You know I wouldn’t really go over two weeks without posting.
No, I am once again MOVING blogs – but this time, I exported all the content so it’s not much of a change. I just don’t want to keep paying for web hosting, or whatever it is I pay for, because I take zero advantage of that. I just have a humble little blog using a humble little template, and I can do that for free at WordPress.com:
I’m going for minimalist for real, for now anyway. I am pulling out all the stops to get rid of stuff I don’t need and/or don’t want, especially things I won’t want to take with me wherever (and whenever) I move next. I listed some furniture and decor items on Craigslist today and plan to do a clothing listing too. I’m not in a huge rush, but whatever doesn’t sell in a few weeks will get donated somewhere. I’ve done this before, but I think I’m finally getting to point where, in the near future–fleeting though it may be–I will only own things I really like and really use, and just enough of them. My dream would be to achieve this type of bare minimum (I go back to that blog post repeatedly for inspiration!). I am interested in owning and acquiring more furniture and art that I love (same goes for clothing and any other category really–definitely could use some electronics upgrades), but I am over knickknacks, over having too much, over poor quality, over random clutter, over junk, and all that comes with it.
Tonight, for the first time in my life, I started approaching my collection of photographs with a critical eye. Even though I rarely get prints made anymore, I have an enormous amount of printed photos for several reasons. First, I’ve somehow become the guardian of old family photos, going back to my grandparents’ and parents’ youths. Second, I was extremely snap happy as a kid and in high school, using Polaroid and disposable cameras–come to think of it, I was even a yearbook photographer in sixth grade, something I’d forgotten until now! And then in college I got really into shooting film even as I was introduced to digital cameras and the magical world of taking a gazillion photos at a time. And I’m sentimental. And I love looking through pictures.
But when you have 1,000, they aren’t as special as when you have, say 100. Fifty photos from a single event or trip become less meaningful than 5 or 10 good ones. One great photo can outshine any number of inferior versions. And: When I have so many prints that they’ve formed an inaccessible mountain, what good are they? And: Do I really need boxes full of similar photos, or bad photos, or photos of people I don’t even care about? No one knows more than me how meaningful photographs can be, but just because someone was there to click a camera button doesn’t mean the result was worth keeping forever. So today I did an initial purge, getting rid of probably half-a-trashbag-full of totally meaningless pictures, and sorting the remainders into some basic categories. Next, I’m going to sort through each category more carefully and decide what should stay and what should go. I still plan to keep a lot of pictures, but ideally at the end they’ll fit into a few albums and maybe a photo box or two.
Which brings me to the fun stuff. Often when people go on organizing/decluttering kicks they’re inclined to purchase organizing tools–boxes, folders, canisters, etc. But all the pros will tell you not to do this until after you’ve purged your belongings, otherwise you’re just moving your clutter around. So I’ve been forcing myself to hold back on any organizing accessories until I know exactly what I’m keeping, because only then will I know what I actually need. And now I’m more than happy to say that in the near future I’ll choose a few select items to help me with the final touches. In the case of the photos, I’m very, very interested in this 12-case photo storage container (each case can hold 100 prints). It makes me giddy to imagine having a small box of neatly organized, accessible, visually appealling, and easy-to-transport photos, after lugging around pounds and pounds and boxes and boxes of pictures for years.
In the spirit of minimalism, I’ve set another goal. I’ve designated my beloved wooden trunk as my “sentimental” storage container. I am just not a person who can or should purge every last photo or love letter or journal or empty perfume bottle or childhood toy or high school essay. But I think if I can keep the sentimental “clutter” (anything I don’t want to display for all to see) limited to a single wooden trunk, I’ll be totally happy. It’s a reasonable amount and it’s not hard to transport, nor would it be hard to store somewhere like my parents’ house if I ever needed to. It almost becomes a treasure chest.
Here’s to a weekend of more cleaning and purging and organizing!
People often fixate on the milestones that define lives. Graduations, weddings, etc. I too fully see the great importance of those defining occasions. But man, it’s the simple joys that really make me glad to be alive. Very few things make me happier than being outside in beautiful weather, feeling the sunshine on my face and a warm breeze against my arms.
Anyway, also took a foodie pic, which I haven’t done much of lately. Somehow my Chinese take-out looked unexpectedly pretty.
I’m going to temporarily ignore my previous post about positivity and optimism. That will come, soon, but right now I am amped up on some anger-induced adrenaline and I can’t contain it anymore. The secret is out. My ongoing war is no longer a covert operation. My apartment (duplex, more accurately) has roaches. And. I. Have. Had. Enough.
