Little Blessings

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Three years ago I rented a tiny apartment in a beautiful building on the river, and although my furniture barely fit, it had something none of my previous homes residences offered: a roman soaking tub.  It was my escape.  After long days of class and studying until the words blurred together, I could literally sink up to my eyeballs in warm water and bubbles.  The stress of law school couldn’t reach me there.  That’s where I kept my sanity.

When I moved in with my husband I happily found soaking tubs were standard in many new apartment buildings around here.  It wasn’t quite as big or luxurious, but it more than served the purpose.  Sometimes I escaped with a good book, or a notebook and pen as I tried to capture my own thoughts without interruption.  Other times I just turned on some relaxing music and let the stress melt away.

The thing about little blessings like this is that you rarely think about them… until the bubble bursts.

This weekend we were back in Madison, this time for my husband’s job interview.  While we were there we knew we had to start looking for apartments, just in case.  What we learned once I started calling around, is that Madison currently has a less than 1% vacancy rate.  It is apparently one of the only cities in this country that has companies on hiring frenzies.  One company alone has brought in almost 2000 new employees this summer.  Hence, no apartments.

The ones we found, they were disgusting.  In beautiful buildings that weren’t even there when I left a few years ago we found living rooms stained with animal accidents, some with actual animal feces still on the floor, toilets not bothered to be flushed, carpets that had never been vacuumed, walls with holes in them… I don’t understand how some people live.  I really don’t.  I think our home is a mess when it has unopened mail scattered on the kitchen cupboard.

Finally, after days of searching, we found a few viable options, my husband’s interview went well, and we came home to wait.  My husband left to go play poker with the boys, and for the first time in a while, I was alone with my thoughts.  We’re right at the tipping point.  We could get everything we hoped for, or none of it, and all we can do now is wait.  Then the nostalgia hit, and I started wandering around our apartment thinking about all of the good times we’ve had here.  We had date nights here, got engaged in the kitchen, came home from our honeymoon to every fire alarm in the place going off in the middle of the night…

It was a happy nostalgia until I saw the tub.  Then I realized, not a single option we saw had one.  Suddenly I was heartbroken.

Obviously, this is not the end of the world.  In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all.  But sometimes I think it’s the little things that make big changes feel real.  Leaving friends, the city we’re used to, it’s hard to feel all of that.  It’s so big and amorphous.  But the little things, the ones that build everyday, those I can grasp losing.

As we wait this week to hear where life might take us (which, by the way, is excruciating), I’m trying to soak up the little blessings we have here.  I’ve spent a lot of time overlooking them, and soon they’re going to be gone.  They help remind me that while I beg for the time to pass faster, and to get an answer to my prayers, there is beauty in the time moving slowly, and savoring what time we have left here.

Conquering The Clutter: No Drawer Unturned!

I have this dream of having a perfectly organized home.  Not just normal person decently organized, but completely, ridiculously, systematically organized.  Before I scare you away, don’t worry… I’ve never come CLOSE to succeeding.  But doesn’t it just sound amazing?  I enjoy my home so much more when it’s clean and organized, but keeping it that way always proves a challenge.

The biggest obstacle: we have way too much stuff. This is me:

Well, at least that’s me trying to wrangle too much stuff into our small, poorly designed, storage areas. (Seriously, who designs a front hall closet in an acute triangle so that you can’t mount a bar to hang coats?)

But the truth is, I am too sentimental, my husband inherited his mom’s pack rat mentality, and we have both moved things from place to place, time and again, without ever taking the time to really stop and think “why am I packing this?”  Instead, it just gets dumped in a box.

I’ve said before that I just want time to go through everything, but I always make excuses for why I can’t.  EVERYTHING is a big project.  It’s too daunting to know where to begin.  But with a sudden dose of inspiration, one afternoon I opened the closet in our living room, and I just started.  I found hand warmers that expired in 2005.  I’ve moved them to four apartments since then.  I had to keep going… this needed to be done.

The hardest part has been convincing myself not to cheat.  No box goes unopened.  No “I’ll come back to this later.”  Just step by step, moving through the whole apartment.  No drawer unturned!

