A House is Not a Home

The concept of ‘home’ is a strange one when you think about it. It has no discernible definition, and can only really be described as the feeling you get when you are ‘at home’. The classic cliché tells us that “home is where the heart is” – but what about the physical spaces that many of us are lucky enough to call home? I know when I first moved into my single room in my first semester at ANU, it certainly didn’t feel like home. But soon, my small space became my sanctuary. It wasn’t my home because it was where my heart was (I spent most of my time there alone). It was my home because it was familiar and safe. Later when I developed a close group of friends, I grew attached to the room because of the memories I made there – and this attachment grew stronger every day.

Why is it that the structures we spend so much of our time in become so essential to our concept of home? I’ve only had to say goodbye to two homes – once when I moved house at a very young age, and again when I moved rooms within UniLodge. I’m incredibly sentimental, and I really struggled with leaving my first room in Canberra. So much had happened there, and I had changed so much over my 18 months in that room. When I arrived at my new room, I felt numb. Nothing felt the same. However, thanks to the fact that all UniLodge Rooms are identical, as soon as my bed sheets were put out and my posters put up, this new room was home again. So maybe home isn’t where the heart is, maybe it’s just where the familiar is.

Moving into a new space, even when surrounded by loved ones, always feels unfamiliar. It’s not until we settle into a space by bringing out our belongings and, most importantly, making memories there that it truly becomes home. It’s strange to think that in the life span of one house, various families or people will call it home. We do not attach to the physical structure of the house, nor the bricks and cement that create its foundation, but rather the sense of a familiarity and fond memories we get from time spent in one place. The same can be said for the cities and towns that we live in. They can also begin to feel like home once we have explored the surrounds and discovered our favourite spots. I never thought I would truly feel at home in Canberra. Now my mum gets mad at me when I’m visiting my family and I refer to returning to Canberra as “going home”.

If we look to music for explanation, Dionne Warwick tells us “a house is not a home”. This definition rings truer for me – while physical structures are meaningful because of the experiences we have in them, a house itself does not make a home. A house can be part of a home, but home really takes many other forms: A city, a space, a room, a restaurant. Creating memories in new places will inevitably mean we carry our homes with us, no matter how far we travel in life.