Home Sweet Stress

I’m wrapping up a two-week hiatus from all things normal. The hubby and I closed on a house two Thursdays ago, and it kicked off all sorts of insanity. Luckily I have a light workload currently, meaning I could leave at noon more often than not last week. The poor kitty got to spend his evenings alone while we got the house ready to move in, and I’m pretty sure we spent more money (and calories) at restaurants in that fortnight than we did in the two months prior. Oops.

I’ve also been running the gamut of emotions. Excitement, stress, exhaustion, annoyance (seriously, did the previous owners not have a vacuum??) and just about every variation in between. Overall, it’s positive, but damn, will I be happy when we’re past the paint-and-unpack stage.

The move has also brought me face to face with several of my demons. I’ve known for a long time that what I am “supposed to do” holds a huge amount of weight with me. If I feel like someone else has expectations of me, then IT IS GOING TO BE DONE. Hard stop. (I was the kindergartener who was terrified of track day, because I was supposed to be fast and win, and what if I failed? Everyone was watching me. They’d all be disappointed.) While that gave me extra motivation in chasing down grades and scholarships and extracurriculars, it’s not the healthiest impulse in, say, life. Or buying a house and then setting it up for the people who live there every day (me and the hubby) opposed to all those people peering down the rose-tinted Pinterest lens.

I have a house now. It needs to look perfect.

On the other hand, I am the daughter of two people who were minimalists a long time before it became a buzz word. My dad cleans and reorganizes for entertainment or when he is stressed, and we had a constant pile of items to be taken to Goodwill. During a seriously rough year in middle school, I think I got rid of half of my possessions. Did it make sense? Probably not. But in my mind, they were holding me back. I was going to run away and escape the annoying realities of being a pre-teen. I wanted a duffle bag and a ticket to anywhere. Freedom.

Of course, to a teenage girl, the other side of minimalism is a lack of the pretty things my friends and cousins had in their houses. Rooms painted something other than white, soft rugs, unnecessary throw pillows. On the days I didn’t want to go nomad, I’d dream about what I could do when I had a house and money of my own. And after a long time of oscillating between these conflicting desires, I’ve finally figured out the key:

When I feel inadequate, I want everything. When I’m stressed, I want nothing.

Which is great, because I’m currently stressed about feeling inadequate.

Luckily, the hubby does not have these opposing desires. He wants a comfortable house with a mad scientist lab in the basement (that’s a whole other story) and he’s pretty good about honing in on what will work for us. Which is why it’s a good thing I drug him along when we went to look at tables. I’m waiting for the stress to die down before I make any other big purchases, but since our last two apartments had a built-in counter and we don’t have a table, this was a pretty high priority.

I like to sit down while I eat my food, don’t you?

It was an “inadequate” type of day, and I made a beeline for the dark wood tables with extra leaves for entertaining and matching chairs with leather upholstery. We’re adults now. We need a nice table. People will judge us by our table.

The hubby let me go over the finer points of the “good” tables for a few minutes, then turned decisively to one I’d bypassed without a second though. “I like this one.”

It didn’t have optional leaves or fancy stools. It wasn’t bar-height. The best way to describe it, in fact, was an indoor picnic table. The light golden top was a single piece of wood with slightly wavy live edges supported by simple black metal legs, and it came with two matching benches. “It’s like your parents’ table,” the hubby went on. “That was always one of my favorite things at their house.”

I took a look around the show room again, visions of fancy dinner parties slowly fading. The picnic table matched our golden oak cabinets and trim. The lovely espresso bar-height monstrosity to my right, gorgeous as it was, did not. Could I make it work, or would it just look out of place? My husband wasn’t the only person to say they’d loved my parents’ table. This was subtly different, but all the highlights were the same.

Slowly, I made my way over and sat down on the bench, running a hand along the raw edge as I pictured this table against our newly-painted blue wall. In my head, it looked lovely. I sighed and thought about a normal day: work bags dropped on one of the benches, mail and magazines scattered around coffee mugs and brunch plates. We could still fit 6-8 people around the table for a party, sure. But on every other day of the year, this table would be exactly what we needed.

