The neighborhood where we currently live consists chiefly of caravans (mobile homes/trailers), which are rented out very cheaply. It makes sense, therefore, that these are occupied by families who for various reasons either choose, or have to, live frugally. They don't have much to spend on living, either by way of rent or interior/exterior decoration.
Yet how different can two such little homes look, standing one next to the other! In front of one, there is a neat self-made porch (perhaps made out of salvaged wood), a trail of carefully picked stepping stones, and a few large tubs full of rich, dark earth and growing plants. Another climbing plant or two adorn the walls.
When one steps inside, there is a delightful sight of a home that is certainly very snug, with no extra space for any clutter – yet everything is beautifully arranged, and every little corner is properly utilized. Shiny pots and pans hang off walls. Cleverly made shelves hold a compact collection of books and other possessions. Cheerful curtains frame the windows, moving in the inviting breeze. There is an overall air of neatness, propriety, order, and pride in one's own corner of the world.
The house next to this one forms a very different picture. There is a jumble of rusted bikes, barrels and other unrecognized items just near the front step. It hasn't been cleared in years. A dirty diaper that has escaped the garbage bag rolls around the yard, gathering dust and dirt, for a week now. Inside, one encounters a stove that looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years, walls dark with grime, and general disarray.
One may say that financial difficulties make people dejected, so that they no longer have the energy to pay attention to their surroundings. That may be so. But it also works the other way around: beauty and order create cheerful thoughts, while ugliness brings pessimism, glum, and a sense of despair.
I know families who, I think I can say without exaggeration, own no items of a purely decorative nature. No pictures; no ornaments; no potted plants. But there is order and cleanliness in the home, and everybody feels welcome. It doesn't cost money to clean (or if you take into account the cost of water and cleaning agents, it costs very little). There is beauty in order and neat arrangement of the furniture. A home doesn't and cannot always be perfectly clean, but even if there are little children, spills, stains, mess and clutter, there is a vast difference between a home that is lived-in but regularly cared for, and a home that is neglected.
If there is even a tiny budget for home improvement, much can be done with it. It doesn't cost very much to buy some paint and freshen up the walls, if you do it yourself. It doesn't cost a lot to put out some flowerbeds or flowers in a pot. A bathroom can be spruced up by a new shower curtain. Slipcovers will renew even the most battered-looking couches and armchairs.
Some people will say, “oh, this is only a temporary home; we are only staying here until our circumstances improve. It doesn't make sense to invest any time or energy into prettying it. All this effort can be saved for our more permanent home.” Others, in contrast, will say, “true, we hope to live in a better, more spacious, more comfortable home some day; but for now this is where we live, and for our own sake, and especially the sake of our young children, who need to grow up seeing beauty, we want to make this current dwelling as nice and welcoming as possible.”
Just as we know that we will, eventually, go on to eternal life, and yet it is worthwhile to fill this earthly life with good and kind deeds, with love and fellowship and satisfying work, so it is worth our while to fill our homes, be they even temporary, with beauty, order, cheerfulness and creativity.