings.


Finding YOUR stories of Home

Here are some questions that might help you find your stories of home.  
Some of the stories might make you smile, reminisce or want to reach out to family members. 

Others might be hard for you to revisit and might trigger unpleasant memories.  If you do feel stress or anxiety about any of these questions, please set them aside and reach out for support.

You might only want to answer 1-2 questions or you might decide to pursue them all.   You also might choose to jump around and answer some at different times.
This might be something that you want to do over multiple sittings as thoughts come back to you.  

You might want to answer with lists or detailed descriptions and/or photos or sketches. It is your exercise to use as it suits you.

I hope that you will find some useful insight, and many positive memories.  Maybe even a story or two that you want to expand and explore in more detail.



What does “home” mean to you?

Describe your first memories of home what sights, sounds, smells, emotions … come to mind when you think of this home?

Have you lived in one home all your life – or in many homes?  Why?

Briefly describe each of your homes.  Try to do this relatively quickly, using point form.  You are not developing the stories at this point but capturing the details that you could later use to write a longer story.  Here are some things you could include:

  • Give it name or description as an identification.  This could be the address, if you recall it, or a striking physical characteristic (red shutters, house on hill) – you might want to identify approx. when you lived there (by dates or by your age range in that house)
  • Describe the rooms / layout – or sketch them – do you remember colours, or secret drawers or special uses, or particular relationships or…?
  • Describe any other people who live/lived in the house and their relationship with you
  • Give a sense of the neighbourhood, the type of community, how you get/got around your community
  • Identify a strong memory or two associated with each home – good, bad, or a combination
  • Was living in this home a predominately positive or negative experience? Why?

Did you choose your current home? Why? If you did not choose it, who did?  Do you feel comfortable in this home? Why/Why not? What would you like to change? What is your favourite part of your home?  Why?  How long to you expect to stay in this home?  Are you connected in the community?

Write about when you first moved out of your childhood home? (If you still live in your childhood home, you might imagine how you anticipate it will happen) Did you feel ready?  How was your first night in your new home?  Did you decide it was time to leave or did someone else make that decision?

Do you have a vision of a perfect home for you?  Does it match your current home or any of your past ones?  If not, are you still looking for that home?  If you are looking, what actions are you taking?  If you are not looking, why not?  What would the surroundings be like?   Would it be in a big city, a small town or in the wilderness or …..?   Would you like to buy or build from scratch?  What makes your dream home perfect for you? Who would you want to share it with you?  Paint a picture (with words or pencil or actual paint) of your house in some detail.

I would love to hear some of your stories of home and what home means to you.  Please share in the comments.

If you have negative memories of past homes
or if you are concerned about homelessness

Conversations and reflections about home can be especially difficult for people who are experiencing homelessness or have experienced it in the past.    If finding stories of your past homes causes you stress or anxiety, please reach out for help through local call lines or mental health organizations.

Here are a couple of Canadian resources:

Homelessness can happen for many reasons, often beyond individual control.  It might happen for short or long time.   Its impacts are immense.  Individuals experiencing homelessness suffer loss of self-esteem, high levels of stress, increased issues with both physical and mental health, vulnerability to abuse and substance overuse,  and many other difficulties.  If you want to support organizations that address homelessness, research local community not-for-profits offering food banks, shelters, mental health counselling services, or low-income housing advocates in your area.  .

Packing photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


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