Sunday, August 17, 2014

Life Under Construction: Home

Morty:  There's only two of us.  How much dirt can we manufacture?
Lee:  More than you'd think!

That Swiffer commercial makes me laugh every time.  I am constantly amazed at the amount of dirt and clutter two people can generate - especially when assisted by two dogs

I have chosen to address the Home category of my Life Under Construction first because it feels more attainable than some of the others.  My home is my haven.  It's the place where I can have the things and activities and ideas and people that make me feel comfortable, safe, accepted and happy.  I'm not naive (or deluded) enough to believe that all troubles go away just because I come home and lock the door.  I am also aware that I am not the only bird in this nest, and we often fly to our own drummers. Compromise is key to building this "second half" life that we can share, yet where I can be "me".   Fortunately, I have an understanding, low-maintenance nest-mate.

So let's get practical.  The home I am working for is:
  • Peaceful
  • Simple
  • Beautiful
  • Efficient
What steps do I need to take to create and maintain that home?  I tried and tried to lay out a four-point plan, with steps to take in each of the four distinct areas, but I found that the areas overlap too much for that, so it became more of a list of ideas that touch on all four areas.

I love visiting my sister, Teri.  Her house feels peaceful as soon as you walk in the door.  She is an excellent housekeeper and she attributes what I feel to the lack of clutter - even her closets and cabinets are organized.  I know that Teri has days when things pile up, but her ability to keep "stuff" pared to a minimum and organized makes it easier to recover from those days.  On the flip side, my constant searches for items that "I just saw the other day" drives me nuts and certainly isn't peaceful or efficient.  Another peace-wrecking habit at our house is dropping everything on the kitchen table, where it remains until I get annoyed enough to clear it. 

Step One towards the home I want is:

  • a thorough sorting of every cabinet and closet and STORAGE SPACE (putting more stuff into boxes to store doesn't count)
  • paring our possessions to the minimum
  • disposing of what we don't need/want (garage sale or donation to thrift store)
  • organizing what remains
I am making headway on this step, but there's a ways to go.  And I need to cut a little deeper - not only because I don't need this stuff but because someone else might.  If I can clear closet space while helping someone else, that's double the blessing.  Next step - get the pile of donation items out of the basement.

Step Two:  Make the bed every morning, do the dishes every night (I don't have a dishwasher), clear the table daily. I have been implementing this rule for a week now and it makes a big difference.  The house feels more under control.  

Step Three:  Once the major organizational stuff is complete, the next step is a chore plan.  My mom is a Saturday cleaner - 4-5 hours, once a week, every room.  It works for her, but we're gone on weekends frequently, so I want to develop an idea for keeping housekeeping chores (dusting, vacuuming, laundry, mopping, etc) done on a regular rotation.  I'm still working on that and open for suggestions.  Anyone have a flexible schedule that works?   I'm not aiming for a spotless house, just avoiding panicked cleaning when company's coming, and that overwhelmed feeling that comes from having too much to do on a weekend.

Those three steps are a good base for an efficient home.  They even touch on simplicity, peacefulness and beauty, but those words have more meaning than just "a place for everything and everything in it's place".   

 "Peaceful" = free from strife, commotion or disorder.  We've covered disorder, so how about strife and commotion?   Television is probably the leading cause of strife and commotion in our house for two reasons:  a.  we disagree on what to watch and b.  we disagree on the volume at which to watch it.    Honestly, I could probably . . . maybe . . . conceivably . . . give up TV altogether.  I have actually started a blog post on that subject so I won't go in to detail now, but the point is that I find 90% of what's on to be very "unpeaceful".   Dave, on the other hand, enjoys some of the unpeaceful shows and, being hearing-impaired in one ear, he enjoys them loudly.  Frequently, I use that time to read or sew in another area of the house, but that's not always possible, so that area requires some compromise.

