I sort of joke now about how my step-mom kept our house like a model home. On any given day, it could have been put on the market and shown to potential buyers. Everything was surface-level clean… except the kids’ rooms.
When I started dating Ben in tenth grade, I was so surprised by the difference in houses. At his house, kids sometimes did their homework at the dining room table or on the couch. All five of them had (still have) lockers to store their backpacks and whatever else. Most days when I was there, everyone made use of the space all around them and then, usually at their parents’ commands, everyone chipped in the ten minutes before dinner to put everything away and clear off the table for a meal to share together.
Still to this day, I commend my mother-in-law for the way their space serves so many people. So many stories can be told of memories made in their home.
Appearance has always been a strong value in my immediate and extended family. Maybe it’s a Scandinavian trait, but there is a lot of pressure to appear like everything is okay even if it’s not. This concept has always been troubling for me because I really value transparency.
I think one gift I can offer others is inviting them into my home so that they can feel better about theirs. I struggle endlessly to maintain it to a level of cleanliness that meets my own standards. Zadie’s Easter basket from two easters ago is on a tall shelf, and everytime I see it, I think… I should move that. I wonder how many seconds of my life I have spent thinking about a task I “should” do and how much space my brain would get back if I just did-the-thing right then.
When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I totally de-cluttered and simplified. And then somehow, my drawers filled themselves up again and things that don’t spark joy found their way back into every room. When I go to other peoples’ homes, I usually fall in love with their style and lack of clutter. I can’t seem to figure out why my space doesn’t look the same way.
I am beyond grateful for our home. When we were preparing it to be sold to a new person, it caused me real sorrow. I kid you not, I wrote poetry to my house, shedding tears room by room, saying goodbye to a structure that makes me feel so comfortable and safe and loved.
It’s a house.
I’m privileged to have shelter let alone be crying about how much I love my shelter. I’m a 28 year old homeowner, all thanks to generational wealth. A different blog on that later.
And I can truly say living here, in this 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, white vinyled, black shuttered, Saint Louis Park home is the first place I have ever lived that I truly loved. The apartment Ben and I shared in college wasn’t anything special and the house we rented after was far away from the city. Our home here has always felt like a safe place for me to land, to make my own, and to share.
That’s the thing about messy living rooms and small houses- I want my kids to know that our family values sharing what we have, regardless of quality or quantity. We have crammed people in for birthdays and football games and game nights and movie nights and after work happy hours. There’s a saying that goes something like “It’s not a Saint Louis Park kitchen if you don’t bump butts.” Many butts have been bumped here.
When I think about the house I lived in as a teenager, there were so many rooms that we actually never had to be together. I guess I figure that if we have fewer spaces to occupy, we’ll learn to gather together more often. That’s important to me.
As I packed away some of the clutter to make our house look more appealing to future buyers, I saw a lot of stuff we really don’t use. How many cutting boards is necessary for a family of 4 when half of the family really should not be using knives? Why do we have 7 cutting boards?
We both adamantly believe we have what we need, just not what we want. We want a bigger living room so that we can fit more people in it. For us, it’s never about the stuff and always about the people joining in…
All of this is my brain babbling, coping, trying to comfort my heart with some logistical motivations for why our current house has been very good to us and will be very good to the next people who end up living here.
And I hope that our next home, whenever it comes or wherever it is, will have less clutter and the same amount of living.