What Does 'Home' Mean to You?

Dorothy was spot-on: There's no place like it. As we journey through life―dodging the occasional wicked witch―it's comforting to know that a cozy bed, loving arms, and perhaps even a Munchkin or two await, just across the threshold. Here, Real Simple readers share what "home" means to them.

A warm bed that you can't get out of in the morning, a tiny pink toothbrush in the bathroom, and the sound of my husband's key in the door at the end of the day. —Dena Nilsen; Charlotte, North Carolina

My husband and I moved our family 10 times over a period of 22 years. Before we became nomads, we thought of home as where we had grown up. (Iowa for him, Delaware for me.) Now that we're adults, home is wherever we gather with our family and friends. Houses get bought and sold; a home stays with you always. —Joel Melsha; Winter Garden, Florida

Anywhere my kids are. —Millie Ayala; Northport, New York

The sensation of peace on a cozy, rainy Sunday; the feeling of relief when you pull into the driveway after a long trip; a quiet kiss on the head of a baby asleep in my lap; and the warmth of my husband's arms. Home has been many places for me over the years, but its comforts are defined by simple, blissful moments like these. —Sarah Bernard; Somersworth, New Hampshire

Home is a place you can feel comfortable cooking breakfast in your pajamas. —Danielle Halloran; Folsom, California

A clean, fresh, lemon-scented living room, open windows, plenty of sun and warmth everywhere, and my mother's cheese pie baking in the oven. —Thei Zervaki; New York, New York

Where I can be naked, both emotionally and physically. —Courie Helene Weiss; Marina Del Rey, California

Anywhere my husband is. "You're My Home" is an old Billy Joel song, and that is what is engraved on the inside of his wedding band. The lyrics are "I'll never be a stranger, and I'll never be alone. Wherever we're together, that's my home." After 12 years and two kids, it's still true. —Jennie Rook; Clarence Center, New York

Home isn't a place; it's a feeling. —Winter Skelton; Springfield, Missouri

Whether I'm in my husband's warm arms or smelling the sweet smell of my newborn baby, home means always having someone to nuzzle with before drifting off to sleep. —Natalie Plummer; Chattanooga, Tennessee

Home is where my own bed is. —Jenny Steadman; Shaker Heights, Ohio

A place where I can be 100 percent me. If I want to make fried bologna with a side of couscous or have a cackling laugh attack watching I Love Lucy, I can, because I'm home. —Jessica Hanson; Marseilles, Illinois

A warm dog curled up by your feet at bedtime. —Jesely Alvarez Masencup; Seattle, Washington

Home is being around people who can drive you absolutely crazy one moment and make you feel like a million dollars the next. It's knowing that no matter how hard times get, someone is there for you. —Lexi Williams; Winnemucca, Nevada

It's where I don't have to be perfect. I can put on my PJ's and sit down with a glass of wine right next to the dust bunnies―and they're fine with it. —Valerie Hoffmann; Rochester, Minnesota

Home is a place of love and comfort that always welcomes you with open arms―and perhaps a plate of freshly baked cookies. —Jaime Meier; Durham, North Carolina

Home means catching fireflies out on the front lawn with my brother. Those were the best times of my life. —Shannon Cuthrell; Cary, North Carolina

Home is where the rags of your life are turned into quilts, lemons become lemonade, and a few extra pounds are simply welcomed as "more of you to love." —Sherry Bubnowski; Four States, West Virginia

The smell of my mother's perfume. Even though we live 3,000 miles apart, if I walk down the street and someone is wearing it, I immediately feel like I'm home. —Lynne Nesselrode; San Diego, California

A zone where my boss, pesky customers, and bad drivers are absent and where the absurdities of the day can be shared―unchecked, unedited, and without remorse. —Hilary Clark; Scottsdale, Arizona

Home means sanctuary. —Beth Keenan; Tampa, Florida

My husband and I married seven years ago, and we've moved about every year since. Home to me is unpacking that last box. —Mandy Romney; Seattle, Washington

Home is where I can take off my bra. —Jo List; Fort Myers Beach, Florida

My husband and I lost our home to Hurricane Ivan in 2004. We purchased a 29-foot RV, parked it next to the shell of our house, and called it home for two years while we rebuilt. We laugh, because although we now have a big, beautiful new house, we just can't seem to part with that little RV. Home is where you happen to be, even if the circumstances aren't stellar. —Gina Maddox; Gulf Breeze, Florida

Home for me means total acceptance. And a dirty litter box. —Michelle Williams; Dallastown, Pennsylvania

Every room in my parents' home is filled with memories: the dining room where we ate holiday meals, crammed around a table too small for the crowd, and the kitchen where my brother once cut off one of my braids. As my brothers and I prepare to sell our childhood home, we are filled with recollections of wonderful times. Although we won't physically have the house much longer, we will always have the love that came from within its walls. —Pilar Westfall; Glenview, Illinois

A place that evokes a sigh of relief as I walk in the door. —Courtney Golden; Arlington, Virginia

Home is that magical spot where grass stains are removed from the knees of pants, Popsicles are always in the freezer, and tuna casserole actually tastes good. —Dana Fowler; Tustin, California

