Our Holiday Decor Isn’t Perfect, Or Is It?

Last weekend we put up our Christmas décor and finally trimmed our tree. It was a casual affair, pajama pants and sweatshirts, leftovers and soda straight from the can. The guest list included the who’s who of the Maine Windrams: Me, my husband, and all three cats (yes, we got all three to attend).

We began with the décor we bought a few years ago, a time when we were inspired by magazine layouts, catalog ads and Lexus commercials. It was fresh, matching and super sparkly. All the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer–we spare no expense at the Windram house.

Matching garland went up above our windows, stuffed Santa’s and Snowmen on tabletops, festive towels in the kitchen.

Then I unpacked the hobby horse. Logan made it when he was eleven or twelve. When I look at it I can’t help but picture him wearing a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, almost sawing his finger off.

Hobby Horse

One look at this and I knew Logan was destined to be a woodworker.

This, along with some of the other older, non-matching décor used to be displayed in their “own” part of the house, so they didn’t mess with the vibe of the sparkly new items from the big box store. But in our new place, there’s no room for that–it would all have to be displayed together.

Next, I unraveled a wad of newspaper and found these. They belonged to Logan’s grandmother. At first I thought they were angels because of the rings around their heads, but now I think they might be choirboys. Regardless, they come out every year, and while at first I thought they were weird (and they didn’t go with our store bought décor so they were put in the other part of the house), I’ve grown to really like them.

DSC08877

Don’t mind our macaroon shaped heads; baby, we were born this way.

After pausing to sit on the couch and eat half a deep-dish cookie, we trimmed the tree.

During our shopping frenzy a few years ago we also invested in boxes of matching ornaments, shiny new ones that gave our tree that designer, magazine look. Again, the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer.

Our older, non-matching, oddball (read lesser) ornaments were relegated to the smaller tree (yes, we have two trees, three actually), where they wouldn’t interfere with the perfection that was the big tree.

But this year, in an effort to keep our moving expenses low (Ha!), we only brought one tree with us. And in a moment of whimsy (I believe brought on by the deep-dish cookie) we decided to hang both the oddball and the perfect ornaments on the same tree.

And it was marvelous.

teddy bear ornament

A brown teddy bear ornament right next to a sparkly blue snowflake. The might even be touching–scandalous!

Moose ornament

A plush moose next to a blue and white, sparkly ornament. These two haven’t reached the touching phase of the relationship, but we’re working on it.

This “ornament” was made last year. I’d forgotten all about it until Logan hung it proudly on our tree.

Ornament fail

I might not be perfectly shaped, but I’m still made of styrofoam and yarn like the other wreaths.

It was supposed to look like this:

wreath ornament

And now as I sit here enjoying our festive décor, I’ve realized it’s the oddball, mismatched items that I like best. They make me smile, remember the past and get all nostalgic. And while our house no longer looks like it could be in a magazine, I think it looks better. And it comes with a partially eaten deep-dish cookie.

The law of diminishing returns as it applies to bed making

There is something magical about a made bed. It creates a sense of accomplishment, tidiness, and organization. It means that you are a doer, an achiever, someone who knows how to tuck in the sheets and fluff the pillows.

Then, there are those who argue that it’s a waste of time. This is because (unless something goes terribly wrong … or maybe right), you will just unmake it again at night when you go to bed. So what’s the point?

For most my life, I’ve identified with both sides of the debate. I love it when the bed is made. It’s like the whole room sparkles.

bedroom

Imagine fancy sparkles all around the bed.

Of course, this requires effort and motivation, both things I don’t always have a lot of.

Sometimes, I rationalize that I shouldn’t waste precious hours (okay, minutes) on something so fleeting and meaningless (in the overall scheme of things). I could spend those minutes editing my book, or posting comments on Art’s epic comment thread. (As an aside, Art from Pouring My Art Out has been working tirelessly to break the record of number of comments on a blog post. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over there in my kitty cat pajamas and zebra slippers. As of now, his post has over 15,000 comments. You should check it out).

So, on these days, I leave the bed as is: no tucking, no straightening, and no folding.

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Day 1 of no bed making. (Don’t mind the cat, she’s always looking for attention)

Sometimes the bed goes unmade for days and it begins to look like we sleep in a vortex of sorts.

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You can see the mattress pad has slipped off the corner – this always happens on my husband’s side. I think it’s because he spins like a hotdog on one of those roller things. I, on the other hand, am the blanket stealer.

Then after a few more days it looks like this:

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Now, this is after about a week of no bed making. The mattress pad is off both corners, the comforter is completely sideways, and after a little digging I found the book I lost two days ago.