I moved on to my bathroom drawers.  Who knew they could accumulate so much junk? Abandoned half empty bottles, black lipstick from halloween two years ago… I’m pretty sure I had eyeshadow from before I knew how to properly apply eyeshadow.  It was time to get rid of it all.  The days of experimenting with random products has long passed. I use the same handful of products every day, and the rest were just clutter.

The bedroom closet came next.  That was a full day event.  Most of my clothes never even made it into the overstuffed closet, they just got plopped on the couch (never put a couch in your bedroom… it’s just asking to become a dump zone).  Turns out the dress I wore for my high school graduation had somehow made it through college, post college, and law school without being discovered in the back.  Sad, but true.  Two big bags were donated, three went straight into the dumpster.  But suddenly, our bedroom was spotless, organized, and a lot less chaotic.

In the linen closet I found extra long twin sheets from my freshman year of college, bedding for beds in sizes we don’t own anymore, and an accumulation of gifts from my mother in law, including a large pastel easter tablecloth with a bunny on it.  With my husband’s blessing, those got donated too.

The worst was definitely our guest room.  It’s really more of a half office/ half random dumping ground, with a bed in it.  And that is where most of my stuff had landed when I moved in.  Art supplies, office supplies, notebooks and journals half full of writing… I started considering just giving up.  I’d done a lot.  That was worth something, right?  But guilt kicked in, and I finally, begrudgingly, returned to work.

It turns out the hardest part was actually the most fun after I got started.  The boxes of memorabilia I had collected over the last 26 years made for a sweet stroll down memory lane once I got into it.  A lot if it had to go… I didn’t need that many random birthday cards saved.  But the one from my sweet sixteen with a note from my best friend that made me cry when I re-read it? That stayed. There was a lot of tickets and brochures, things I’d picked up traveling that never made it into a scrapbook, things from old boyfriends that don’t matter to me anymore.  But there were also some things I’d forgotten about; things I’d always meant to frame, journals from my teenage years, things I’ll want to show my kids someday.  Reducing the pile made it all that much more meaningful.

I had just finished this last room when I went to pick up Gretchen Rubin’s new book yesterday, Happier At Home.

Ironically, her first month?  Possessions.  A lot of what she said rang true with my own recent experience in clearing clutter and getting rid of the extra stuff that weighs us down. But she also had a piece of research that really struck me: the people who are most insistent that possessions don’t matter at all, only people do, are typically the most isolated and lonely.  And in a weird way, it makes sense.  The stuff that was hard to get rid of, the stuff I kept even though I don’t need it… it has meaning to me for a reason.  And it has nothing to do with the value of the item itself.  It’s the things that remind you of moments and people that are hard to part with.  And why not clutter your home of those… they’re what home is about.

Step one of the big organization product is finished… And it feels amazing.  I’d love to hear about your adventures in trying to clutter!

The Things That Change And The Things That Don’t

I wish I was starting this post with some major announcement that my path in life had been found and verified, and I was in the process of embarking on some great adventure… but alas, just more waiting.  Waiting for everything to change.

However, we did get three days at my parents, with amazing home cooked meals we didn’t have to plan, and my little sister and I celebrated our birthdays together again, like we always did as kids.  The cake? Disney Princess.  We do not believe in getting too old to celebrate in tiaras either.  In fact, not much has changed in 15 years… We’ve just upgraded the lemonade.

 

Yup, that is what we did on Saturday afternoon.  We went to lunch, we went to the local ice cream parlor, and then we came back and pulled out the bucket of sidewalk chalk my mom recently discovered when she was cleaning out the garage.  She was going to give it to the neighbor kids… It was a good thing she didn’t.  She would have missed out on our very impressive artwork.

“Of course your castle is all pretty and perfect, and mine is huge, pink and crazy with an alligator and a waterside,” my sister complained as we sipped our drinks and documented our undertaking with instagram.  Some things never change.

But truthfully a lot has changed… and in another 15 years,even more will have changed.  I can’t even imagine what our lives will look like then.  And yet, I can still see us on the driveway playing with sidewalk chalk.  Somehow, that’s incredibly comforting right now.