could someone pass the Depends?

We can play in my room!

When I first moved into my house 12 years ago I didn’t own a thing.  Aside from the contents of my hopeless chest, which contained a small juice glass with the Coke logo on it and a set of salt and pepper shakers (shaped like mason jars),  I had nothin’.

“Rusty”… how you could have helped me

Which would be fine if there was a very dramatic, overcoming all the odds story to go with why I owned nothing.  You know, if  say, I had “lost it all” in a gambling binge at an old folks home only to have made it all back and learned my lesson after a  series of afternoon chats with Rusty, the oldest resident of the home with a prosthetic eyeball.

However the decidedly less interesting reason I owned nothing is because until the age of 29 I lived with my mom  …  and my dad.   Uh … with my parents I guess you could say.  Are you judging??  I think I can hear you judging.  It’s very hard to save up the money for a down payment!!  In fact, it’s almost impossible if you’re renting an apartment.  Besides, when’s the last time your apartment made you a nice piece of toast or tucked you into bed??  So I decided to stick around and listen to my parents bicker until I could afford a house of my own.

Going, going, … GONE.

That day came on October 18th, 1998.  The only problem was I couldn’t afford any furniture.   The house I bought was a 170 year old brick cottage.  Which worked to my advantage because the only stuff I was going to be able to afford was old junk.  When you put old junk in a new house it looks like old junk. When you put old junk in an old house, it just kindda blends.   Besides, at the time I thought it made sense that the decorating be appropriate to the age of the house.  If the house is old and dusty, so should be the furniture!   That way it would be comfortable.

Over the years I slowly acquired a whole lot of old stuff.

I no longer own a single thing in this room.

I either bought it at an auction, at an antique store or when I was really lucky, found it at the side of the road.  Not squirrels and sleeping raccoons or anything like that.  I found things like perfectly good soiled chairs.  I stripped, painted and disinfected for about a decade.  The home I ended up with was very cozy and comfortable.  Picture Granny’s house without Tweety Bird.

Red Velvet??  It must be great! They named a cupcake after it didn’t they?

Literally everything in it was old and every piece of furniture had a folded up piece of cardboard under at least 1 leg.  Without the cardboard stuff had a tendency to tip over and hit you in the shin.  I had red velvet curtains and a red velvet couch and my dining room was painted red.  The living room and foyer were painted a butter yellow.  At least it was supposed to be a butter yellow.  As it turns out “yellow” can end up looking kind of green.  The living room ended up making people look like they were perpetually queasy.   The upstairs rooms were the same yellow and a historical green.  I was not afraid of colour.   The decorating wasn’t exactly spastic, but boy oh boy, wherever you looked there was some sort of antique assault followed by a one two punch of colour.  But still … it was comfortable.

I never created proper storage, which was desperately needed.  In the olden days people only owned one coat and a bar of lye soap so they didn’t need closets.  Being that it was built in the olden days, my house didn’t have much in terms of closet space.

Because of this I never had anywhere to put anything.  Things were shoved under the couch, books were scattered from one end of the house to the other and I could never find my stupid stapler!!   But it was cozy and it was authentic so I sucked it up and just bought another stapler.

That isn’t what you’d call dealing with the problem head on.  It probably wasn’t healthy.  Because one day I took a look around at my very cozy, grandmotherly house and screamed.  Oh my God, who lives here???!!   I got itchy and claustrophobic and I’m pretty sure I even developed a twitch.  You know when something isn’t right in a room and you keep moving things around to make it better?  That wasn’t working anymore.

Somebody give this lady a valium. And some botox please.

I hated, hated, HATED every inch of my house.  I hated it like it had wronged me.  It was personal this rift between my house and I.   I felt sweaty and disorganized and frankly a little bit curious about all those medications everyone on Intervention seemed to love.   And then one day, on a warm spring morning I full on snapped.   Within 2 weeks I sold everything I owned and painted my whole house white.

My living room today. Calm can also be cozy. Who knew!

It’s been a year since “the incident” (not to be confused with “the great centipede purge” of 2007).  I have filled the house back up with things I love.  Some of them old and some of them new.  There’s even one thing that I found at the side of the road.  I installed floor to ceiling book cases and found a place to store everything.  And let me tell you … white is the botox of paint colours.  We both look younger and fresher for it.

The life-sized antique oil painting is one of only a few things I kept.

My twitch is gone and I feel much calmer and much more comfortable.   I was a bit worried that going so extreme with the white was going to make my house cold and sterile.  That when guests walked in they’d break out into a sweat, worried they were in store for some unexpected surgical procedure.  But it isn’t cold at all!  As long as you add in a few fuzzy things (cats count), white can be very cozy.  Think of our friend the polar bear.  What’s cozier than one of those?

And you wouldn’t believe how much easier your life becomes when you just have somewhere specific to put the extra toilet paper.   And the board games!  Go ahead!  Ask me to find my Scrabble board.  I can do it in 30 seconds flat with time left over to grab the Boggle!

A place for everything and everything in it’s place.

Why yes, I am installing bookcases and smiling about it.

I’m savin’ time, I’m savin’ money’ (I’ve had the same stapler for the past year) and I’m not walking around with a bunch of cartoon squiggly swear words over my head all day.  I figure I’ve gained at least an extra half an hour a day because I’m no longer wandering around trying to find stuff or trying to figure out where to put stuff.  That totals an extra 3 1/2 hours a week, or 7 1/2 days in a year.  An entire week’s worth of time was gained by clearing out the crap I didn’t need and finding a proper place for the stuff I did. Of course, I’m just estimating here, but it seems like a reasonable estimate to me.  I worked it out on paper and it all seems right.  Want me to staple it together and send it to you? ‘Cause I can in an instant.

An added bonus to this whole de-cluttering thing is the fact that I can now look at a decorating magazine.  For the past decade I haven’t been able to look at a decorating magazine because they made me angry.  Grrrrrr.  Now I can not only look at decorating magazines, but I can look at them and think “Huh.  I like my room a lot more than that one.  Who in God’s name lives there?  Whoever it is, I bet they can’t find their stapler.

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  1. Elaine says:

    Oh gosh – your writing cracks me up everyday!! I only discovered your blog a year or so ago so am having fun reading all your old posts.

    When I read …. “people might break out in a sweat anticipating a surgical procedure”, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. What a startling difference between the two living rooms!! Since I feel I know your personality, if anyone had shown me a picture of your red living room and said “Karen lives there”, I would NEVER have believed them! One more thing …. I know exactly how you feel when you say you felt itchy! When I’m in an overly decorated “granny-style” room with no spot to sit down even a mug of tea, I get itchy too. Oops – another “one more thing” … what a treasure that life-sized painting is!! Is there a story/post on that find? If so, can you direct me to it, please?

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