Here’s the thing about living in a roach infested apartment. It makes you paranoid. Actually it makes you think you’re paranoid when you’re actually rational, which is worse. You see, you think you see them everywhere. I have wooden floors with lots of dark, oval spots in exactly the same size as the enormous roaches that dwell here, so I constantly think they’re roaches. And the thing is, most of the time they aren’t–but a lot of the time they are.
One morning when the weather was first cooling down in the fall, I pulled out a pair of boots I hadn’t worn in months. Something in me knew I was going to find a roach inside. I shook them upside-down. Nothing fell out. I told myself I was crazy. Put the boots on, felt a lump under my foot, took the foot out, and whadya know? My angry screams woke my boyfriend but I don’t think he could stay mad when he heard me yelling, “THERE’S A ROACH IN MY BOOT. THERE’S A ROACH IN MY MOTHER FUCKING BOOT JUST LIKE I KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE.”
Roaches. They make you THINK you’re crazy when you’re really not. And I hate them. The house never feels clean. It never feels solitary (who knows how many bajillions of them there are, hiding out of site?). And, dramatic though it sounds, it never feels safe. Roaches SURPRISE you, that’s why you’ve got to take the offensive with your paranoia. Better to find a roach where you suspect one than to step on one with your bare foot.
God bless my landlords. They’re nice people. They send out an exterminator regularly. And it works–you see, many of the roaches I find are on their backs, dying, I can only assume from the exterminator’s poison. But a dying roach is not the same thing as a dead one. It is definitely much worse. I don’t get them. I really don’t understand what happens. Like, I go to bed or leave for the night and they come out to play, but get poisoned and die there in the middle of the floor? The problem becomes much more serious when I spend a couple of nights away (all the more common now that my boyfriend moved). Doesn’t matter that I make sure to clean before I leave. I came home today to six enormous roaches lying there wiggling and writhing on their backs. Welcome home, honey.
(I also just spotted a seventh, in a corner, that looked like part of the wood floor until now.)
I took my dog on a walk immediately. I didn’t want to be inside. I called my boyfriend. “I need to go to a therapist, now, I can’t deal with these roaches.” I’m talking loudly in my neighborhood and I don’t care. I come home and realize I have to pick them up even though they are so big and still alive. I try to change my perspective. I try, I really try, not to be afraid. I think about people who tell stories of enormous bugs in other countries. I think about people who eat bugs. But none of that really helps. I yell at them as I squish and scoop them up. “You disgusting mother fuckers!” I hate them. Hate them. Hate them.
I’m currently living in my duplex on a month-to-month basis, meaning my yearlong lease expired and I’m not stuck here, I just have to give my landlord notice when I plan to leave. I moved here when I was working part-time and didn’t have a car. So it was super cheap rent in walking distance to my job, and kinda cute. Now I’m ready to leave. But things are complicated and I’m not ready to sign another year-long lease somewhere else. My boyfriend tonight threw out the idea that I could move back in with my parents for a little while. The commute to work would be longer but it’s doable. In fact, my dad’s even working out of town for 2 months. And my mom works an evening shift as a nurse. Normally I’d have scoffed at the idea but suddenly it appeals to me. It would get me away from the roaches.
I know I have phobic tendencies and I’ve allowed these things to become much bigger than I should. But the thing is, I can deal with some roaches. I saw them occasionally in the house growing up. Whatever. We get them in the warehouse where I work. But those aren’t in my home (and they aren’t nearly as big). My home is infested and it is a huge part of why I have given up on this place. And that’s a life-changer.
Maybe it’s because I’m already at the end of my rope after driving to and from Tallahassee in the pouring rain this weekend. If you know me, you know that driving hundreds of miles at high speeds, in the rain, is one of the most anxiety-inducing endeavors I can take on. But I did it. I made it home alive. Maybe I’m just freaking out. Maybe I feel stronger. Maybe I just wanted to come home to a home that actually felt like a retreat from the outside world instead of a grotesque shit hole. But I have had enough.
I’m tired of writing with the negative tinge I can’t seem to shake lately. Maybe it’s not even showing up in my blog as much as I think it is. But it’s here, in my life. Sometimes it feels honest and natural to indulge in a little sadness or pessimism but when it seems like I might be feeding the monster, it’s time to reevaluate. I’m going to try and get my blog–and mindset–back into a more optimistic place.
I am a forward-looking, goal-driven person, and I don’t think I’ve been giving myself enough to look forward to lately, especially since my boyfriend moved to another town (not terribly far away, but it’s still quite an adjustment considering we’d been de facto cohabitating previously):
-I’ve accrued over 100 hours of paid time off and have free flights available thanks to my Southwest credit card, and yet I have no vacation, not even a mini one, in the works.
-Since I’ve decided not to renew my lease, which means I’ll leave my duplex as soon as I can, I’m basically dismantling my home rather than improving it, and that is very much at odds with my personality.
