Creating a sense of home is important, especially to military families, says army wife Maria Reed, creator and host of Moving with the Military. Even with frequent moves, she says military families can make any house a home with a few practical strategies.
Feeling at home makes a difference to military families in important ways, says Maria, whose show features surprise home makeovers for military families, helping them create a sense of home wherever they live.
“Having a place to call home contributes to our emotional well-being, self-esteem, and self-confidence, and is vital to being mission-ready,” she says. “Military families spend a lot of time away from their traditional support systems. They build resiliency by finding a home, forming strong bonds in their military community. It may feel like the only family they have.”
“Having a place to call home contributes to our emotional well-being, self-esteem, and self-confidence, and is vital to being mission-ready.” ~Maria Reed
On her makeover show, Maria helps military families personalize their homes, offering strategies to make the most of living spaces, both practically and aesthetically. She believes it’s important to prioritize moving into a new space and getting settled as part of acclimating to a new duty assignment.
“Military families learn to be at home everywhere, but connectedness often centers around items in our homes which evoke memories,” Maria says. “It’s important for us to feel at home in the house we live in.”
Military families don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to moving in and decorating a home.
“Do it now!” says Maria.
After moving to a new place, Maria begins by getting her two children settled in their spaces and including them in the process.
“Moving is a great time to redesign their space with a new theme, bedding, or color. They need to feel comfortable in their new space,” Maria says. In the upheaval of a move, kids appreciate having some control over their lives and living space.
Next, Maria’s family designates an area for a “command center,” a place to put backpacks and shoes, as well as post the family calendar and schedule.
“Everything flows from there,” she says, adding that the location may differ in every house. “We have had command centers in garages, laundry rooms, storage closets.”
Even after getting settled, Maria says there are many ways to give living spaces home-like qualities and make them more useful, too. Sometimes just rearranging the furniture can make a difference. She says furniture placement and use of space should fit the flow and pattern of activities in the home.
For making home anywhere on a military budget, Maria offers these tips and techniques:
Shop at Home
Evaluate the accessories or fixtures you already have and try them out in other spaces. The best time to do this is right before or after a move, but you can do it anytime. Sometimes with all the packing and moving around, we forget what we even have. A quick sweep of all your rooms might spark new placement ideas for an old lamp that’s been sitting in a back room. Instead of buying a new piece of furniture, refurbish an existing piece with chalk paint, stain, or decoupage.
Top to Bottom
Use vertical spaces as well as horizontal. When items go up on walls we tend to feel more grounded in that space. Hang curtains, install shelves and art work. For the floors, whether we rent, buy or live on post, I am a fan of large area rugs. They can disguise a less-than-desirable floor, and they add color, visual interest and texture. Layering rugs over rugs is great, too.
Enjoy a fresh coat of paint and a pop of color! Paint or removable wallpaper on an accent or focal wall can make an impact on the overall feel of a space. So what if you have to paint it back to the original color? Do it! Also, when you purchase large pieces of furniture, keep it neutral. Then you can add pops of color with handmade throw pillows and accessories.
Collection or Clutter
Group like items and display them as a collection. We tend to buy a lot of little décor items, maybe because they’re affordable or because we’re living in a small space; and small items are easier to pack and move. I totally get that. So now, what do you do to keep these from looking like clutter? Gather all your artwork and accessories and look at what you have and group like items together. When displaying items of the same height, elevate a few using a plinth. (Anything can be a plinth, a from a piece of wood to a stack of books.) Displaying objects at varying heights will gives a more designer look.
Oh, the Places You’ve Been
Create a gallery wall. Can you have too many photos? Not on social media, but for your home? Well, maybe. To emphasize your favorites for a cohesive display, make large prints of a few of your favorite photos and display them together. Maps and artifacts from your travels add dimension to the story-telling power of the gallery. Then, use a digital frame to include more photos and continue telling your stories.
Adding plants to a space makes any room feel alive and helps improve the air quality. Use plants to create a visual interest by hanging them on a wall, or on shelves. Put a plant on the floor to fill a corner or on a table to add color. Keep in mind amount of sunlight in your space when choosing plants. Choose plants that are easy to grow. Faux plants look great too.
“Environment is important to the wellbeing of any family, especially a home environment,” says Maria. “For us, answering the question, ‘Where is home?’ can be tough, but it’s not about geography. Home is anywhere we find security, control, belonging, identity, peace. It is a place to heal from the challenges of military life.”
Finding a sense of home takes work and intention in a mobile life, but it’s certainly possible, says Maria. From stateside and overseas, military quarters to civilian neighborhoods, military families can create home anywhere.
Ways to declutter and Get Organized for the Next Move
Feature about Maria Reed for AUSA by Terri Barnes
Episodes of Moving with the Military