Divine Bird

I believe in a high-fiber diet…like wool, alpaca, cashmere…

Cleaning House: Permanence


I may have written about this before but I can’t find it in any of my past posts, so…I think I know why I’ve been so driven to clean and organize so much.

It occurred to me today that I finally feel like I am here for more than a few months. This is funny when you consider that a) we bought this place in 2009, so I’ve been living here for over five years and b) we actually own the condo, and aren’t renting it. Basically, when we leave here, it will be to move to another permanent residence in Maine. Aside from that, we’re staying.

With the exception of my childhood home, this is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. Since moving out on my own in 1994, I have lived in eleven places. That’s about one move every 1.3 years. Three times, I moved within the same building or complex. I think my shortest stay was maybe three months in one apartment, and my longest was two years in another. So for fifteen years, I didn’t set down roots anywhere. I knew that the chances were pretty good that I’d be somewhere else the following year. For at least five or six years, I had a storage unit that I paid for. Sometimes we stored our stuff in friends’ and family’s basements or attics. Sometimes we just piled everything in the corners of the room and hoped no one would notice.

As someone with many hobbies and interests, it was easy to add to my collection. I worked at bookstores, fabric stores, and office supply companies, so tons of stuff followed me home. I’m finally seeing just how much stuff there was, and it’s daunting when I think back over how many bags, boxes, and bins have left my house for donation. Nevermind the equally daunting amount of trash.

On Sunday, my mom and sister came over and we completely transformed my kitchen from a dysfunctional, crowded space with overflowing cabinets into a clean, serene room that WORKS. It amazes me every day now. I walk into the kitchen in the morning and I know exactly where everything goes. Even when I unload the dishwasher, everything has a place, so there’s no need to leave things out on the counter or stuff them into a random cabinet. It’s a dream to cook in there now.

In order to reach this state, though, I had to get rid of an entire minivan’s worth of dishes and other things. I severely culled my plastic container collection to a few matching pieces. The three of us just kept putting things out on the dining room table so I could see them, make my decisions, and put everything away.

But of all the work we did, you know what boggles my mind the most? It’s that every single one of my coffee mugs is on the shelf.

I don’t have any in “reserve”. There are none packed away for “someday”. Even the two Christmas mugs have a spot in my kitchen, out of the way but easy to reach when I’m ready for them. For fifteen years, I have had mugs in boxes because I had too many to keep out, and nowhere to put the ones I really liked. I kept thinking, someday I’ll have a real kitchen and all this will fit.

Dudes, I HAVE a real kitchen. It’s mine, in the house that I pay for. This isn’t a temporary thing anymore, it’s real. It’s permanent. It’s — dare I say it — home.

And I think that’s why it’s so important that I finally unpack everything. Why am I keeping stuff in boxes in the basement if I’m not using it right now? Why are my books still boxed up? Why am I living as though I’m going to move out when the lease ends? There is no lease. This is my home, my permanent home for the foreseeable future, and I am sick of treating it like it’s just another apartment. My art should be hanging everywhere. My clothes should be organized and easy to sort. My dishes should have a place where they belong. This is it! The rooms aren’t going to get bigger, so I should take advantage of every square foot I have. There isn’t going to be a “better” place next year, and honestly, I don’t want there to be. I may dislike some things about condo life, but those are far outweighed by the really amazing stuff. I love this place! I love being here, I love my orange kitchen and the view from the back window. It’s time to make this house my home.

So anyway. This epiphany may seem obvious to others but it hit me hard today. I’m so excited about finishing things in here. Each day, something gets put away, given away, or thrown away, and the house feels more open because of it.

I wanted to be done with my cleaning way back in March, and that didn’t happen for various reasons. But the end of this project is in sight now. I am going to finish it this year, maybe even by the end of November, if I can keep up the momentum.

It’s going to happen.

I think I really live here now.

Tell me what you think.

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