So, you might start to think that I just randomly decide whether or not to make the bed, depending on my mood, or very busy blogging schedule. Well, it’s not really true. I’m about to confess to something big here: I use bed making to keep my husband’s expectations low. And it’s a very calculated process.

You see, I work from home on a very part time basis and my husband works full time at an office job.  We haven’t set any expectations about who is responsible for what around the house, but I like to do a little cleaning here and there, so the house isn’t a disaster when he comes home.

And, as I pointed out the beginning of the post, there is something magical about a made bed. And when he comes home and sees the bed is made, it looks like I did something with my day. I was accomplished and organized. I achieved something amazing, even if the rest of the house is still in ruins. I can say, “Look, honey, I made the bed.” And his eyes light up and he lavishes me with various sentiments of approval, “it looks amazing” or “yes! I love it when the bed is made.”

Now, the one caveat with this is you can’t go and make the bed every day. More bed making does not equal more awe and praise. It is the law of diminishing returns. More bed making will eventually result in diminished wonder and awe. Worse, bed making will no longer be seen as an amazing accomplishment. It will no longer be seen as special. It will become the expectation.

So, if you ever come to my house and see the bed is unmade, you now know why.

And if you come by tomorrow, the bed will be made. Because, based on my calculations, tomorrow might be bed making day.

Our House – A peek beneath the drywall

Some people might think we were crazy. Others might say we were foolish. But to us the next logical step was to buy a house, one that needed a little work, a little love.

We’d just gotten engaged a week prior when we found the house of our dreams: a 50-year-old foreclosure that, according to my personal standards, was barely inhabitable.

House before remodel

Note the weeds, dead grass and complete lack of curb appeal.

We fell in love instantly. I mean, what wasn’t to love? It had hardwood floors that had been painted brown, a heater that couldn’t be used, kitchen cabinets with holes in the bottom, so if items weren’t placed correctly they would fall through onto the counter tops. There was even an “addition” on the back for more space.

bathroom before remodel

The icky bathroom, with cracked tiles, filth everywhere and broken fixtures.

Kitchen before remodel

The kitchen cabinets were made from scrap two by fours and plywood. The doors didn’t line up, were falling off and just nasty.

Master bedroom before remodel

This was the master bedroom. First, you can see the floors were painted brown. Second, you can see that a bed was in the room when the floors were painted. I totally get why this happened. I understand. When I dust or vacuum, I just work around things. Moving them is way too much work. And nothing says relaxation and romance like walls painted Kermit the Frog green.

Exterior of addition

This was the addition. The back porch was framed in and “windows” had been installed.

Inside view of addition

An inside view of the addition. To make it seem more, well, like a part of the house, carpet was added and the brick wall was painted white.

First we disinfected the house from floor to ceiling because, as my fictional vampire Libby would say, “It was just like ew! You know.”

Then, with the wisdom that comes with never doing something like this before, we allotted ourselves  two weeks to work on the house before we had to relinquish my lovely, up to date, and heated condo. I bring up heated because the gas company wouldn’t turn our heat on because the furnace was unsafe. We lived without heat for about a week. I had to buy a space heater and spent each night under a mound of blankets. As most of you know. I am cold… all the time. This didn’t help.

My husband started on the bathroom, gutting it to the studs. He worked pretty quickly, but there were still frequent visits to fast food restaurants for bathroom breaks.

bathroom remodel

Nothing like showing up after a long day of work and finding your only bathroom looking like this.

bathroom remodel

I might have had a moment of fear here. Or denial. He’s got this under control. I’m sure. I’m just going to go stand in the living room and try not to touch anything.

where the toilet goes

Where the toilet goes.

Now with a toilet

The new toilet and floors.

And one of the nice things about installing your own toilet is you can do this the next time your tube of toothpaste is accidentally flushed:

toothpaste in toilet

This was my fault. Don’t ask how it happened.

Our next step was to rent a giant dumpster and begin the demolition phase of the remodel. My mom and I ripped out baseboards and doors. We even took a sledge hammer to the “addition” in the back.

Tearing out baseboards

Ripping out baseboards in the very yellow living room/dining room.

Ripping out the addition

Bye bye addition. Our insurance company considered it a hazard. It had to go. Right away.

Taking down the roof

My husband and dad taking down the roof.

So we lived without baseboards, doors, a functional kitchen and a tiled shower and tackled the remodel room by room.

kitchen cabinets

Kitchen demo. Tearing out cabinets and tile backsplash.

No kitchen cabinets

Everything was gutted and then the sink was propped up with 2 x 4s. There was a full wall between the kitchen and dining room that we tore down to make a half wall instead. The full wall was where the stove is in this picture.