Punchline: we bought the table. We even paid to have someone bring it inside since getting a solid slab of wood through the door at a weird angle sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m re-creating my visions for our future kitchen/dining room.

And honestly, I think this option might end up making me a lot happier.

More Living, Less Chores

I’ve been getting frustrated with chores lately.  Not “I’d rather read a book than straighten up the kitchen” – my inner thoughts have sounded more like “if I have to touch another piece of laundry or dirty dish in the next year I am going to SCREAM.”

There’s no reason for me to be so upset.  Nothing has changed.  We’ve had a long-time policy of doing small batches of dishes after each meal so they don’t pile up, and (after growing up without one, this still doesn’t come naturally to me) I’ve gotten much better about utilizing the dishwasher.  Laundry has always been “my” chore, but since the hubby no longer works on Saturday mornings, he now helps me put the clothes away.

Apparently, none of that matters.  I’ve still just been pissed.

Then I found an old notebook while going through my desk at work.  Even with the majority of my personal and work life digitized, I’m still a sucker for notebooks.  There’s something so inviting about them, so promising.  They make me feel grand, like each page is my ticket to the perfect life, and all I have to do is pick up my pen.  So with nothing better to do on my lunch break, I wrote “Spend more time living and less time existing” at the top of a page and started jotting down ideas.

The first few were obvious – we’d discussed getting a maid to come in once a month after we move to our new house, and I’ve been toying with the idea of services like PrimePantry for a while.  Sure, they were all valid ideas, but none of them would change the problems that were bothering me.  And then, about four lines in, it hit me.  I’m not sure where the phase came from – some old Pinterest post?  a joke I heard in college? my frustrated brain throwing out a solution when I actually did something other than complain? – but it popped into my head all at once.

Buy more underwear, do less laundry.

I paused.  Ran the thought through my mind again.  Flipped it over and examined all sides for any evidence of tampering or sorcery or other things that you consider when something is maybe just a little too good to be true.  Nothing.

Buy more underwear, do less laundry.

So I wrote it down – the pen didn’t break, the notebook didn’t catch fire – took a picture, and sent it to my husband.  He responded immediately: “OMG yes.  And more dress shirts?”

Fair enough.  I’d been meaning to get him more shirts ever since he started his new job this fall, now was as good a time as any.  Feeling thoroughly out of my funk now, I ran through all the specific reasons laundry has been driving me crazy.  Thanks to our record-breaking lows of the past month, I’ve been wearing my thickest sweaters on repeat, all of which require air-drying at the very least.  Same with our wool socks.  Unless I hire a weekly maid/housekeeper (not happening any time in the near future) or figure out a laundry service (now I have to talk to someone to get my laundry done? and deal with their schedule?), laundry will never be done for good.  But I can get rid of the parts that annoy me the most.

That was when part two of my epiphany hit.  Growing up, laundry was a long task.  We air-dried everything on clothes lines strung up along the porch of our detached garage, so the process included hauling the loads up and down the path, wiping off the clothes lines, shifting the clothes pins so you didn’t end up with creases in your favorite shirt, and keeping an eye out for rain – and we did this every Saturday.

I’d already done away with most of the process, thanks to the in-unit washer and dryer in our apartment.  Why not change the rest?  Just because my parents wash their clothes weekly doesn’t mean it’s a requirement for me.  Duh, honey.

I looked up the brand and type of my sole tumble-dry-low sweater and bought it in three more colors.  (Bonus: it’s sale season for sweaters!)  The hubby picked out some button downs that aren’t blue.  He got more underwear.  I ordered another bra.  I even found some machine-dry camisoles, although I haven’t convinced myself it’s worth the price yet.  Pulling out the drying rack isn’t that bad, after all – as long as I don’t have to find room for half my wardrobe on it.

We’ll see how much the changes help.  For now, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic.

20180703_160047_015
Kitty wins for enthusiasm at chore time.

Do you have any “more living, less chores” tips?  What has made the biggest difference for you?