Letters and Fetters

Letters and Fetters

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to Not Decorate

I enjoy being home. I like my house when it's quiet, like it is today, except for the crickets outside, and I like it when the kids are home. When the kids are home, I will hear jazz tunes on the piano from my son Mike, almost 16; Irish tunes on the mandolin from RJ, almost 18 and Laurie, 9, will chatter constantly, telling me about some new program she's inventing on the computer. Our other three kids have moved from home, but my daughter and her family recently moved back to town, and now I have the added sounds of two grandkids on occasion. It's all wonderful!

I'm not much at cooking. I used to love coming up with new things and creating in the kitchen. But with 6, there will always be someone who has a problem with what you cook, and that takes its toll. I'm kind of in a rut now. Every meal disappoints someone so I just cook whatever I can do quickly. Don't want to put my heart into something only to have someone complain about it, or not eat it because of digestion trouble, or wish for something else.
I don't decorate. My husband and I both went back to school when we had three young kids. That meant tight budgets. I realized that decor wasn't a necessity early on. We now have a place of our own and I could decorate, if I chose to, but when I think of what else that money could buy, and what else I could use that time doing, I just figure our friends, rather than being impressed with my wonderful sense of style or taste, can feel good by seeing that their own style is so much better, and they will leave happier than when they came, secure in the knowledge that they are superior in the style department. And isn't it all about making your friends happy? Or is it about wowing them? I still haven't figured out what decorating is about. Showing off your coordination talents? Making style statements? Looking unique? I just don't know.
I like to clean and I'm getting better at that. Now that half our kids are out of the house, there is room to organize and time to clean. This month, the dreaded upstairs (that used to be the toxic waste dump of teen kids) has been transformed. It used to be that no adult dared venture up there, and when you did, you quickly regretted it. I just closed the door to the upstairs and decided the kids could deal with their own mess.
But this month, a good friend came in and helped us remove wallpaper and we primed and painted. We got rid of the junky bunk bed that was slanting over -- but never did -- quite collapse. We got rid of a lot of stuff, including five shelves full of trophies collecting dust. Now, instead of acrid kid sweat smell, it smells like fresh paint. I go up every day and make the kids' beds and clean. They never would or could clean on their own and they got used to chaos as default mode. I figure that even though I need to train them to take care of their own things, I first must teach them that clean is default mode, and that means living in a clean environment a while. It's pleasant!
Meanwhile, the exterior of our house is horrible. A paint crew came and power-washed all the old paint off -- well, not ALL. Not even most, really. But the crew captain had car trouble and left and never came back. It's been more than a week and nothing. Could our house look like this all through winter? I hope not. Their power washer, ladders and scaffold are still here, so I have hope, but it dwindles as each day passes without painters.

Even in a house that looks like a deteriorating barn, I like being home. I write my column from home, I blog from home, I admire my husband from home, I watch my kids grow at home. Though I do work part time at the NSU library, and love that job, my main job is at home. Here, I see my job as making everyone else's job easier. I'm like the pit crew for all the other drivers. I get them out the door with everything they need to make their day go well. That's the goal anyway.

I also write to my friends and family, garden (sort of) and enjoy the peace of domestic harmony. I am blissfully domestic, though I never thought I would be when I was younger. I was going to be a TV weathergirl, get married but not have kids and that would be that. Good thing I was wrong!
Since most of the posts on the Blissfully Domestic site include how-to entries, here's mine: How to Not Decorate:
It really can be done. If you need to hang something on your wall, hang whatever it is people give you. When they see your bare walls, believe me, they will give you things to hang. It will not "go with" things other people give you, but who cares? It's "companion eclectic" style. You will think of your friend every time you look at it. It will not be to your taste (likely it will be an angel with a cutesy phrase or a bad sketch of a windmill or an Irish blessing when you're Jewish). But that's okay.
When you go to a boutique (hahahaha! I will not finish this thought.)
When you see the coolest large clock in great colors that would hang so nicely over your mantle or the most gorgeous drapes that would look so wonderful in your dining room alcove, just think of all the money you save NOT buying it.
When you see the tasteful blending of totally impractical objects your friend displays at her home, admire her taste and compliment her. But don't feel you need to copy her.
When you visit a nursing home (and this time I'm not laughing) think of all the dear, sweet ladies you see around you. They have sold or given away all the things like the ones you keep trying to acquire to make a style statement. Some are very happy. Why? They have a warm lap blanket that a kind person made for them. Also, someone chooses to visit them instead of going shopping.
If we all just stopped trying to impress each other, think how much time we'd save! We could go on that family trip or have friends over for board games without feeling inferior or superior. We could really get to know people instead of talking about superficial topics all the time. We could learn karate!
There. That ought to do it.

  • Blissful Home

  • Donna Marmorstein is a full-time mom, writing a newspaper column from home, and working part-time at the college library.

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