Column: The importance of following 'porch rules'

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From the Eclectic Mind of Roger VanHaren

Roger VanHaren

Two years ago, Marilyn and I moved to very small house after having lived in a much bigger one for nearly 20 years. This was a reluctant admission on our parts that we were slowly moving toward our “sunset years” and that we needed to downsize.

We love our new place.

One of the most attractive parts of the house was a very small front porch, and we very soon established a practice of observing “porch time.” This was great until the mosquitoes and other insects starting butting in on our time. So we began to talk about having a screened porch built on the back of the house, and this past summer we hired a friend to build it for us.

“Porch time” became a wonderful part of our summer days. Often we’d sit out there until 10 o’clock in the evening, enjoying bug-free leisure, reading or just talking or thinking.

As part of our preparation for the advent of our new porch, we spent some time watching the sales for the right kind of furniture and accessories.

During one stop at a greenhouse in Door County, we saw a rusty corrugated tin sign that said “porch rules” itemizing what porch time is all about. Unfortunately the sign was very expensive, so I did a little looking around on the internet and found a number of variations on the theme of porch rules. I made a sign incorporating a lot of the things that these signs said. I had a great time doing it and I’m proud of the result.

So what are some of the porch rules? What do you do on the porch? Well, one of the things you can do is “nothing.” The problem with doing nothing, though, is that you can’t really tell when you’re done. So I didn’t include it on my sign.

The first rule is “Sit a spell.” Easy, right? I’m good at it. The second is “Relax.” The porch is a great place to relax. It’s not that I work so hard all day that I need to relax, but I’ve gotten good at it. “Unwind” is another. I seldom get wound up, but maybe some of our visitors can heed this rule when they’re on our porch.

“Laugh” is a big one, and the word itself is big on the sign. I think laughter is one of the best medicines we have, and we’ve both had some health problems in the last couple of years, so we need to laugh. “Smile” is another rule, and it follows that it is good medicine, right? “Snuggle” is right up there with the other medicinal aspects of the porch routine.

“Take a nap” and “Put your feet up” are good advice, right? “Daydream”; I’m good at that. I can sit for a long time and daydream: That might be a little bit like doing nothing.

One of my favorite rules is “Read a good book.” I love reading and the outdoor air is great for that.

“Chat with friends and family” is a good one. We maneuver our friends to the back porch when they come over and it’s great. Even if it’s a rainy day (if the wind isn’t blowing too hard), it’s a great place to chat. “Feel the breeze” is one of the rules!

“Sing.” Marilyn loves to sing, “It’s a lovely day today.” I’m not much of a singer, but I appreciate her efforts. It delights me to hear her happy tunes. “Sip a cool drink” and “Enjoy” are good rules, too.

“Listen to the birds” and “Enjoy the fireflies’ are big-time occupations on the porch. “Enjoy” sums up what porch time is all about. My No. 1 rule for the porch is “Be grateful for this day.”

When the weather turns cold and we can’t sit outside every day, I’ll just bring the sign indoors and we’ll observe “porch rules” inside. How’s that?

Contact Roger VanHaren at