I’m moving this week. So as you can imagine, I’ve been kind of freaking out. Ok, so I’m only moving about three blocks away from my current house. But still! Moving is a lot. Especially if you are a person with anxiety and being in a state of upheaval causes you to temporarily lose your damn mind. There is so much to keep track of; so much to remember. As a side note, I have no idea how military families do this like all the time (RESPECT!). But of course, I digress.
The reason we decided to move was to downsize significantly. Or current house, which I’ve written about before, is both huge and crazy. The rooms are gigantic and some of them have a single purpose (like the music room, or the bar room). When I left NYC to move to the Jersey Shore, I wanted ALL. OF. THE. SPACE. But once Dave and I had to actually clean all of the space, it didn’t seem so glamorous and attractive anymore. I do love having a place where I can entertain large groups of friends in the summer. Many of my people inevitably want to escape their insane city lives for a weekend of easy living at the beach come June. But for the other 42-ish weekends of the year, when it’s mostly only Dave and I, we’re usually just wandering around in these gigantic rooms, wondering how we’re going to get the house under control.
Yes, “under control” is the phrase we typically use. And that’s to say nothing of actually getting ahead. There is no getting ahead when you live in a giant, hundred-year-old house that has a mind of its own. You simply trail from behind and try to put out fires as you go (the metaphorical kind of fires, of course… we’re not pyromaniacs or anything). There are about a million projects I would very much like to do, but it’s impossible to find time for them when we spend so much time just catching up on the chores.
When Dave first mentioned wanting to move because our current place was too much work, I scoffed: “You obviously have amnesia about how terrible moving is. Cleaning this house for the rest of our lives might actually be easier.” He dropped it, but the seed was planted.
So when I serendipitously saw a great place that had many of the perks we enjoy now (like a guest bedroom, and a small room that is perfect for a home office), but without all the bloat (i.e. aforementioned rooms with one purpose), we jumped on it. And despite being extremely overwhelmed by the process, I have to say I am thriving.
My brain is on fire, but in the best way! I feel really turned on creatively. Decorating an entire apartment is a huge project, but it’s got me so excited that I can’t think about anything else. That’s why I haven’t been writing as much. I hadn’t realized how creatively stifled I felt until I started planning for this move. I’ve been kind of stuck with my mom’s furniture (most of which I inherited when she died) and unable to do too much, decor-wise, with my current place due to the demands of keeping up with the aforementioned chores. I had so many great ideas and projects in mind for this crazy old house, but they all required time that I didn’t really have.
For the new place, simple, comfortable and lasting decor will rule. I’m replacing a bunch of my mom’s furniture that doesn’t fit the bill. When I first left the city, the idea of getting rid of anything my mom bought before she died was completely off-limits. The things were all I had to connect me to her. If I got rid of them, then that would be like getting rid of her. But over time, I realized that you can’t hold on to every single thing your dead mother bought or touched. You have to hold onto the things that you really love — the things that mean something — and purge the rest. I took very seriously the advice from Marie Kando’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and got rid of anything that doesn’t bring me joy. This makes me feel really great about the pieces I’m moving forward with — like the antique red farm table that both my mother and I loved. My father once accidentally sold it off, not realizing my mother still wanted it (there was some confusion as to which items to sell and which to keep). She, of course, made him go and buy it back. Ha!
I also came up with my own rubric for deciding whether or not to buy a piece of furniture: would I take this across the country with me if I moved? If the answer is no, I skip it. If the answer is yes, I buy it. I am tired of buying temporary solutions (like dressers made from particle board) only to be frustrated by them a few years later, and having to replace them once again. So I was very mindful of buying things that I really love, that are well-made, and that bring me joy. None of this “good enough for now” stuff. I would rather have less furniture, but have really nice, sturdy things than an apartment full of junk that I am constantly having to replace.
And the more I work on this massive decorating project, the more connected I feel to my mother. As I’ve written before, decorating was her greatest passion. It took me a long time to realize that she had passed that passion on to me. It’s funny to think back to the early days of my grief when those “things” seemed so important to hold onto. Now I realize that everything she taught me is far more special. As I carefully planned out my rooms in my room planning book (complete with cut out furniture — who am I?!), I could almost hear my mother guiding me through the process. When almost none of my original floor plans worked out as I had envisioned, I found myself having to reach deep down, creatively, for solutions. “Why don’t you try this?!” my mother used to say when we’d get stuck, followed by rearranging everything on the graph paper. The result would be a mind-blowing floor plan that I never, ever would have thought of on my own.
And yet somehow, sitting there across from her through all those years, watching her mind work, I managed to absorb those lessons. I hear myself sound just like her when I proudly show Dave my re-worked plans.
She would be so proud of me. She would love that I love doing this, and that taking on this project has me firing on all cylinders. I wish I could have shared it with her. I wish I could have thanked her for giving me this gift. I wish I could show her how much I’ve learned, and how far I’ve come. Heck, I wish I could ask for her advice on paint colors (I notoriously choose a color three shakes darker than I should — she always used to tease me about it).
But ultimately, I am just so, so grateful that I have the opportunity to keep her gift alive and thriving. And I think that’s about as good as it gets for now.
P.S. — I might be posting some stuff about my decorating projects, along with my usual programming of Chelsea Has Too Many Feelings; Must Share. I’m feeling like I need to go with where my creativity is taking me right now. I usually hesitate to post about non-writing projects I’m working on, but I think it’s time for me to expand my horizons for written content. Anything I’m passionate about is fair game. Hopefully, I won’t scare too many of my followers away. 🙂