Keeping Up Appearances


When my husband and I sold our first home, I was excited. I had enough HGTV shows in me to be able to declutter and depersonalize my house, all while still making it feel warm and inviting. Our realtor was so impressed she took pictures to show future clients. The next time we put a house on the market and had to do the same I was prepared, or so I thought. Somehow, depersonalizing and staging your home when you are on a third floor walkup in the city with three kids four and under is an entirely new thing.

We emptied the rooms from toys and left mostly books and puzzles. Gone were the photos and pictures brought home from preschool on the refrigerator and there was to be nothing on the kitchen counters. Furniture was rearranged just so and beds had to be made every morning, no matter what was going on, because you never know when you might get a showing. The idea of a showing was all motivating. I felt it was my job, as the stay-at-home parent, to make sure that at any moment our realtor could stop by with a potential buyer and we would be ready.

It took over a year for us to leave the condo and in that time I managed to succeed in keeping up appearances. Know what I learned? Keeping up appearances is exhausting.

I love having people over. I feel alive when I can pour a cup of coffee, or heat water in a tea kettle for a friend. Kneading dough for fresh baked bread to share makes me feel closer to Jesus and passing out a throw blanket to someone as they curl up on my couch and talk is what I’m made to do. But that appearance thing is always in the back of my head. It whispers to me that simple hospitality isn’t enough. It tells me my friends are consumers who will decide on my worth based on my home’s appearance.

I don’t want people to see my mess. Whether it is my kitchen floor that is dirty from the snow and salt being tracked in and out each day or the way my girls will yell at each other when they are tired or hungry, I don’t want people to see it. I’d prefer they look in with the correct Instagram filter and see my kids getting along in a house that is clean and full of flowers, lit candles, and trays of warm cookies fresh out of the oven with the sun streaming through the windows just so. And while those moments exist, they are just that, moments. They float throughout the day landing on us much the way dandelion fuzz is carried on a summer breeze. We have glimmers of magic where all seems right in the world, and we have hours of struggle when dinner is being prepared and pianos are being practiced and homework is being completed.

I recently turned forty and with that seemingly important milestone came something new. I see the burden that keeping up appearances is. I see the burden it places on not just me but on those around me. I see the masks we wear for what they are.

We are all just stumbling together.

There’s a quote from Rumi that says, “Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots.” I’m ready to dig deeper. So come with me, even if it’s messy. Even if you see the parts that aren’t so lovely. I’m not going to spend the next forty years of my life worried about what others might be thinking.  I want to focus on the things and the people I love.

So come over. Have a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of fresh bread. It will still be here, but don’t be surprised if I haven’t swept up the flour that spilled over the mixer or if there are coffee grounds still in the sink. And maybe, even though my kitchen counters aren’t gleaming, we can still share one of those moments where all is right in the world.

Brenna D'Ambrosio
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15 thoughts on “Keeping Up Appearances

  1. What a wonderful piece Brenna, it’s honest and beautiful and one can easily tell it’s written with your heart.

  2. We’re all just stumbling. Love that line. And yes, keeping up appearances is tiring and steals joy. though for a moment i thought of hyacinth bucket and all her antics in trying to “look” like she’s aristocratic. craziness!!!

  3. Oh Friend. Spending the last five days in your home, belly full of banana bread, coffee and almond milk waiting for me when I woke up, beautiful blanket to curl beneath, drawings by your girls as a “you are welcome in our home,” crock pot chili as a family, sweeping the daily crumbs and salt from your floor (because it was an honor to serve you), won’t soon be forgotten. Your home is a land of lived in love and love can be messy (though your home was far from messy). Your home held me safe as I traveled from Atlanta alone because I am determined to try new things. You are a gift Brenna.Your girls and your husband- a gift. Thank you for inviting me into your daily life, just as it played out each day, bed time tears and all. I love you.

  4. I love you and I love your home and the atmosphere you create. Your writing is beautiful. Your heart is beautiful. I’ve let the keeping up appearances bit steal opportunities for hospitality, and I really really want to change that. Thank you for these words.

    • Jamie, you have done my heart so much good each time you sit in my little room with a blanket, drinking tea, and reminding me what is real.

  5. Brenna, I found myself saying, Amen!” I love this honest writing. You make me want to come sit in your kitchen and enjoy a cup of tea with you. It sounds so warm and inviting. Real fellowship is what people are longing for – not perfect houses. When you show hospitality the way you describe it people can’t help but be blessed even if the house is a mess. 🙂 One day I’m going to come visit you.

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