Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dreams of a Would-Be Domestic Diva

I love homes. Other people's homes, mostly.

Smaller ones more than bigger ones. Cottages and bungalows? One of each, please!

In a lifetime of looking and planning and hoping and dreaming of my own perfect abode, however, I've come up square against a reality: I am not a domestic diva. In fact, if there is an opposite thing, I am closer to that. Although I spend much of my time at home (a nondescript urban apartment with linoleum flooring in every room), I'm often busier hatching plans for how I'm going to improve this place than truly living in it

So. Not. Me.

What would it take for me to do that?

Step one: a vigorous cleaning. That alone would be a triumph. Step two: excising one third of everything I own. Give it away, sell it, upcycle, downcycle, recycle, set it on the sidewalk with a "good stuff free" sign. Let it go, with a minimum of public scene-making. Step three (if by some miracle steps one and two didn't kill me), make the leap from Pinterest boards and shelter magazines to actually putting up curtains. Putting down rugs. Assume the post of chatelaine of my own shoebox. 

And I know precisely where I keep that serrated grapefruit spoon!

In other words, moving in. Setting down. Not waiting until Mr. Right #2 comes along to be happy in my own home. Not holding on to clutter and procrastination and "good enough-ness", because hey, I'm a grown-up now! Because by now I hate moving. Hate it. 

It's time to root again. To nest, and to rest.

I nested once in great earnest, when I was married a few years, but closeness turned to chaos and we went our own ways. His unhappiness with my housekeeping (if you want to call it that) was a major plank in his platform of marital reform. The platform failed, apparently due in large part to my lack of enthusiasm for the domestic arts. 

I'd rather be reading, darling. Now buzz off.

There are people who have been in this building 20 years. If I'm still here in 20 years, I might have to question where I went wrong, but when I look at their apartments, those who've been here that long, I see homes. Real homes. Made for living, comfort, company, making memories. With real furniture and rugs and lamps! (Sorry, IKEA). They respect themselves and their space by feathering their own nest well. 

Nothing too high end, but attractive, well kept, curtains on real rods (not the spring-loaded ones), hung from hooks instead of grommets. Real fabric shower curtains. A pedal-step wastebasket in the kitchen and the bathroom. Imagine that! China on shelves behind glass doors, framed art, a bedroom that's a haven. The finest room in the house (as it ought to be!)

See them sparkle! See them shine!

Most of all, everything is CLEAN. My kingdom for a Merry Maid! How do they work that kind of magic? What is the wizardry employed in keeping a house not just tidy, but consistently clean? It can't be as simple as a routine, can it? And if it's a routine, is it fatally boring? 

My relationship with housecleaning and housekeeping (what's the difference?) is fraught, to say the least. Truth is, it never got off the ground. We are uneasy roommates, housekeeping and me, an odd couple thrown together for these thirty years now, only grudgingly acknowledging the existence of the other. 

Perky and annoying. She lives in my head.

She wears a dress and an apron and wields a mixing bowl with confidence and flair, this busy little Swiffering bee. She hopes and plans and yearns for the day when all her big ideas (or even a few of her little ones) are realized in her own home. She asks, in all sincerity, whether this is what humans have been doing for thousands of years, since they left a largely nomadic existence behind. 

Well, it's complicated. And that's a trick question.

But I probably don't have another 48 years ahead of me. In spite of my aversion to buckets and brushes, a clean re-start seems the only way to launch my second act. Here and now, as if there is no better place to be. 

Because the present is, in the truest sense, the only home we can ever truly inhabit. And when I'm finished waxing philosophical and wise, I will do the dishes.  

Really, I will.

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