Inevitable and unavoidable

We are in the midst of a large amount of “must-do” maintenance on the house.  We’ve got a plumber coming this afternoon, to work on an accumulation of minor problems that are beginning to add up to something major.  We’ve got the sprinkler repair man coming on Friday, to fix–again–the water pouring out of the main box each time we turn it on.  And we’re getting our gutters cleaned, before all the maple seeds begin sprouting in our eaves.

In the midst of all these plans, I heard a huge crash and clamor in our garage this morning.  I assumed the bike I’d hung up a few days before was no longer hanging; but no, it was the spring on our garage door.  One more call to one more person, for one more fix.

These are times where living more simply looks really appealing.  If we had a one story house, we could clean our own gutters.  If we didn’t have a garage, we wouldn’t have any doors to break.  If we didn’t have a sprinkler system, we wouldn’t need to prep it for winter and repair it constantly; though I admit I’m truly torn about the sprinklers.  I remember lugging hoses around our previous yard, in the heat of summer, while I was seven and eight months pregnant.  I thought this sprinkler system was a huge blessing for a long time.  I guess in this instance, living more simply would mean doing away with a yard completely.

It occurred to me recently, though, as I swept up dog hair for the umpteenth time:  no matter how much you strip down to the bare minimum, you’re still going to have stuff.  Assuming you’re not planning on joining the ranks of the homeless, you will always have a floor to sweep/vacuum/mop.  Even if you give away the majority of your excess clothing, you will always have laundry to keep up with.  You can do away with the large-scale upkeep by living in a maintenance-provided community, but you are still going to have a space to dust and clean and keep tidy.  (Well….I guess the clean part is optional.)

Stuff–at least some stuff–is completely unavoidable.  So I guess my plan is to do my best to ensure that my extraneous “stuff” remains minimal, to care for what I do have as well as I can (hence the incessant flow of repairmen over the next few days), and to enjoy what we do have as much as I can; to appreciate them as the blessings they are.  We were garageless for so very long that our garage, even with a broken door, is a huge blessing to me.  I love not scraping my windshield every winter morning.  I love having a place to store bikes, big wheels, and our blue bin.  I love not having to think about hailstorms damaging our cars.  So yes, broken door or broken sprinklers….I’m going to try to enjoy the stuff that I do have.  Because stuff is inevitable.


          Sometimes, I think we’re really confused.  Sometimes, I want to grab people and shake them and yell at them about what’s truly important, and what just doesn’t matter at all.  Sometimes, I think people have their priorities completely backwards and upside down.  And then, sometimes, I see something like this:
My girl recently lost two teeth, and went to kindergarten roundup, my boy is just about potty-trained, and my baby is almost sleeping through the night.  Time is going by too too too fast. In light of these recent events, I have decided that I want to spend more time enjoying my beautiful babies and less time doing things that don’t matter, like playing on Facebook, returning emails, and obsessing… over keeping the house picked up.  I don’t want to look back on these precious, fleeting years with regret.  I’ll still update y’all periodically, but I’m not going to spend so much time reading about you all. Forgive me for not keeping up with your business.  And, if you happen to come to our house, you may have to step over a pile or two of laundry, you may trip on some Thomas trains, and our beds may not be made.  You have been warned.  🙂
…and I’m struck by the idea that there are people who “get it.”  They may be few and far between, but there are people who understand where their priorities need to be.
          I’m convinced that there’s a generation (or more) of us that are going to suddenly look up and realize that they spent their entire life online; that, once tallied, their “downtime” playing Angry Birds or checking Facebook actually ate months of their total life.  That we are someday going to be old and gray and dying, and realize, as we look back, that we forgot to actually do any living.
          My husband recently withdrew from an MBA program; with his work schedule, it was a second evening each week away from home and family, and it was very unclear if the degree would really help him in any way, job-wise.  (He jokes that he did a “cost-benefit analysis.”)  The first Tuesday he didn’t go to class, he was playing football outside with the kids.  The second Tuesday, he attended the art fair at their school, and we all went out to dinner together.  There’s no doubt that you could create a persuasive argument that his decision “hurt” our future; that he might stall out in his job, that he could make “so much more” if he’d stayed with the program.  But our children are children only once.  We get no do-overs.  And I’m unbelievably blessed to be married to someone who chooses family.
          I’m dealing with choices as well; as my mornings fill up, my kid-free writing time has nearly disappeared.  My goal of a post a day, Monday through Friday, was pretty much shot with the arrival of spring break.  Am I going to sit parked in front of a computer when my kids are around?  Or am I going to actually be a mom, and do my best to enjoy my kiddos while they’re here?  I’m voting kids.  Because I don’t want to look up one day and realize that they’re grown and gone, that I’m nearing the end, and that I spent my life sitting in front of a computer, even if I was doing something worthwhile and productive.
          What are your priorities?  If someone on the outside watched how you spend your time, would your priorities be clear?  If you logged each and every minute of how you spent your day, what would that look like; what would it show?  Would it prove you value what you say is important to you?  How are we spending this life we’ve been blessed with?  Because I think we forget that someday it’s gone.


