Not where, but Who. (On homes and Story and HGTV Cynicism)

I have 20 minutes to write this before I need to paint cabinets and tackle a MOUNTAIN of laundry. I didn’t plan and I didn’t edit but I wrote, and I sang and it feels good.

We don’t have cable, which is sad, because I love HGTV. I remember fondly the days of folding laundry with toddlers underfoot and letting House Hunters play like an endless soundtrack in the background.

That was a few houses ago.

3. 3 houses and 4 years ago.

Did I tell you we are about to move into our 8th house in 8 years of marriage? Craziness I tell you, my life crazy.

Back when we were living in house number… 5? Let’s see here… carry the 1… there is no 1… Riverview, Broadhurst, Asbury, North High School… Yep CR 3590, House number 5.

House number 5 was brand new and sparkly, it had a huge soaker tub and two whole bathrooms with showers! It was small, but it was easy and as I sat in my small, easy, brand new house, the musings of the buyers and renovators on cable’s most popular home channel seemed plausible, logical, a little demanding at times, but I felt for them.

No Longer.

As I prepare house number 7 for sale and another friggin exodus I watch HGTV with a healthy dose of cynicism.


Get ready for the Snark.

The other day while Noelle and I snuggled for a House Hunters Binge we heard a lady say the following:

“I’m just not sure I can live with that color of granite counter tops, we’d have to replace them before we moved in. I expected better taste when shopping in the 800k price range.”

What? Live? Like survive and not die? You’re not sure you can LIVE with THAT COLOR of HIGH END GRANITE countertops?


Oh sister, not only CAN YOU LIVE, but you can live WELL with any color of granite countertops. And? Come closer because this one may shock you, there are those of us who actually live happily with laminate countertops…. from the sixties.

I know, I know… I’ll give you a minute to process and recover.

Take it from someone who has moved on average of once a year for nearly the last decade. For someone who has lived in a partially condemned cinderblock apartment, in a home that had more than a few cockroachy roomates, from someone who has lived with five people sharing a single bathroom… with one sink.

It is not about the countertops

It is not about the number of sinks in the bathroom. What is with people and their refusal to spit toothpaste in the same sink as their spouse?  What else are you doing in those sinks that is setting you back so far? 

It’s about you. Not the house.

It’s about being thankful for the walls that keep you warm, however quirky.
It’s about cutting fresh food on whatever countertops you find yourself with and using it to nourish the people you love.
It’s about brushing those teeth and spitting foam into the sink and then looking in the mirror and thinking “Hello gorgeous, let’s go out and do another day of life and say thank you as we exit the front door.”


Kitchen number 7, coming along!

You (and your people) are the heart of the house and if you’re in disarray, your home will show it.

The best thing your house has going for it is you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love home decor, I love high end finishes, I love a master bathroom where I don’t have to kick duckies aside to take a shower, I’ve never had them but I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy granite countertops too.

But those things have come and go in my life and you know what I have learned? It’s fine.

It has taught me that, as blogger The Nester says, It does not have to be perfect to be beautiful. And above that? It may come and go.

Your job may change, you may have to leave the home you loved and poured into and when you do it will be sad.

Trust me, I am sad. I alternate between grief and “go get em” on a daily basis. Maybe even an hourly basis.

However, and maybe this comes with being a mom of 3 and having no choice but to rally for my peeps, you can weather the storm of a move. Even another move on top of another move. I can weather it because my people will come with me. They don’t stay with the house.

And God’s love, even though it’s confusing the hell out of me right now, will go with us.


My littlest people

It’s not about the where, it’s about the who.
It’s about rolling with the punches, because even in a home with perfect finishes, life is going to punch.

So shop for a beautiful house if you can and use it to love and feed the souls of your people.

Buy a fixer upper if that’s your jam and do your best, learn as you go, laugh at how many “paint shirts” you now own and learn how to use spackle because it’s the bomb.

Move into that new rental and nest in it because it’s yours, even if it’s just for now.


Non Ideal house moment.