It's the sun coming through the kitchen window every morning, my husband at the counter, making lunches as we leave for work and school. It's my neighbor Karen lending me a cup of sugar, the drone of Bill's lawn mower, and Liz turning on her porch light at precisely 8 p.m. It's my eldest, Nora, off to the mall, my son Thomas leaving for baseball practice, and Mary asking me to read her another chapter of Hoot. It's the dog sneaking up on her favorite chair and a final peek in each bedroom to make sure everyone is safe and sound. Home means predictability in an uncertain world. —Maureen Reilly Barnes; Arlington Heights, Illinois

Home is the smell of my husband's neck, right below his ear. —Shawnee Jones-Bonnette; Corpus Christi, Texas

A place where I can wear purple yoga pants, a holey yellow T-shirt, and flip-flops without feeling as if I'm about to be ambushed by the hosts of some TV makeover show. —Tara Pierson Hoey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Living in Manhattan, where space is often tight, I've learned not to limit the definition of "home" to my closet-size bedroom in a shared apartment. New York City is my extended home: The local coffee-shop counter becomes my kitchen table for the morning crossword puzzle, and the Great Lawn in Central Park is transformed into my living-room couch for weekend naps and lunchtime relaxation. —Oliver Gaag; New York, New York

Our 1999 Volkswagen Passat wagon. My husband drove me to my law-school graduation in it. It took us on our fifth-wedding-anniversary trip. We used it to move into our house. When I was in labor, our Passat took me to the hospital and brought us home after our son was born. My husband wants a new car, but when I look at our old one, I realize that I have spent more time in it than in our house. It is in that Volkswagen that we have mulled over big decisions, enjoyed the scenery, cried, laughed, and sung songs. It's our home. —Maura Jeffords; Washington, D.C.

Home is where my younger brother can't understand why a boy would stop liking me. —Emma Button; Stillwater, Minnesota

What does home mean to me? A pantry, fully stocked with jars of pickles, jams, and fruits, all preserved by friends, family members, and me. Home is going into that pantry, leaning against its shelves, which are probably a little dusty, popping open a Mason jar of homemade apple butter, and eating it right there, out of the jar with a long iced-tea spoon. —Victoria Fedden; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Home is my soft place to land. —Missy Hicks; Valparaiso, Indiana

As a guy's guy, I consider myself to be an expert at a few things: sports, grilling, and watching action films. But as much as I would like to think that my life is as fabulous as one of those movies, it's mostly stress and drudgery―except when I'm at home. At home, I feel like I'm a superhero. When I succeed, it's like winning the World Series. My wife and children fling popcorn and flock to me like the slugger that I can sometimes be. On the off chance that I don't make the grade, I still feel comfortable failing. I get hugs and kisses and then see the brighter side of things. In my home, I find the perfect mix of laughter and feel-good drama that helps me continue to survive. —John R. Williams; McKinney, Texas

Bathing suits dangling from the deck rail, a healthy pour of crisp white wine in my glass, and the scent of the grill on my husband's shirt. —Amy Moriarta; Oak Park, Illinois

Home to me is listening to Jackson Browne songs. This always reminds me of those lazy Sundays when my mom would wake the whole house with his music, the smell of sausage and pancakes, and her impassioned, off-key voice. —Lauryn Wiley; Houston, Texas

When I was growing up, my household was rocky. My extended family and friends knew what I was going through, and they were there for me. It was in their homes that I received the love, the support, and the sense of security that helped make me who I am today. —Jeanine de los Reyes; South San Francisco, California

Baking pies. I learned this craft from my mother, who learned from my grandma Jane. This reminds me that I come from a long line of talented, strong women and that I will be the next one to pass on those baking skills. —Anna Caraszi; Portland, Maine

A log cabin set in the snowy mountains, where I'm wrapped in a soft blanket on an oversize plaid couch in front of a roaring fire in a great stone fireplace, drifting to sleep in this toasty-warm room. —Melissa Burdon; East Greenwich, Rhode Island

The delicious scent of dinner in the oven, the wonderful sight of my girls playing together, and the annoying sound of Barney singing in the background. —Kristin Ricci; Haddon Heights, New Jersey

It's where my palm meets my daughter's palm. When I'm holding her hand in mine, there is no place on earth I'd rather be. —Cris Phillips-Georg; Orlando, Florida

As the saying goes, home is where the mom is. —Valerie Warner; Farmington Hills, Michigan

For me, home is the sound of my husband's laughter, my spaniel's boundless joy, and a bouquet of fresh flowers on the table. —Cynthia Blackledge; Houston, Texas

Welcome chaos. From my parents' bickering to my siblings running amok, I wouldn't have it any other way. It makes me feel a little more sane. —Rebecca E; Pennsylvania

I work at a nonprofit organization serving the homeless, and they have taught me that home is where you are treated with dignity and respect and where you feel safe and deserving, even on the worst days. —Sue Veazie; Eden Prairie, Minnesota

The smell of fresh laundry and a hot cup of tea. —Camilia Kennett; Highland, Illinois

I know I'm home when I feel loved and secure and the clutter is all mine. —Barbara Santoro; Spring Hill, Florida

Home means snow skis still sitting in the living room in June, dishes in the sink, too much artwork for too little wall space, and Indian takeout in the fridge. —Amy Goldhammer; Berkeley, California

A good man, a good chair, and a good wine. —Donna Sullivan; Redding, California

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