I’ve almost wrapped up the lucky thirteen series on the house where I’ve been journeying through the house, area by area, looking at the progress and change (or sometimes stagnation) throughout those years. I just have the upper stair hall and the exterior to go and then everyone can consider themselves officially toured through the house (and a bit of our lives as well.) As those posts have piled up I started noticing a common current just beneath the surface. It’s the act of shifting. Renovating a house while living in the house is one giant act of shifting.
It has taken me thirteen years to diagnose myself here, but I’m going to now officially declare that I don’t like shifting, and here’s why.
Shifting takes time, a lot of time. Sometimes a big percentage of the time. In order to complete most any project – large or small – things have to be shifted around. Furniture, toys, books, shoes, the mail. Tools shift from one place to another, they shift inside the tool bag based on priority and usage. And weight. Which leads me to the next point.
Shifting is heavy. It’s labor. It takes muscle and dexterity, and more often than not, more than one person. It makes relatively easy tasks that much more difficult. Touching up paint on a sixty square foot wall takes less than fifteen minutes to do, per coat – cutting in and rolling. Removing the desk, the wall anchors, the forty items hung above the desk on the wall… and then putting all that stuff somewhere before putting it back in place once again, shelving and sorting and hanging. So much time, so much effort.
Shifting is temporary, and because it is temporary it’s not necessarily beautiful. It’s sufficient, or efficient, but it’s not considered. Temporary can quickly become aggravating when temporary isn’t temporary enough. Too often the act of shifting takes up so much time that there isn’t time to address the actual task, and so the shifting just sits there, suspended between the moment and momentum.
Shifting is stacking, and stacking is piles, and piles are stressful. When things are in piles they are homeless. They are neglected, they are an obstruction, they take away from everything else beautiful around them. They nag.
I no longer wish to shift. Which of course is plenty fine to state aloud or print upon a t-shirt, but I cannot really follow through. I can’t declare an end to shifting, unless I just accept the unfinished state of our house and move on. But this shifting has made me tired, and being tired around the time of a birthday just makes me feel old and itchy and annoyed, and I no longer want to feel that way either. It’s uncomfortable, and seems unnecessary. There are just too many things to enjoy and appreciate in this life to feel twitchy. But that’s how I feel and I needed to say it.
There are people out there who can find some treasure and squirrel it away for some future use. I admire these folks – the ones that pull seasonal decor out of storage each year or vintage treasures from the attic to repurpose in the house in pleasing ways. I thought I was that kind of person. I kept the extras from each project I worked on thinking that I might just put those scraps together into something else one day. And often I did. I created a giant paper quilt cut into one hundred rectangles from all the leftover pieces of papers from projects past. We have furniture sitting in our house that we think might work one day in some sort of configuration that just hasn’t crossed our minds yet. We trip over piles of objects that I’ve brought up from the basement – items that seemed important to keep because they were special/old/gifted/scavenged/
made by us/made by others/quirky/valuable/ sentimental/too heavy to cart to the dumpster. We survived a decade or longer without even looking at them. We’ve survived a month or more of them sitting on the floor in a pile. They reside in purgatory, and that purgatory is my dining room. We are having friends over for dinner week after next and I’ve already warned them that the house is in a “state”. When is it not in a “state”? I don’t know. If we waited to have friends or family over until it was all done, we’d have no friends or family.
I have discovered something else about myself this year. I have found that if I’m intentional about something, then I make it happen. I broke a decades long habit of nail biting by intentionally deciding that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I’ve been intentional about exercising, running in particular. Running itself is a very intentional act (for me at least). I can walk for hours, meandering and with great speed, but I do not have to be intentional about it. Running requires it. I could not run a mile until I actually ran it. I couldn’t think of running two until I ran one and then one and a half. I ran three so now I can run four. I have no intention to run marathons because I have other ways that I would like to spend that time, but I now know that if I wanted to I could. I would run five so I could run six so I could run ten and fourteen and twenty-one. I am intentional about what I eat. It’s not that I ate poorly before, but I also know how very good I feel when I eat really, really good food, and I want to feel that way. I want to feel better at forty than I did at thirty-five or even thirty. I feel better in April than I did in January. Of course, spring helps.
I have to start doing the same with my physical environment. I feel the (urgent) need to have a plan, and to implement it and then move on. There will always be the limitations of time and money, I know that. But I can start with the things we have right now – and I am. I’m hoping for a spring full of evaluation – of what we have, of what we need, of what we want and what we don’t. This of course will require some more shifting, but I’m hoping that it clears the way for a life spent in more meaningful ways, and with more room to stretch out and play.