Your home will change, you will grow into it and maybe out of it, and then you will leave it behind for new life to blossom and grow there.

But you and your people are the story and come what (or where) may, you have it in you to live your story well.

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  • Lisa

    I can’t imagine moving that often, you are brave! I do not like the style of the home we own now, it’s totally 70’s and while I also don’t want a new home as mid-century is more my style, cheap 70’s is no one’s style (the cheap part makes me pretty sure of that, ha). You are right you can make it work and be home. That’s a huge goal of mine this year. We won’t be in this home forever but I want to be happy while we are here. Thanks for the great reminders.

    • Leanne Penny

      Yes, no one likes cheap because well… it breaks! Home is such a great goal. You should check out The Nester’s book “The Nesting Place” and also Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier at Home” which is rocking my world right now.

      • Lisa

        I will check it out, thanks!

  • Kelly W

    You got it girl! It’s the heart that is the heart of the matter.
    After 13 homes (in 30 yrs) for us, our part 2: hospitality doesn’t require a mansion. We were hospitable in our 550sf first rental, and 20 years later in our temporary (8 months and 9 days) friend’s basement with a bar sink and microwave, 3 teens and dog (though some new acquaintances were taken aback that we’d even invited them in)… and value hospitality still in our lovely (current) home with all it’s bells and whistles.
    It’s the heart that counts. And besides, the it’s the other stuff that makes good stories.

    • Leanne Penny

      Yes! We threw a bash in our TINY seminary apartment with fun appetizers and people spilling out on to the balcony. (That was the partially condemned one by the way )

  • Rea

    Amen! We live in a boring subdivision copy-cat house with laminate counters, carpet that looks every bit of its 15 years of age, and not one ‘interesting’ or high end feature to be found. And it’s home. I may sometimes envy the mansions I drive by on the way to work (no, seriously…Mansions. With 5 car garages.), but this is where my people are and I’m content. (Also, I love to snark on HGTV.)

    • Leanne Penny

      There really is NO place like home is there? And whatever it is you make it your own and I’m learning that people feel that and they would way rather be in your OWN home than a perfect home with no hospitality or warmth.

  • Pam Worcester

    Oh my goodness! I think you’ve been spying on me! Love HGTV! And laugh ever so cynically as well at those that can’t live without their high end granite countertops and double sinks in the master bathroom! All this while sitting in my 20th house in 33 years … and just got my furniture after 7 months, so nesting is just beginning. But God has and always will be with us no matter where our home is. I’m ever reminded that while “living on faith” is not easy, God never moves away from us.

    • Leanne Penny

      You are one strong lady to move so often and do without your furniture and nesting materials. Home is a tricky thing but I’m learning it’s not walls and addresses but more elusive and lasting.

  • Nika


  • Mark Allman

    I am convinced that home is not a place but it’s the people you love.

  • Heather Caliri

    If I drank for sport, I’d take a shot every time someone says the word “open concept” or “dream home” on HGTV. I’d be too blitzed for cynicism at that point. Love this, Leanne :)

    • Leanne Penny

      Yes! That would be a fun and then quickly VERY dangerous drinking game. I had a similar idea with Frozen halloween costumes last fall but it would have left every door in america answered by a drunk person.

  • Teresa Tackett Hardymon

    17 homes in 30 years (not counting the two times we lived with my parents briefly) and we may not be done yet. I’ve learned to embrace the change and count it an adventure. Every house I’ve lived in has taught me lessons (even if it’s what I don’t like) and I can look back on every one of them with fond memories. The little house I’m in now has it’s challenges, but it is also cozy and filled with our love and things we’ve collected over the years. Since our current home is in my hometown and next door to my parents (who need our help right now) it will probably be permanent for a while, so I decided to order a canvas with all of our Street names, just to commemorate all the places we’ve lived. I titled it “the road less traveled” and every time I look at it I’m reminded of our journey and the blessings we’ve had and the lessons we’ve learned. Eventually the stretches between moves should slow down – I wish you the best on the new journey you are getting ready to take.

  • Addie Zierman

    Love this.