Practical Housekeeping

How I like my home decorated - with the presence of my friends.

How I like my home decorated – with the presence of my friends.

Wrote this last year shortly after I moved into my first all-by-myself place. Now, just a year later, I’m starting this process again. This time, however, is truly a “reset” on my life: I become a wife and mother, both for the first time, and I’m moving to a new town. But I do notice I actually learned something last year, and though I’m in the midst of wedding planning, job-hunting, coordinating a fundraiser, and preparing Toledo Streets for a new leader, I’m also not waiting till the last minute to purge and organize. You really can teach an old dog new tricks… But, damn, I’m going to miss Toledo.

Practical Housekeeping

I recently moved into a little loft downtown, one of those places with exposed brick and, in part, high ceilings. While some things have been tradeoffs (i.e., no downtown grocery), I love my new place and have fallen even more in love with Toledo. I see great things happening all around.

I’ve also been able to amuse myself with the reactions I get from family and friends. While the overwhelming sentiment over my new apartment has been congratulatory and even a bit of jealousy, after a while people begin to notice the details. The “character” of the renovated space makes itself known in its slanted floors and noticeably unfinished framing. And it’s the reaction, one of two types, to those details that makes the character of each person known:

“I love how uneven this is!”

“Uuummm… are they going to fix that for you?” (My mom was of this second variety.)

The age of my building, along with the creative repurposing of the space into a residential unit, makes for an imperfect combination. Some of it is mildly frustrating at times, but most of it I have chosen to enjoy. I wanted someplace unique. This is definitely it.

It reminds me of life: A wild combination of events, people and their personalities, decisions and their consequences, and lots of randomness. Frustrations, even heartache, abound. So, too, the choice to wonder or to worry.

Moving your household from one place to another feels like an ending and a beginning, with the middle being all this hard work of saying goodbye as you pack and as you load, and saying hello as you unload and unpack. It’s one of those life-markers; setting up house and reorganizing your life into a new space feels like a fresh start. But then the details settle in – the new space isn’t perfect, and you still have a lot of what you had before, just rearranged differently. The change becomes routine; life in a new place becomes simply life again, until the next life-marker.

I used to think I had to wait for these markers to make monumental shifts in the way I lived, that a new space would be like hitting the reset button. And it does help. But in the midst of this last move, in all the hard work between the ending and the beginning where I had to sort through all the stuff I had let pile up and decide what was worth keeping, I realized how much of this waiting for a major event to make changes was a waste. All this time I was in the middle of life I could have been making these changes, throwing out what wasn’t worth keeping instead of letting it sublease space for free. I could have stretched out all that hard work over the course of months and years instead of days, saving myself from a lot of stress. G-d, I hope I learn this lesson.

Makes me wonder why I don’t do this organizing as I go, and I think in part it’s a reluctance to look at everything closely to determine if it’s worth keeping. It’s so easy to set things aside, to “deal with them later.” And then that one little thing becomes a pile, because it’s become a habit to shrink from giving attention and energy to something I don’t want to face. I think we know by now I’m not just talking about junk mail.

Everyday I’m faced with choices because of the unevenness of life and my own unbalances. There is much of me yet unfinished, even in disrepair. This brings frustration, even heartache, and frequently I choose to keep these frustrations and heartaches around simply by not facing them. I choose by not choosing. I avoid paying attention to what’s collecting in the corners, subleasing space in my soul at my own expense. And I worry, because while I don’t look at them closely and deal with these things straight on, I can see them out of the corners of my eyes. What’s even worse is that the beautiful details of my life are also missed, all those things that add character. When I don’t give my life the energy it deserves, when I slack off from keeping out the clutter, I also have less room to decorate it with all that really belongs – everything becomes a jumbled mess collecting dust, with me just moving from room to room like a ghost and never really inhabiting my own soul.

This moment I choose: To live, to look, to clean, to decorate, to wonder.