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Weekend epiphany: You know you’re organized when your storage room floods and you’re not worried about losing a thing.

I got the call at around 1 p.m. Sunday: There was water in our downstairs storage room (it comes with the condo) and they needed us to come check it out STAT.

Ah, the struggle of donning pants on a Sunday afternoon.

The storage room contains a kayak, a couple of wetsuits, a few dishes, a plastic box of Christmas decorations, miscellaneous garage stuff and most of the husband’s books.

The books can be a contentious topic. We’ve designed rooms around those books, although “designed” is a misleading word, since we end up with ugly industrial-strength shelving wherever it’ll fit because there are SO MANY BOOKS. There’s simply not room in the condo for the whole collection, and I can’t stomach any more walls lined with wire shelving and plywood.

I had just brought the last box of my books upstairs a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been culling books for a couple of years, treating them like living treasures that yearn for love, adventure and respect. There are only so many that I’m going to re-read, and the ones that have sat on the shelf, year after year, awaiting their first read? They need some love, and I’m obviously not the person to give it to them.

Thus, I have one eight-section IKEA Expedit shelf filled with my literary treasures. I’ll invite the husband’s books upstairs (and we recently bought a smaller under-window shelf for his nicest publications), but the whole unedited collection is just too much.

A flood can be your best friend. He only lost a few books, the ones on the bottom of a couple of boxes that rested on the floor. Those got tossed, usually with a comment along the lines of “I don’t even know why I still have this.” My hope is that more introspection occurs.

But the best part of the whole adventure? Knowing that everything (and I mean that in the true sense of every THING, not including people and animals) that I love is within the walls of the condo with me. Photos are scanned and/or in one plastic tub next to my desk. Books are culled and shelved. Important paperwork is in a small safe, not scattered throughout random boxes. Artwork is hanging, not leaning against the wall downstairs, awaiting spot selection and, perhaps, flooding. Furniture is in place, not in storage for if/when we get a bigger place (fingers crossed that we don’t).

Can I instantly place my hands on any random thing you ask me for? No. Can I figure out where it is within 10 minutes without shuffling madly through random boxes of stuff? Most definitely.

Do your worst, washing machine across the hall from our storage unit.

After ditching the terrible kitchen that I gladly left behind in Mobile (huge room, no counter space, two outlets on walls spaced some 20 feet apart), I enjoyed the large expanse of a kitchen built in the late 90s, complete with tons of cabinet space. Pure suburbia.

I didn’t exactly get along with pure suburbia, however, and ended up in a medium-sized condo in Midtown Atlanta with a decidedly NOT medium-sized kitchen.

I like it. I donated the china that I’ve been packing around for nearly 20 years (china that was meticulously packed away in my paternal grandmother’s home, so don’t worry that I’ve thrown away some sort of beloved family legacy). I need one more smallish cabinet to keep my own wedding china, which is actually pottery, but other than that a smaller kitchen is definitely working for me. Less to dirty, less to clean up. Less cabinet space to attract stuff that has nothing to do with food prep.

On a recent trip to London and Paris (I’m not going to call it a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, because I fully intend to go back, but yeah, it was a big deal), I realized how much less kitchen I could live without. We stayed in apartments in both cities, beginning with a laughably tiny kitchenette in Chelsea:

kitchen

It really took the concept of “no counter space” to a whole new level, but it worked. We boiled pasta and heated sauce for Christmas dinner, and we scrambled eggs one morning. We also had a water kettle, microwave and toaster, meaning we could easily make coffee (via French press) and tea, plus warm up the occasional sandwich or other bakery treat.

In Paris, we added a dishwasher and slightly more counter space to our cooking area:
kitchen2

I think the most complicated thing I made here was oatmeal (dozens of authentic French bakeries within walking distance does not prompt a girl to break out the pots and pans). I also enjoyed the kitchen’s Nespresso Senseo coffeemaker, which I was disappointed to learn is no longer sold in the United States. While I hold anything involving K-cups in utter disdain, I could live with coffee made from those little filter packets every last day.

