5.28.2010

In Praise of Folding Towels...


A couple of years ago our home was on a local house tour, necessitating a slew of little (and not so little) house projects…

While overall it was a positive experience (we met lots of amazing people in our community + the tour raised money for our neighborhood high school’s scholarship fund), I’m not going to lie; it was stressful. There were some tears; there was bickering and even an injury. (I’m not sure that I ever wrote about it here, as at that time the blog was my “safe place” from all the household chaos, but in the process of one of the projects -- replacing the corian top on our little kitchen island with a giant butcher block -- Bryan ruptured a disc in his back and nearly severed a nerve, resulting in surgery and a long recovery period just a few weeks before the tour.)

So yes, it was pretty stressful…

There was also the sense, with all those projects and that giant to-do list looming, that we were in a perpetual state of “college”… You know that feeling that no matter how caught up you are on reading or studying there’s always more do to? Week-ends became non-existent, down-time a thing of the past. And truth be told, this state really wasn’t so far from how we had begun operating normally. I’d fallen headlong into that trap of the need for constant improvement.

So once we were past the tour, I decided we had to stop the madness. No more painting, no more decorating and buying and improving. We needed an indefinite pause… We (or more realistically I) needed to be ok with things as they were, and my family (or more realistically Bryan) needed an extended summer vacation (to continue the school analogy.) No projects in the queue, no improvements on the horizon, just “maintenance-mode.”

Since then we’ve enjoyed just “living” in our house…big projects these days involve folding several loads of towels (it's highly rewarding), buying new throw pillows for Millie's bed, watering the tomato plants or running the vacuum over the rugs. It’s nice.

And when we’re (I’m) in this mode (which isn’t often), and not unlike my response to the spending hiatus, I tend to focus on making the small things better… say lining the kitchen drawers with cork or moving a few pieces of art around. When we’re in this mode, I’m also thinking harder about how I want our house to “feel” (I love the way designers Roman and Williams think about home in this video), the vibe I want it to exude (mellow, cozy), how I want it to smell (right now it’s a combination of hippie incense and a Diptyque Baies candle) and the music we play (Avi Buffalo is on heavy rotation.)

When I'm in this mode, I also think a lot harder about the things I might buy for the house. I tend to stock up on basics -- in January it was new white towels (as we hadn’t replaced ours for 10(!) years) and just a few weeks ago I got a bunch of new perfectly, fantastically thin Marta glasses. I also keep a dream list, so that when we do have the opportunity to make an investment in our home, I have ideas at the ready, from the big wishes (an Allison V. Smith photograph of Marfa, Cherner barstools, that lamp from the St. Cecilia) to the more attainable ones (a tee pee for the girlies, more of Jonathan Cross’ pottery.)

I’m not sure how long all of this will last, as I tend to get itchy for a little unruliness (or at least for new paint and the chance to wallpaper another room), but for now I’m rolling with it.

20 comments:

Estelle said...

Love your dream list. The tee pee is on my list of projects for this summer. Hoping I can make one for my little Emerson to day dream in...I'll keep you posted.

Janette Crawford said...

Lovely. :)

Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

I am laughing at myself. I read your post title and thought..."finally, someone who gets as much satisfaction out of a closet of perfectly folded towels as I do." I have issues...and I need to go refold my towels now.

Lucia said...

oh how i love a joslyn musing! and i keep thinking about those glasses you have and meant to ask you about them. they were confoundingly thin and delicate. perfect.

Meghan said...

I agree that there need to be improvement hiatus times too. I also lined drawers in leftover cork tile and the difference is amazing!

Fern and Feather said...

love this... This has been a huge theme in my life lately... my husband and I just saw 180 South {love and recommend btw}... my 'take-away' that rings in my ears all day is, "It is easy to make your life complicated but really hard to make your life simple."

I love simple ;)!

wishing you a wonderful simple weekend. ox

Jane said...

I think that sometimes we just get so caught up in 'doing' and 'changing' that we forget to stop and enjoy. I work really hard and for me, I just can't spend all weekend tearing round like a lunatic painting things and buying things, and moving things. It is nice just to hang around and work on the little things and the intangibles.

And you know the front entrance of our house still smells like an elderly lady, and no matter what I do I can't change it. So annoying. So I do think about how my house smells quite a lot!!

Anonymous said...

well said... you are so inspiring...

Flora said...

great post, I loved reading it! Have a lovely week-end Joslyn :)

Erin said...

Being content with what you have is a choice. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Stephanie said...

We operate the same around here...I've found much satisfaction comes from enjoying the small things too. Plus, you end up saving a lot of $ while you are in such a grateful and relaxed paradigm :) I'm so happy you shared this Joslyn.

xoxo

by Sara Hicks Malone said...

Well-timed post for me...we just went through the same crazy get-our-house-ready sort of phase and I am now happily taking a break from the madness...and already enjoying home much more!

paula said...

I continually go in and out of this mode. I think its about time I go back in it. so stressful trying to make it just "right".

Emom said...

Love new towels, myself and I checked out the glasses....they are sweet! smiles.

韋于倫成 said...

the best as always thanks ........................................

modernhaus said...

I think you hit it just right when you talked of "falling headlong into the trap of constant improvement". It does create a sense of terminal discontent to look at many elements of your house as something that "needs to be done". The economy brought us our much-needed reprieve from house projects by transforming $200,000 in equity into $2. Now we *can't* do anything big, and I don't angst about my house anymore!
I like that you're taking care of the small but meaningful things like drawer liners. There's a lot of satisfaction in things like that!

kalanicut said...

In the midst of a total house reorganization & rearrange, you thoughts were beautifully timed and much appreciated. It was time and it's the right thing to do, but thank you for reminding me it doesn't have to happen in a week or be completely perfect. You have a lovely, graceful way of hitting the nail on the head. :)

Torrie said...

This is EXACTLY how I have felt (and am beginning to again recently) in the past few years (ever since I stopped working full time and started being in full-time-home-maker-improver mode). In fact, after spending a weekend building raised planting beds, canning preserves for the first time, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning, I took a moment to sit with both kids...one on each side. I thought, "This is the first time ALL weekend that we've stopped to just BE together." So, needless to say, I was so very ready to read your post, and realize that the "mode" needs to be switched up a little bit (or a lot) around here. Thank you for your honesty.

Mrs.French said...

adopt me please...i always get all nostalgic when i see your weekend posts. xo t

Kim in the Cove said...

I have a "someday" list, too, sitting in my nightstand drawer. We had a whirlwind of purchases and projects when we bought our house 2.5 years ago - then the fund went dry and things slowed down out of necessity. We're just living in it and learning what we like/don't so the future projects can provide some balance to what's here now.

It's nice, huh? To just breathe a little?