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When I walked in to tour my first post-grad, no-roommates apartment, I spent a few seconds inside, then walked out to the back porch and cried.

I feel like we’re telling a lot of stories about me crying lately, but the point is this: that apartment, objectively, was ugly. It smelled weird. It had reddish-brown shag carpeting. (The first time my brother saw that carpet, he asked, deadpan: Do you mow this?)

And then I moved in, and took an industrial-sized carpet cleaner to the floors, and cut paint chips into garland to hang around my room, and bought end tables and lit candles in the kitchen.

My dad helped me split the (admittedly generously sized) living area into two, so I had a little office, and I sat at that desk and paid bills and filled out job applications, so desperate to get out. I dreaded days at my job, rewarding as it ultimately was, but I cherished my time in that apartment, and I counted down to weekends there like I was counting down to Christmas. It was home.

I didn’t really know, until I started writing this, that I still miss it.

My current apartment is a step up. No one would think to suggest a lawnmower for the carpet, for one thing.

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But it still doesn’t have what you’d call good bones. Not hardly. The last tenant (or the last ten) managed to stain and scruff up the off-white, non-shag carpet all through the main living area.

There’s a lot of cheap plastic tile in inconvenient places. It’s not in a great neighborhood. Most of my furniture was handed down by family or purchased from IKEA.

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And I love it. Like, love it so much my heart swells up all big in my chest when I walk through the door.

My style has grown up here. I’ve started thinking about functionality, and how to accommodate other people in my home. It’s not a showroom, but it’s home.

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That’s partly because I’ve been here for laughter and crying, and learning how to make a steak, and washing blood out of my hair after brain surgery. It’s also because I’ve taken care to shape it and make it. It’s home because it’s the accrual of all those little efforts to make something beautiful.

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You do not have to own your home to love it.

You don’t have to buy thousand-dollar dining chairs.

You don’t have to walk on gleaming hardwood floors.

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You can make it home right now. You can thrift, and buy things at dollar stores and glue them together, and hang paintings you love on the walls, and fill it with colors and textures you love and things that remind you of the joys in your life.

Home is not something that’s waiting for you way off in the future. When you own it. When it’s perfect. When you have those hardwoods and thousand-dollar dining chairs.

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This is where you live. The future is not where you live.

Settle in. This is home. And that’s beautiful.

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