Months ago, I moved our unused computer armoire and a chair into my son’s room, to be used as “Lego central.”  It gave him space to store his stuff and a nice, large area to spread out on to build; plus, you could close the doors when he wasn’t using it and his room would suddenly (magically!) look cleaner.  He loved it.  For about two days.

The reality is that my kids would always rather be close to the rest of the family, and not “banished” upstairs in their rooms.  So Lego building usually happens on the dining room table.  The giant cabinet sat in my son’s room, unused except for storage.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been evaluating what he really needed in his room.  The wood-tone cabinet is ginormous (around 2′ x 3′, and 5′ high), and his room isn’t that big, and if the thing isn’t being used for what it was intended for, why is it still in there?  It seemed like what he needed was some place to display the items he had built, not a place to actually do the construction.  So I painted a tall, narrow bookcase white; six shelves that might show off his creations.

I’d talked to my son a few times about changing things out; he’s not the kind of kid where you can just redo his room and expect him to be happy with the surprise.  He had gotten to the point where he completely understood the idea of “why are we keeping this in here?  I’m not using it,” and once I heard that understanding, I started asking permission to change things up; once permission was granted, I started warning him that he might come home one day to a change.

Tuesday was the day.  I moved the cabinet out, and moved the bookcase in.  I rearranged two other furniture pieces in the process, and I took away his area rug to run through the washer.  The difference was incredible.  (I actually think removing the rug made just as much difference–now there’s a big expanse of carpet, instead of the floor being “broken up” into smaller parts.)

His first response was, “Mom!  I like it!  I really like it,” which eventually shifted to “I love it!”  Finally, he lay on the floor, arms and legs splayed out everywhere, and yelled, “Space!  I have space!”  And that was the word he kept going back to for the rest of the night.  “I have space!  Look at all this space!”

If that is the response of a eight-year-old confirmed pack rat, how would the rest of us feel with more space?  I don’t mean “a bigger house” more space, I mean “clearing out, getting rid of, making room” more space.  I think we’re fooling ourselves when we think “If I just had a bigger house;” in reality, if we had a bigger house, we’d just buy more stuff to fill it up and then moan (again) about how we needed a bigger house.  Instead, work backwards.  Edit.  This is what I have; what can I get rid of?  What am I not using?  What is just taking up space?  Or, the definition of our computer cabinet:  What was a good idea in one house, that is not working in this one?  What one item would make me feel twenty pounds lighter if I got rid of it?  Is there someone I know that could really use this item?  Or do I just need to donate it to a charity?

There is something very calming about having space around you; space to move, space to breathe.  What can you get rid of today that will contribute to “space,” and that feeling of a more peaceful home?