So much more to talk about from this trip later. Right now, I have to go enjoy the wide-open spaces of my tiny condo kitchen.

I had the run of my grandparents’ home since before I could even run. I miss that sort of familiarity with a living space.

A few years ago, I realized that our house in Huntsville didn’t feel like home and never would.

Is it weird that a two-bedroom condo in the heart of Midtown Atlanta feels more like home than anywhere I’ve ever spent significant amounts of time, save my grandparents’ house?

After every major family visit, I lament the lack of a comfortable secondary family space. My grandparents’ house was like a second home for my family — we knew where everything was and how to operate the TV and other essentials. We felt free to graze in the kitchen, grabbing leftover biscuits from their stovetop perch throughout the day or snagging Little Debbie snack cakes from the stash that was inevitably residing on top of the fridge.

The house is still there, and I could still go there if I wanted, but my uncle and aunt live in it now so it’s their house. Different stuff, different people, different vibe.

I’m convinced that no one ever feels 100% comfortable in their in-laws’ house, nor do you feel like you have a refrigerator-privilege kind of relationship when there’s a step-parent on board, even when they’re beyond awesome.

This not-being-able-to-go-home-again notion? Totally a thing.

I don’t know what to do with the two tins of cat ashes sitting on my top shelf.

I never intended to keep them forever — I’m not exactly an ashes-on-the-mantel kind of girl. I couldn’t WAIT to get my dad’s ashes out of the house, heading to New Orleans to scatter them in the Mississippi River as soon as I could after they arrived in the mail.

In. The. Mail.

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And it’s not like I want to scatter them someplace where I can return in reverence year after year — if I want to remember my cats, I can remember my cats anywhere.

I have two tins of cat ashes only because I thought that I should scatter Yin and Yang at the same time. They were together pretty much 24-7 for more than 14 years, after all.

We lived in a quite nondescript subdivision when they showed up, then moved to another subdivision, then moved to yet another subdivision before heading to Atlanta, where I don’t even have a potted plant, much less a yard or a garden. Besides, one of the reasons for moving to Atlanta was so we could be mobile, so it’s not like this place is necessarily going to be “home” forever.

In other words, I have manufactured a relatively rootless existence for myself, with no appropriately resting place for beloved pets. Dilemma.

They’re cool hanging out on the top shelf for now, I’m sure. There’s no higher spot in the condo, save for the top of the kitchen cabinets, which, I have to admit, they would have found a way to climb onto during their glory days.

Maybe this is one of those solutions that hits you out of the blue, like realizing that you can wear the same dress at the Monday-night conference reception AND on Wednesday so you won’t have to pack so many outfits.

I just want it to hit me: The cats would LOVE it here. Let’s go get the ashes.

Finally, grown-up chairs

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Say what you will about Pier 1 Imports, but their director’s chairs will last FOREVER if properly maintained (by which I mean not having children or dogs in the house).

A little too long, really. We bought a set of four about 20 years ago, after we figured out we didn’t have enough money for the kitchen table we loved AND the chairs that went with it. We planned to replace them within a few years, only they never were really worse for the wear, and picking out furniture is HARD, you guys.

So they stayed. Only the little plastic tips started wearing out, and proved nearly impossible to replace (thanks for that bit of built-in obsolescence, Pier 1). Soon, we only had three functional chairs. After the move to Atlanta, that number dwindled to two.

IKEA to the rescue. A little over $400 (which is about what we paid for the on-sale table at a fancier Swedish furniture store two decades ago) and we had four perfectly functional, and quite stylish, dining chairs with replaceable covers. IKEA items run the gamut from flimsy to unbelievably sturdy, and these appear to be running toward the sturdy. No squeaking, no rocking, no signs of instability.

Plus, just look at them: all clean lines and comfort.

Meanwhile, two director’s chairs lurk in the storage room downstairs, awaiting a movie production company or a couple of extra guests.

Clockwise from top left: triple chocolate cake (probably), peach sliders, salted caramel cake.

