There's something so wonderful about a quiet house.
The peace. The silence. The stillness. A breeze that smells like gardenias.
You can breathe.
The house breathes.
But it doesn't stay silent for long. This beautiful house of yours has stories to tell, some in the faintest of echoes, stories from every milestone celebration, every pair of champagne glasses clinked for love, every kiss in a doorway, every perfectly baked batch of cookies, every worry, every tear.
Your house holds more details of your wonderful life than you even know. A tiny bloom of affection. An adoring gaze cast upon you while you're making pancakes. It knows the moment you fell in love, when your miracles happened, and when your blessings arrived. Your house knows. And maybe you know and remember, too. If you wrote them down, that is.
Well, I post everything on Facebook or Instagram, so I have it all there, you may think. You do have stories. Stories set at hotels and beaches, by waterfalls, and at pumpkin patches or while swimming with dolphins, camping by the lake, or dancing at other people's weddings. These are fabulous stories, all of them, and they're wonderful to capture in any format.
What we want to capture here are the stories of your house, from the breathtaking, momentous occasions to quieter, simpler, golden moments of your life that mean so much but don't make it to your social media highlight reel. How a special day felt. What inspired your choices. Someone who brought their joy into your home. What you cooked for holidays or the average Tuesday. And we want it all to be in your handwriting.
Journaling the stories of your home is not only capturing the home. It's capturing the person writing it all down.
Handwriting is such a treasure, and it gets more valuable every day. Do you know how much your family loves your handwriting? It's you, what so much of your love looked like on little notes and in every card. When we lose a loved one, or just miss them very much from a distance, we hold our own fingers above the space where that person's pen swirled and angled the words, feeling closer to them somehow. It's familiar, a soul-quenching comfort.
Real handwriting is everything.
I can tell you this from the heart. Several years ago, I had the honor (and tears, and pain, and exhaustion) of cleaning out my mother's home after she passed away. There is not a spoon, coaster, candle, or macaroni necklace from forty years ago that didn't pass through my hands. I was on an emotional shipwreck dive for weeks. The cleaning, the clearing, the donation pile, the recipes taking a place of honor safely far away from the recycling pile . . . and a little flash of gold caught my eye: My Diary. It was the gold lettering on the black cover of my mom's diary, which she began when she had me. Of all the journals she had kept in her life, this is the only one I found during the weeks of clearing out her home. I could say that all of the stories about me being an angel baby, sleeping through the night almost immediately, captivated me and that was sweet enough. But what really stood out was Mom's excitement about her new butter-yellow kitchen, the paint color inspired by a mango my father had picked for her during their honeymoon.
I had never heard that story before. Paint color inspiration? I'd never thought to ask. But I had the story now. In her words, lilting. I could "hear" the inflection of her voice, a little bit of a question at the end. It was her voice. And her love of colors. And my parents' love story. I had all of that back again. Because she wrote it down. Before age took her clarity and some of the stories floated away. Before grief over my dad's passing siphoned away so much of her joy. But there! I had her back now. Because she wrote it down.
I'll always be grateful, for that story and all the others she journaled and the sweet little things she kept and tucked away. That was the moment the idea for this book leapt into my heart, butter-yellow and smelling of gardenias. I would make this journal for you someday.
The Stories of This House is your time capsule to capture the wonderful little sights, sounds, tastes . . . the stuff that matters but that you don't post on social media. And here you are, ready to record so much about your life right here in this house, so you'll have every detail to look back on, and so your kids will have a little more of you in these pages.
Look ahead at the chapters to come. Pick your favorite topics and moments. Skip around in order of the path you set for yourself. The joy here is in your freedom to journal about your life in this house and the people and pets who made it a home.
And a fun little extra: I'll show you how to research the history of your house from before you even got there. Perhaps a fascinating character from fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago once walked your hallways and enjoyed the view from your kitchen window. Maybe your home was built on the site of something lovely, like a garden or farm. Perhaps your family can join in to find out the fascinating facts of your house and the land it sits on.
Over time, your house's makeovers show who you were and how you and your dreams have evolved. You'll find space here to journal about your home remodels, paint color evolutions, and landscape adventures, from pergolas to outdoor fireplaces to new baby Japanese maple trees that will change and grow. (Looking at before-and-after photos of trees we planted is one of my delights.) As you refresh your home, journal about it. Not just the hammer-and-nail parts, but also how you feel about the makeovers. About your child being old enough (what?!) to pick out paint colors. About that bright purple.
So much magic will live in this book. Feel free to use fun, colorful pens and stickers-whatever inspires you-as you make everlasting art of the living, breathing details of your life. Include favorite song lyrics, quotes, recipes, and more-all the good stuff.