-I’ve also been feeling a bit blah about my hair/beauty, maybe in part because I never play with my hair color anymore and I wear glasses to work every day (nothing against glasses I just don’t like wearing them all the time , they’ve started to dominate my appearance).
I think it’s just time to give myself some short term pleasures/goals/positive changes to look forward to. Hmm. Where to begin? A long weekend trip to visit my dad, who’s working in California temporarily? Contact lenses and highlights?
Here’s to a brighter perspective. I’ll start with this:
They sat ready on the counter, waiting to be rinsed, chopped, minced, sauteed. The black beans, the onion, the garlic, and the spinach. The peppers my neighbor grew in his yard. The rice cooker was already going to work on the quinoa, now it was my turn. Sunday night, cooking night. And just as I lifted the knife to kick off the whole ordeal, I had a vision. Of rinsing and chopping and mincing and sauteing and cleaning. Of wrecking the kitchen. Of stress. Of Sunday night depression. And I pulled my hand back. I returned each item to the pantry or refrigerator. When the quinoa is finished cooking it will go straight into the fridge. Ready for beans or sauce or whatever else I decide to add, tomorrow. Another day. And now I sit here eating a bowl of plain yogurt and a clementine instead. Crisis averted.
I spend a lot of time longing for perfection. Perfect home, perfect relationship, perfect career, perfect routines. What I really want is to settle into the good life. To nest. To have a solid foundation from which to build and create and grow. But so far I’ve encountered a lot of transitional periods that prevent that kind of settling. Now is such a period. So I’m giving up on striving for anything resembling perfection for now and am doing something a bit unusual for me: Enjoying the small successes and good moments as they happen, even though the surrounding circumstances are messy when I prefer my life to look more picturesque, blog-worthy. My house does not look pretty right now for a number of reasons, but it is much more tidy as of today than it had been in the last two weeks. The laundry is done and the clothes are put away. There are no dishes in the sink. The lamp is casting a nice glow over my bedroom. And I am savoring it all.
On June 30th last year I sadly posted a blog entry entitled “Big Boned“:
“I’m back from the vet, and as always, Herman’s weight was the main topic of discussion,” I wrote. If he continued on the same track, the vet warned, Herman faced increased odds of diabetes, difficulty breathing, and leg troubles that could set in as early as age 8. He was over 14 pounds and I couldn’t imagine him getting down to 12 anytime soon. He’d been over 15 pounds at the vet a year earlier and although he’d lost some weight, it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t coming off quickly.
Well, I am here to say that as of this afternoon’s vet visit, my “big boned” guy is now 11.3 pounds (in a harness!). The vet said his physical condition looked great and that now we need to focus on maintaining his weight rather than losing more. Oh. My. Gosh. I was in shock. Vets ALWAYS scold me about his weight. I see him everyday and I simply had no idea that in fewer than 8 months he had come so far.
I’m thrilled that my beloved dog is on a healthier track. Thrilled to feel free of the guilt I experienced due to his weight. Thrilled to finally see results from our work and to get real approval from the vet. Now I just have to stick with it (and maybe play with the diet a little so he doesn’t lose too much more weight). But I’m motivated. I’ve gotten healthier and more physically active myself in the last 6 months so I feel like we’re in this together.
Some of my favorite recent moments were walks with Herman. We’ve enjoyed meandering through a sprawling historic cemetery in Tallahassee and playing in the bustling parks of Jacksonville’s trendier neighborhoods. It’s as as good for me as it is for him, not just physically but mentally.
I haven’t been to the grocery store in ages and didn’t feel like going tonight since I had a workout and needed to spend some quality time with the dog (don’t ask). My pantry was a little depressing and I’d resigned myself to a can of soup, but then a few other items caught my eye–a lonely half an onion at the bottom of the refrigerator veggie bin, a not-quite-empty jar of roasted red peppers, a box of quick-cook brown rice that I would have never bought for myself (my boyfriend’s not a snob about that kind of thing) and yet there it was…beckoning to me with its convenience.
It all started to come together. I made a sort of sofrito with onions, red peppers, garlic, and any spices I could think of–chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, red pepper flakes–and dumped in the can of Amy’s low-fat black bean soup, all in the time it took the rice to cook. Even found a couple of limes and some tortilla chips from an earlier Latin-inspired incarnation, and there ya go: My kind of convenience food. There’s even leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
Similarly, I used what little I had to make a tomato sauce for pasta yesterday and I loved it. I’ve been getting these boxed diced tomatoes (sold in the same place as canned tomatoes, with no citric acid or anything) and heated those up in olive oil with a mixture of dry Italian herbs, tons of garlic, and–importantly–spicy red pepper flakes–and it was so good. It really is beneficial to “shop the pantry” sometimes, just like “shopping the closet.” Get creative. Push the boundaries. Transform that can of soup into something that’s not so depressing–an actual meal.