When people in Atlanta learn about my love of a good doughnut, they invariably give me a knowing look and say, “Oh, you HAVE to go to Sublime Doughnuts.”

So I did. Meh. They seemed like doughnuts that were trying too hard. I know it seems weird to say that a doughnut is too sweet, but those doughnuts were way too sweet.

Luckily, my doughnut salvation appeared in the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival’s tasting tent. The Revolution Doughnuts table was freshly out of peach sliders, but the reps were on board for doughnut chat, complete with a knowledgeable sidebar on our favorite New York breakfast haunt, the Doughnut Plant.

A couple of weeks later, we made the 15-minute journey to Decatur.

The peach sliders? Everything a fruit-themed doughnut should be, and more. The fruit was fresh and deliciously sweet, while the doughnut itself was rather neutral, allowing the peach flavor to shine.

My other selection was the salted caramel, which offered a nice balance of a slightly salty icing over a delicately textured, sweet (but not too sweet) cake doughnut. The husband chose (I think) a triple chocolate cake doughnut, which was delightfully chocolatey without going overboard.

You might think we spend every Saturday morning in Decatur now, but doughnuts are a sometime food. Plus, the line at Revolution Doughnuts isn’t exactly inviting; a 20-minute wait in Georgia’s summer sun does not exactly whet the appetite.

We’ve decided that all future visits will be to-go orders; the chaos of such a small dining area (you have to cross the children’s play area to reach the coffee station, a seemingly dangerous path while holding a cup of hot java) isn’t conducive to a relaxing breakfast.

Plus — sorry Atlanta — people-watching in New York City is way more interesting.

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I’m not a person who gets attached to things – I have spent a great deal of effort trying to free myself from the tyranny of stuff, to make my household easier to maintain, enjoy and, if necessary, uproot. There were really only two pieces of furniture that HAD to make the move to Atlanta: My grandmother’s awesome spice cabinet and the Swedish-design kitchen table the husband and I bought before we were even married (the table isn’t so much an emotional attachment as an awesomeness attachment – it’s extendable via two inserts that stay underneath the table until you gently pull the two ends out, revealing a six-top in place of the previous four-top).

So I’m as surprised as everyone else to find myself unwilling to give up my nearly-11-year-old car, Pica.

I find myself comparing him to an old pair of jeans: I slip into his seat and everything just feels right.

He’s only got a little over 80,000 miles on him, which I like to imagine makes him a tween in car mileage years. And he had some tween problems this summer: We just paid an enormous amount of money for a new AC compressor (I would argue that making it through 10.5 brutal Southern summers is enough for one poor little compressor) and new bushings, among a couple of other minor fixes.

It was a bill that was high enough to justify keeping him for at least another 8 months. Or so goes my argument.

If (when) I have to buy another car, I’ll buy another Mini. They’re the perfect size for driving around Atlanta, and they’re laughably nimble in parking garages.

They’re also super fun to drive.

Pica’s biggest negative in the city is his six-gear manual transmission. He rarely sees the interstate anymore, meaning that the short slog to work involves shifting from first, second and third, back to neutral for the next red light, then repeating. I don’t mind, really, but he’s probably going to work his way through a clutch at some point, and real transmission problems could signal the end of arguable financial benefits to keeping him.

Of course, I’m also averaging less than 50 miles a week, given my extremely short commute and the weekend walkability of our neighborhood. It somehow seems stupid to trade him in for something newer that will travel less than an average of 250 miles a month, the occasional road trip not included.

Although his interior is in great shape (the second rule of Mini Club is you never eat or drink in your Mini), save for a few mysterious bumps and scratches on the glove compartment door (get your act together, rogue passengers), his rear trunk emblem has started to flake. I think it’s quite fetching, like a cool scar, so it stays. Also, we all know that it’s bad luck to start fixing small cosmetic details on a really old car.

Face it: new upholstery = new water pump. Science.

So, Pica stays in the picture. For now, and for the foreseeable future in which I keep coming up with valid let’s-keep-him arguments.

You’ll pry his keys from my still-warm yet extremely sad fingers.

 

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