I'm excited for you to fill these pages, and I'm happy for the magic it will bring to anyone, including you, who someday finds, reads, and loves everything about the stories of your house. Let's go.
Buying This House
Many relationships start with a good how-they-met story, and there's likely so much magic in yours. So many things had to go just right to place you in the perfect spot to "meet" and fall in love with your house. Here, share the story of how you first "met" your house and how that love story grew.
How long did it take for this house to steal your heart? Was it love at first sight? Or did you flirt with a few other houses before fate took you by the shoulders and turned you this way?
Some people fall in love during the approach to their house, gliding along majestically tree-lined streets with stunning sunset views and fall foliage. Perhaps a spotted fawn watches you from a small grove of trees, or horses look on from their pasture. Neighbors wave like they've known you for years as they push their strollers and walk their dogs. What kind of heaven is this? What was that first approach, or the first few approaches, like? How did the neighborhood make you feel at home?
Or maybe this little house just needed some love... some new paint... a new porch... new windows... a new roof and new fencing. It was the house equivalent of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, sad and slumping, but you knew it had so much potential. The first impression
might have been scary, but now you're so glad you took the leap.
Here is where you'll record the story of buying this house, from first glance to final bid, popping champagne and carrying the first box through the front door.
Who was the first to find your house's listing? Where did you see it listed? Attach the original listing here or in the back of this book. You'll want it later for wowing future loved ones with the asking price, selling price, and what the house included.
What was it that you loved most about the listing?
Was there anything in the listing that turned out to be misleading? Or surprising? Like a listed fourth bedroom that actually turned out to be a pantry?
Who would play your Realtor in a movie about this house?
Who went to the first visit of this house?
What was the first thing you saw outside this house? Inside?
What were your first impressions?
Who was the first to say, "This is it! We're home."
If it took a few visits to convince you, what finally won you over? Being there during the golden hour of perfect lighting outside, making slants of gilded rays across the floor? Maybe it was quiet and peaceful in the early evening hours, so different from where you lived at the time?
What did you say your first projects would be?
First room to paint?
First room to totally redo?
Did you tackle these projects right away, or has it been years? Did you ever get to them, or did other projects jump ahead in line? What were your actual first several projects?
What was the first offer you made on the house?
Was there a bidding war? What did you think/adjust/accept to stay in the bidding war?
What was the final price?
What were some of the things the prior owners agreed to fix or add as part of your purchase?
What were some signs that you chose well? A rainbow arching overhead after a downpour? A flock of cardinals flitting around the yard? Chapter 2
What the Original House Was Like
When you started pulling off paneling, tearing out carpet, steaming off wallpaper and borders, and revealing what was underneath the house's "shell," what did you find? Gorgeous original hardwood aching for refinishing? Stunning carvings above the fireplace? A message in a bottle tucked behind the drywall? On many HGTV remodeling shows, the person swinging the sledgehammer often reveals a hidden-for-years box of old photos, handwritten letters, maps or original blueprints of the house, yellowed newspaper clippings, or a section of wood pencil-marked with children's growing heights.
A home reveals itself to you layer by layer, trusting you with its secrets, its story freed from decades of being kept hidden. And some of those secrets can be sweet, such as a cloudy-edged Polaroid of the young couple who painted this room decades ago, stowed in the drop ceiling or inside a corner of the crown molding. A little hello from the past and a chance to see their faces.
Of course, sometimes the discovery is less than delightful, as in the case of carpet glued to the subfloor. Or, less frustrating, questionable orange, pirate-themed wallpaper behind the warped wood paneling, to go with the orange shag carpet removed from the playroom/soon-to-be home office. (This one was my house.)
Use these pages to document your house's unearthed secrets. You might never know the full stories behind those found photos, such as where that Polaroid couple is now, or who picked out the orange, pirate-themed wallpaper, but it's fascinating to look into a kind of time portal to see your home long ago.
What were your most fascinating finds? Feel free to attach photos!
Date Find Location
What was your go-to lunch while demoing, painting, and fixing up your house? (Include the restaurant and your favorite order if it was takeout.)
Which songs come to mind from your demo playlist?
Who did which tasks, such as painting, sanding, etc.?
What was the best thing you found?
What was the worst thing you found?
If you kept these found treasures, where did you store them? Are they in a lockbox? In the closet safe? In a photo album?
Over the years, you may find many additional "gifts" from within your house, little treasures that show you the house's past from days long before you got there, and also-wonderfully-from within your own years of living here. It's the archaeology of your home's life story. Keep it all, if you can. Your loved ones will marvel at it someday, as will you with every discovery.
Copyright © 2022 by Sharon Naylor Toris. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.