On Making a House (or tiny apartment) a Home:

Sweet Potatoes and Social Change
Its just a coat of paint, but for me its also a reflection of putting down roots and having a place to call home. Photo By Samantha McClellan

Truly “free” weekends are a valuable luxury around our home. My husband works in a church that is over an hour away, so we do not count Sundays as weekend days and while we work very hard to place boundaries around our Fridays and Saturdays, at least a few weekends out of the month are usually spent traveling to visit family and friends or doing other fun things outside of Raleigh. That being said, when a free weekend does arise I am usually bound and determined to use it productively.

This past weekend, with spring in the air and our apartment lease renewed for a second year, I decided it was time to paint. I have always loved brightly colored walls. Growing up, I had rooms of pink, blue, purple, red, and green and even as a college student I painted the entire bathroom of one apartment the brightest aqua color I could find so that I would literally feel like I was in the ocean. The color of my walls is a source of expression that has always been important to me.

Unfortunately for me, my husband had a twelve-page paper to write and submit this weekend so I was on my own. I moved the furniture, taped the trim and readied my roller. After painting for a few hours the wall was covered and the first coat was drying. I was pleased, but it is certainly a bold color.

I have been blessed with a very chill husband who usually lets me go off on my whims of DIY projects, recipe experimentation, and home décor without complaint but with a color this bold I wasn’t entirely sure what his reaction would be. He came out of paper – writing hibernation for dinner and surveyed the wall. With a nod of approval he gave me a hug and said “thank you for always trying to make our house a home”. Obviously, that is an amazingly sweet thing to say, but even after the happy butterflies in my stomach subsided that comment still rattled around in my mind. What was it about a simple coat of paint that made us feel like this house was a home and why does that even matter?

In her book Radical Homemakers, Author Shannon Hayes talks a lot about the importance of centering our lives around our homes and communities. One of my favorite quotes from the book says this, “When people choose to center their lives on their homes, creating strong family units and living in a way that honors our natural resources and local communities, they are doing more than dismantling the extractive economy and taking power away from the corporate plutocrats. They are laying the foundation to re-democratize our society and heal our planet. They are rebuilding the life-serving economy.” Hayes makes the point that if we are committed to living in a way that supports our community and our family we first need to center our focus on our home and onto turning our home into a place of production rather than consumption.

So what does this have to do with paint? For me, painting the walls the color I want them is an acknowledgment of putting down roots. When we first moved into the apartment it was with the understanding that it may only be temporary. We spent all of our first few months trying to decide what our ideal living situation would look like, and in the end we realized that we already had it and we wanted to stay put. Almost immediately upon making that decision, my relationship with our home and community changed. I embraced the relationships I was making with people in the area, signed up for events I had been putting off, and began to see my little one bedroom apartment as more than just the place where I sleep and store my possessions, I began to see it as a home and I wanted the walls to reflect that transformation.

On the journey towards reducing our dependence on an extractive economy, embracing our communities, and redeveloping our understanding of health and happiness we cannot expect to get very far without first embracing that which most closely surrounds us… our home.


Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.

One Comment

  • Beautiful! You know I love bright walls, it makes you feel happy. Sam, you are an amazing writer and I’m so enjoying getting to know this side of you thru your blog.

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Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.


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