Of course the world is not a peaceful place.  Whether it's local, national or world news, there's very little that's hopeful and certainly nothing peaceful.  I suppose I could chose to put my head in the sand and pretend everything is hunky-dory, but being ignorant of evil doesn't keep me safe from it.  I keep up on headline news, however, the endless vitriol that makes up the majority of news channel programming is not welcome in my nest, so I refuse to watch.  When Dave does, I leave the room.  It's not a perfect solution, but we're working on it.

What about beauty?  Don't go looking for my home in the pages of House Beautiful.  I'm sure many would find our collection of mis-matched belongings anything but beautiful, and to be totally honest, sometimes I would agree.  :)  
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. - William Morris
"You ... believe to be beautiful"  That doesn't say have nothing that is not approved by  Nate Berkus or that costs less than $1000.  Just that YOU believe it to be beautiful.  That includes the macaroni art your 5-year-old made.  What it doesn't include - and this is where I've gotten stuck over the years - is the gift from Aunt Tilly that you sincerly DON'T find beautiful, but you display it anyway.  So, as I'm sorting and disposing, I'm also asking myself "Do you find this to be beautiful?"  If the answer is no, it goes.  If the answer is yes, but I have no room for it, it goes anyway - or replaces something else that I find less beautiful.  It's a dog-eat-dog world in a small house!  

I used to watch House Hunters on HGTV and nearly every perspective buyer wanted a bigger home so they had space to entertain.  Obviously these people are living a different life than we are.  We rarely entertain, and when we do it's usually around the fire-pit. The majority of our visitors are family and a few close friends and with age has come the knowledge (and I'm still working on implementing it) that I don't have to impress them.   My home needs to be beautiful ONLY to me.   

My daughter gave me a dresser tray for Christmas.  She made it from an ornate gold picture frame that she filled with vintage fabric, pearls, buttons, etc.  I love it and sat it on my bed-side table to hold some lotion, a couple bookmarks, my glasses, etc., but it was just a bit large for the space.  After six months it dawned on me that it didn't HAVE to be in the bedroom just because it's called a dresser tray.  I find it to be beautiful on my coffee table where it catches my Nook, a small book of crossword puzzles, a pin cushion, a cup of coffee and various other small items. And it makes me smile every time I see it.

Regardless of what house we live in, my goal for my Home is tostop thinking "what will people think?" and ask myself "do I find this to be beautiful?"


  1. You have a good start on your new life changes. I too always feel very at home and comfortable at your house Tami. Your house is warm and inviting. I just love the idea of the frame tray that Amanda made being displayed on the coffee table. The way you have used family heirloom pieces and furniture is what "home" is all about. Our homes are definitely our havens. Can't wait to see what else you have on your mind as you unfold your life under construction.

  2. Tami, Nice post! I love your ideas here. It's a constant battle for me to keep on top of the clutter. Both my husband and I keep stuff around for sentimental reasons and because I have so many hobbies I tend to "collect" stuff for those hobbies. I try to pare it down, but so far I haven't had too much luck.

    On top of that, I'm a terrible housecleaner and have (mostly) given up that I'll ever have a house that's spin 'n span and I'm (mostly) okay with that. Many years ago, I discovered Fly Lady, She/They have some really good ideas about cleaning and developing a plan to keep it that way. Not everything will work for everyone, but you may find some ideas to help you along. FWIW, I tried it for awhile and still occasionally use some of the lists/ideas, but overall it wasn't for me for reasons I won't go into here. I don't want to discourage you from having a look. ;)

    I look forward to more of your "Life Under Construction" posts.
    Have a great week.

  3. Tami, you are amazing. I need changes too, maybe it is that time of life. You are a big encourager and have great ideas!

  4. Great post and I need to make a lot of changes. My house and possessions have become overwhelming. I am going to tag this post for ideas. I also signed up recently for FlyLady to help me.

  5. Jeff insisted, back when we first got married, that we make the bed every day and clean up the kitchen every night. Very glad that he did, if for no other reason than you at least feel like you got something done every day!