This is what it looked like when I got it for $45 through Craigslist in ’09. The cushions were rock hard and crumbling, while the retro fabric was very worn and sagging (and ugly).
So when I moved I got rid of the cushions but kept the chair. I wasn’t sure what to do then, so I draped a blanket over it–so sad.
Then I placed a folded blue quilt on it, which was less depressing to look at, but indeed, not a cushion.
And now it’s got real, comfy, custom gray cushions, to (somewhat) match its sister chair, another gray Craigslist find:
And I can actually SIT on it. Very exciting. It’s gotten a little scratched and dinged up along the way, but I’m going to give it a nice scrubbing/oiling/waxing to finish the whole thing off.
Meanwhile, I saw this on Urban Outfitters’ website today. Well…at least my cushions are thicker.
Next up: Frame my Scotland prints, which I’ve finally gotten developed–including several 8X12s and a 20X30!
These projects aren’t cheap by my standards, but they are the ones I’ve wanted to tackle for years, and I know I will appreciate them for years to come. My ultimate design advice, should anyone ever care to ask me, is to pay attention to the ideas and visions and images you are drawn to consistently throughout long periods of time. These days there is so much “inspiration” to be found day in and day out, and it’s easy to get sucked into a shallow consumerist mindset–ooh I want that! Now I like that better! Oh I wish my home looked like that! I want it all! But if there a few ideas or pictures you find yourself coming back to again and again and again, and your love for them stands the test of time, to me, that is your authentic taste. And what I like about both my recent projects (the chair cushions and the framed photos) is that they have a bit of a DIY element to them. I am not just purchasing the pieces but helping create them. Authentic and personal. What more could one want in a home?
Our goals for my boyfriend’s first weekend at his new place were simple and practical: Furniture-wise, we needed to make sure he had a place to sit, to eat, and to sleep. Obviously the kitchen and bathroom needed to be functional and stocked with the basic necessities. The apartment needed to be cleaned up by Sunday so that he could focus on starting his new job Monday. And we accomplished all that!
We (and by that I mean “he”) assembled the sofa, coffee table, bed, and tv stand (all just purchased from IKEA). I took care of the bathroom’s shower curtain, bath mat, and toiletries. Clothes were hung in the closets. The coffee maker was set up in the kitchen. And that’s about it! No need to focus on decorating or superfluous furniture for now. Although God KNOWS I am dying to paint–the walls look pretty bad right now and it’s very distracting for me, but ain’t it lucky that’s a fairly easy fix! As soon as the walls are painted (I envision multiple shades of light blue throughout) then curtains and art can be hung and it will really start to come together. I plan to contribute some of my vintage furniture to balance out the newness of all the IKEA stuff. My boyfriend has his priorities for the home–including, as you will see, having a huge leather sofa that we can both sprawl out on–and as long as those conditions are met, I pretty much have free reign with decorating. I really do appreciate his perspective because he is more concerned with comfort than I normally am. I pick items because they are cute, but his emphasis on the functional side of furnishing a home makes a lot of sense and has really made me take a closer look at my decisions.
There’s a room that connects to the living room (the previous tenant called it a sun room, even though it’s more of an office); this will get a desk, bookshelves, and the two vintage chairs currently stored at my house.
The second (guest) bedroom will get a full-sized wrought-iron bed (already purchased, not yet assembled) and a vanity area for me so that I don’t take over his bathroom with my primping when I’m here.
The dining area still needs a dining table.
I’d really like to swap out the wicker mirror in the bathroom with a nice mirror and add a medicine cabinet. Also, some good towel bars.
I got a bunch of IKEA wall storage products for the kitchen (a spice rack, magnetic knife strip, that kind of thing).
The main bedroom is getting a dresser and tv.
Again, paint + art + curtains everywhere!
As for the huge coffee table you can see in the pictures below? It may get the boot. We didn’t realize how large it was and we’ve both talked about swapping it out with a smaller, maybe oval, wood coffee table to off-set all the white, angular furniture.
The overall vision is to keep it simple and organized. As has been the case for some time now, I’m inspired by vacation. Hotels and b&bs I’ve visited, my boyfriend’s family’s beach condo–spaces that are relaxing, uncluttered, and (that word again) functional.
Overall, I’m excited, and really appreciate my boyfriend letting me have so much fun with this new project. If it weren’t for me, I don’t think he’d be interested in decorating at all, but he has gotten into the spirit of it with me around. He made the following statement after we perused multiple furniture stores so he could get a sense for his options: “I want Scan Design style at Rooms To Go prices–I think that’s what IKEA’s supposed to be, right?” Touche.