The fridge back in the kitchen

The stove and sink were switched, so that the stove was against the main wall now and the sink was against the half wall. And the fridge was finally out of the dining room!

repaired walls and paint chips

Here the walls have been repaired and you can see the half wall that was created. And, of course, all our test paint spots are scattered about.

kitchen almost finished

Almost finished! It still didn’t have drawer pulls and we hadn’t replaced the back door yet, but you get the idea.

sink

A view of the sink and half wall that now opens into the dining room.

This all took multiple trips to Home Depot, usually in the same day, because it’s nearly impossible to get everything you need in one trip. And of course lots of caffeine, tolerance and faith.

One of the last projects we tackled was stripping off the paint from the addition.

paint picking

This was back breaking and time consuming, not to mention toxic. It was probably the worst part of the remodel.

It took us about to a year to complete the remodel and we walked away still in love. We even got married a little over halfway through the process. And now, when I look back at the pictures, it’s strange, but I miss those days a little bit. It was exhilarating taking on new and daunting tasks. And the thrill of completing something you’re proud of can’t be beat.

Hmmm… Could another remodel be in our future?? Are we up to the task again? I don’t know. It is nice having heat and countertops you aren’t squeamish about touching and walls with baseboards and stuff.

Living room

The once bright yellow living room/dining room decorated for Christmas.

bedroom

The master bedroom that is no longer Kermit the Frog green.

bathroom

The finished bathroom.

Kitchen today

Our kitchen today, decorated for Thanksgiving.

outside house

Our front yard with grass and flowers.

Our days were spent obsessing over paint colors, tile combinations, door styles, drawer pulls, and baseboard styles. Together we remained calm after we vetoed the 60th paint color tried in the kitchen. We managed to still love each other even if we couldn’t agree on whether the cabinets should have roll out shelves or not. Somehow we cooked delicious meals when our fridge was in the dining room and our sink was propped up by 2x4s.

And now I feel more attached to this house than anywhere else I’ve lived. It’s mine, ours. Something we created. And even if things didn’t turn out perfectly, I still consider it a success: there were zero trips to the ER for DIY related injuries, we learned tons about home maintenance and we confirmed that we could work as a team, even in the most (in my opinion) dire circumstances.

 

Airing my clean, but wrinkly and unfolded laundry

Laundry

Courtesy Boston Public Library via Flickr

Washing machine – check. Clothes dryer – check. Detergent and fabric softener – check. Piles of dirty clothes – check and double check.

I have all the modern day supplies and equipment to do a load of laundry. Yet, I struggle. I just can’t bring myself to sort, carry, load, unload and fold my clothes. At least not on regular basis.

Honestly, I haven’t done a load of laundry in at least two months. And I don’t even really have to wash the clothes; the machine does it for me.

Now, I’ll clarify and say that I am not walking around in ketchup stained, smelly T-shirts. My husband has picked up the slack and lovingly tosses our clothes in the washing machine each weekend. He usually remembers to transfer them to the dryer. But this is where he begins to slack off. Once they’re dry, they sit atop the dryer or on the ironing board or even just live in the dryer for a while.

This where we currently stand with our laundry (both Martha Stewart and my mother will surely be disappointed):

Dryer

One load in the dryer, where it would probably stay for the rest of the week, except there’s a load waiting in the washer right now.

clothes on dryer

Another load on top of the dryer.

clothes on ironing board

And one in the laundry basket on the ironing board, just begging for a cat to come sit in it.

Like this

Like this…

Or this - double trouble.

Or this – double trouble.

Of course, I’m not picking on my husband. This is far better than I do each weekend.

It’s even become a running joke in our house. Whenever I’m looking for something that happens to be in the basement he always says, “It’s in the basement, by the washing machine … Oh, I’m sorry. You aren’t going to know where that is. So there’s this big white box and you put clothes in it…”

He thinks he’s really funny.

But what is it about laundry? Why is it I can unload the dishwasher? Or vacuum the rug? They’re not my favorite things to do, but I still do them.

I don’t even have to use one of these when I do laundry:

washboard

Courtesy Jennifer C. via Flickr

Is it because laundry becomes an all day ordeal, even if I’m not actually doing the washing? Is it because it reminds me of all those Sundays getting ready for the dreaded work-week ahead? Do I just hate going in the basement? (I really do hate the basement). Am I just waiting for the day that there’s an App for that?

What are your thoughts? Is there something you dread and put off until someone else does it? Do your cats go straight for the basket of clean laundry, making it all furry and wrinkly? Are you one of those crazy people that enjoys doing laundry?