Coming Home Alone

Put Out the Welcome Mat … For Yourself

By Gwenn Voelckers

Home Sweet HomeHaving a “home sweet home” has taken on a whole new meaning and imperative as we continue to shelter in place during this pandemic. Our homes have become our sanctuaries, as well as our safe places.

Now, more than ever, I encourage those who live alone to take a fresh look at your indoor and outdoor space with an eye toward comfort, peace, security and happiness.

I’ll be joining you! Making small, meaningful improvements at my own “House Content” is on my growing list of New Year’s resolutions.

As I contemplate these changes, I am reminded of an experience I had in my early 30s that influenced my perception of home. I remember it well.

I was working for a small nonprofit agency and was asked to deliver a document to a board member who lived in one of Rochester’s older, gentrified neighborhoods.

As I walked up the steps to Jane’s front porch, three things caught my eye: the seasonal bouquet in a hand-painted ceramic pitcher, the tasteful wreath on her door and a doormat that simply said “All are welcome here.”

A good feeling came over me.

I announced my arrival by softly tapping the sweet little heart-shaped iron knocker on her front door. Then I waited. I stood on Jane’s porch feeling as if I had arrived at a special place — a place that held the promise of comfort and hospitality.   

When Jane answered the door and invited me in, I saw that she had brought the warmth of her front porch into her home. I walked into an oasis of rich earth tones, subtle lighting and art from around the world that invited inspection.

I just wanted to sink into one of her overstuffed tapestry chairs and savor the warm embrace of her home.

And so it came as a big surprise to me when Jane told me she lived alone. I remember thinking: “What? This can’t be.” It just didn’t add up. I had assumed that a home this wonderful — a home this lovely and complete — could only be the home of a family or, at the very least, a couple. But no; this was Jane’s home. Her retreat. Her wonderful life.

Little did I know that, years later, my experience on Jane’s front porch would stay with me and influence the way I decorated and furnished my home inside and out. Unbeknownst to her, she was a role model and, by example, showed me that a house can be a home, even when it’s occupied by only one person.    

Thanks to Jane, I found the inspiration to make my home inviting for the most important visitor of all: me.

If returning home alone triggers feeling of loneliness and loss for you, you might consider making some changes yourself. I suggest starting with your front porch:

Set the stage. I want to feel welcome even before I set foot on my front porch. That’s why you’ll find flameless candles glowing in my windows all year long, not just during the holidays. Programmed with timers, the candles come on at dusk and their soft luminescence fills me with warmth and security as I approach my home after dark.

Keep your front porch clean. It’s no fun (in fact, it can be a real downer) to come home to a messy front porch cluttered with muddy boots, tools or a pile of collapsed shipping boxes. I’ve learned that lesson!

These days my porch is clear of extraneous items and I make good use of the handmade artisan broom I have hanging by the door. Once a month I wipe the cobwebs and “bug juice” off my porch lanterns, window sill and hand railings.

Stepping onto a nice clean porch makes me feel good about myself. A sense of pride wells up in me before I even walk over the threshold. That little boost gets my evening off to a good start.

Add some inspiration. I see my porch as a blank canvas, and I’m the artist.

I delight in making decorative changes that reflect the seasons, capture my taste, and stimulate the senses: My wind chimes create an immediate soothing effect, my “Believe” wreath reminds me to have faith, and my charming little chalkboard invites messages from visiting friends and relatives.

One friend recently wrote “Welcome Home, G.” I left his kind message in place and enjoy this friendly greeting on a daily basis.

I know that coming home alone can be a challenge, especially if you are accustomed to returning to a house filled with the hustle-bustle of family life. I also know that making “welcome” changes can ease the way into a new life and home of your own.

Roll out the welcome mat for yourself and discover all the good things that may arrive at your doorstep!

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women, and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit