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Posts Tagged ‘home’

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.

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I thought this was interesting in light of my recent post on aspirational clutter. While blogger jlsathre had assumed that she would end up bringing home most of the contents of her deceased parents’ house when she and her sister cleaned it out, she left with only a very few items.

In The Things I Didn’t Keep of Mom and Dad’s, she writes:

Leaving the house that first day, I knew that it wasn’t the things that remained inside that I wanted to keep. I did take a few things– the candy dish, a ledger with page after page of Dad’s handwriting, and an address book with pages of Mom’s.  But mainly what I kept  were things I didn’t have to carry.  I had found that I didn’t need very much.  I already had the stories.

Stories without things? Absolutely the best souvenirs you can ask for.

Things without stories? They’ll clog your closets and your mind.

Not every item that we inherit has a story, and I think it’s an unfair burden to think that we have to keep a thing only because it belonged to someone in particular.

Stories vs. things? I’m picking stories every time.

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Have you ever found a book passage that seemed custom-written for you?

While perusing Slave to Happiness: Why Having an Interesting Life is the New American Dream by Penelope Trunk, I stumbled over this paragraph in the chapter titled “Testing the Meaning of Money and the Value of Stuff”:

So much of what we human beings hold on to is what we wish we were using — aspirational clutter. Objects that commemorate a life we aspire to but do not have.

I’ve had a version of this thought running around in my head for the past two weeks. I’ve expressed my exasperation to the husband that sometimes it feels like our house is simply a museum for stuff, a storage bin for the trappings of suburban life.

There’s a reason they’re called trappings: Get yourself a houseful of stuff and see how much it stresses you out to even CONSIDER packing it all up to move.

We all seem to find ourselves using the “what if” mentality when it comes to belongings. What if I ever have 12 people over for a sit-down dinner? (Note: If I invite 12 people over for a sit-down dinner, call your local psychiatrist because, seriously, 12 people?) What if I decide to take up embroidery again, despite the fact that the activity bored me to no end the first time? What if I decide to make homemade Twinkies with that specialty pan, despite the fact that the only homemade Twinkies I ever made were nearly as atrocious as the real thing?

What if I never saw this stuff again?

People attach artificial value to a lot of things they never use and really wouldn’t miss if they were gone.

We’ve essentially made ourselves immobile. Scale up in home size, scale up in things to fill it. And I don’t mean Hoarders amounts of stuff, I mean bookshelves filled from end to end, cabinets filled with things that rarely see use and plastic boxes — neatly stacked in closets, mind you — filled with decorations and accessories that we’ve either tired of (for now, we tell ourselves) or just don’t work in our current situation (for example, we haven’t had a Christmas tree in 15 years because of the cats, but we do have a box filled with lights and a few ornaments because, you know, one day …).

The funny thing? That rare moment when you DO find that you need the stitch-puller that you remember packing away with the rest of the sewing supplies even though you never sew? You WILL NOT be able to find it because of all the other stuff you’ve got neatly stored, just in case you ever need it.

It’s lunacy, really, the way we stockpile our homes and clutter our lives and minds with physical objects that have little use or meaning. We trap ourselves in suburbia with 2,000 square feet of china cabinets, storage ottomans and under-the-bed sweater boxes, never considering the opportunities we might freely pursue if we didn’t have to worry about the stuff spread all over the house, the tiny apartment in the big city we might move to if we only didn’t have hundreds of books and an inexplicable assortment of old, unused electronics.

Maybe it’s time to refocus our aspirations so that our “aspirational clutter” isn’t clutter at all, but only the things we use, love and enjoy.

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The secondary flowers from large bouquets usually last longer than the main flowers. When broken down into sub-bouquets, they stand on their own as quirky little arrangements.

Yang agrees.

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When we moved to Huntsville several years ago, one of the items I sent to the thrift store was a tabletop napkin holder. The reason? We hadn’t used paper napkins for years.

I was perusing a clearance area in Target one day in the late-’90s (old habits die hard) when I spotted a stack of cloth napkins. At the time, I associated cloth napkins with weddings and expensive dinners; my grandmother had a stack of them that I can only recall seeing neatly folded in her china cabinet, despite her penchant for spreading out white, hard-to-clean tablecloths for Sunday dinners.

Serendipitously, my shopping list included napkins that day, and a four-pack of marked-down cloth napkins cost just about exactly what a package of paper napkins would have cost. I tossed them in my cart, skipped the paper goods aisle and never bought paper napkins again. Those faded, solid blue napkins you see in the picture above? The original Haggerty cloth napkins, circa 1997.

Some argue that laundering cloth napkins actually makes them less environmentally friendly than paper napkins, which often can be composted or recycled. While this may be true for restaurants or other institutions that have entire laundry loads dedicated to cloth napkins, I would argue that most smaller families can simply toss a few cloth napkins in with an existing load of laundry, leading to little or no extra water use.

Also, cloth napkins last forever. I mean, not literally forever, but I’ve got a few that are going on 14 years. They’d probably last even longer if I line-dried them instead of tossing them in the dryer.

I imagine some people will complain about how difficult it is to remove other kinds of stains from cloth napkins; I certainly remember my grandmother spending untold amounts of time laboring to remove gravy stains from her white tablecloths. My answer to that argument: Don’t buy light-colored cloth napkins, and calm down about stains. If you’ve washed your cloth napkins, they’re clean enough to use again. A lingering stain doesn’t equal lingering germs. Just keep a special, extra-clean stack on hand to impress your guests.

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 65: Finally hung up the curtain rod for the long-suffering wall hanging that we’ve owned for years.  It came into our possession when my husband bought a Volkswagen Vanagon back in the late 1990s. (Apparently, it’s traditional to include a gift when you sell a Vanagon  — the husband left a waterbed mattress in one that he sold before we were married.)

Anyway, it doesn’t really go with anything, but it doesn’t really NOT go with anything, either. It’s handmade and unique, and I love the stylized creatures that now brighten the upstairs hallway.

Also this week:

Day 63: Made an epic find at Target. I was planning to buy a duvet and duvet cover for the guest bedroom, since I’ve found that combination imminently easier to care for than a comforter, bedspread or quilt. With the mother-in-law set to arrive later this month, it was finally time to ditch the cat-hair-laden comforter.

Anyway, I found the EXACT items I was looking for in the clearance section for half price. Woot!

Day 64: Attempted, yet again, to move the garage shelf, only to find that there was a HUGE, unwieldy pile of green wire for the robotic mower blocking the way. I spent a good 30 minutes untangling the wire and wrapping it around an empty paper towel tube.

Can it be unwrapped easily without retangling itself? I don’t care.

Day 66: Finally managed to move the garage shelf into its new place without getting hit in the head with the surfboard again or finding another tragic tangle of green wire.

Day 67: Cleared a few things out of the kitchen pantry, including a canister of breadcrumbs that expired in April 2010. It’s rather amazing how things accumulate so quickly in there.

Days 68 and 69: I spent these two days driving to Nashville, hanging out with my brother at work and then hanging out while he had knee surgery, and then driving back. Family trumps home improvement, every time.

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The husband was out of town on a business trip earlier this week, and I didn’t realize how desolate the house was without him until I spotted my toothbrush occupying the bathroom counter, all by itself.

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