Homecoming

I don’t believe in love at first sight. But if I did, I’d say have experienced it exactly six times:

  1. At 16, when the boy who would become my first love smiled at me for the first time.
  2. At 27, stepping into the living room of the apartment my wasband and I ended up moving into together.
  3. At 32, the night I first locked eyes with R.
  4. At 37, when I held our daughter for the first time.
  5. At 40, the morning I gave birth to our son.
  6. At 44, when I first entered the house we just bought.

Each time, that first glance set off a chain reaction deep inside me. A sense of homecoming. It wasn’t so much that I could see the pieces falling into place, but that I could see where I fit, finally. Everything up to that point suddenly made sense, because it all led me to that moment.

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There is nothing about this living room I don’t love.

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about, really. I don’t tend to think in such woo-woo terms. But I can’t deny that those six moments held a significance that was apparent immediately. I dated a lot of guys between that first boy and R, but the others didn’t make me feel the same way. I’ve lived other places, and even loved those places, but none of them gave me that immediate feeling of being home.

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This picture pretty much sums up the adult life I’ve been working towards since I was 19.

So buying this house was understandably a big deal in more ways than one. Because three of the people on the list above moved into it with me. And while there’s still much about the house that feels weird and foreign and new, in many ways it feels like we’ve always been here.

I recently came across the Day Zero post I wrote nearly a year ago, in which I committed to writing my wish list for a house. It’s funny how much of what I was looking for I actually got. Of my incredibly specific 34-point list, here’s what I didn’t get that I can’t easily/immediately add myself:

  • A built-in vanity in the master bath
  • A walk-in pantry
  • A covered patio/sunroom with a ceiling fan
  • A walk-in closet for Anya
  • All wood/tile flooring

I mean, if I were designing a house from scratch, what I’d come up with would be almost exactly this house. I imagine that factors heavily in the way I feel about the house. But it’s more than that. We just fit here.

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See, even the couch fits! Not that we won’t be buying a new one at some point. This one’s ten years old, and looks it.

The lack of posts recently is because I have been busy. First unpacking, which is now mostly done — no, really! — and then cleaning and sorting and organizing. Which will be an ongoing process for a while.

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I wish I could say this was a temporary state, but the big difference is the garbage bags have been emptied and removed. All that crap’s still on the floor. I just stay downstairs as much as possible. But I will eventually have to go up there and deal with it.

The previous owners took good care of the property, but they weren’t much for dusting and vacuuming, it appears. My birthday present of a new Roomba (named Milo) is getting quite the workout. We’re all pretty congested these days, but I’m hoping that things will improve once I get some of this dust out of here.

The sorting and organizing I expected; no matter how streamlined and efficient your organization process, it never transfers perfectly from one house to the next. You have fewer drawers, more cabinets, more closets but less shelving. That sort of thing. My current project is the closets: They all have wire organizers that are simply not up to the loads we need to place upon them, so we’re in the process of replacing/upgrading them.

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I am also in the process of buying all new curtains, because the last time I bought curtains was with wedding present money. From my first wedding. In 2002.

Funny thing about these projects: They don’t feel like home improvements, but home realizations. It feels like we are helping this house become what it was always meant to be.

Ours.

 

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Cleaning house

The first time I encountered Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day was about 20 years ago, while shopping in a World Market with an ex. He was obsessed with all things China, so we shopped there often; however, I was recently divorced and broke and he was a grad student, so we didn’t buy much.

“They want how much for this dish soap?!” I said, looking at the price sticker. And that was the end of that.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve developed sensitivities to pretty much everything (I even have to use fancy deodorant now), particularly to cleaning products. I tried cleaning with just water and vinegar, but got tired of my house smelling like hot wings. Then one day I stumbled across a Grove promo code on a blog. (I forget which blog. Thank you, benevolent blogger, whoever you are!) The code was good for a free 5-piece gift set of Mrs. Meyer’s products if I signed up for Grove’s VIP program. (The blogger also got a $10 credit. Everyone won.) I’d heard great things about Mrs. Meyer’s in the intervening years, and this seemed like a painless way to try them out. So I clicked the link and ordered the stuff, and quickly became a fan of Grove.

Grove Collaborative is a monthly delivery service that sells a wide range of natural household and personal products — kind of like Alice, if you remember Alice, but they only sell natural, eco-friendly products. So they don’t offer a wide range of items, but what they do offer is good. And shipped to your door every month, which is always a plus for people with small children. Like other subscription services, the big plus is that you never run out of things you need. Unlike other subscription services I’ve used, though, they give you plenty of lead time to tweak your order before it ships, and don’t even require that you place an order every month. I’m the kind of person who considers Amazon subscriptions to be too much of a commitment, so I like the flexibility Grove offers.

Their VIP program is pretty nice, I must say. Free shipping and free full-sized items each month if you meet a minimum order of around $50. The full-sized items aren’t cheap, either — two of mine more than recouped the $20 annual membership fee. And if you don’t want the item, you can just remove it from your cart. You can cancel the VIP membership at any time. (Which obviously I have not done, but my dealings with customer service have always been great, so I can’t imagine it’d be a hassle.)

The best part, though, is the products. I live in a small town; we don’t even have a Walmart. I have to drive 15 miles to get to a Walmart, and 30+ miles to get to stores like Whole Foods, Target, and Fresh Market that offer the products I use. So I really appreciate that Grove makes it easy for me to buy what I need. I have fallen in love with the Mrs. Meyer’s products; they don’t irritate my lungs or my skin, and they smell so good that they honestly make me want to clean the house — no lie. The Lemon Verbena scent is light and crisp, and I’m really loving the seasonal fragrances; Apple Cider, Mum, and Peppermint are my favorites. Grove offers a far broader range of Mrs. Meyer’s and Method products than I can find anywhere around here. I’ve also found some favorite products in the Grove brand line. I now refuse to use any other glass cleaner, for instance, and we have all but stopped using ziplock baggies in favor of their reusable ones.

No, they didn’t pay me to say all this. Promise. I’m just that excited about their stuff.

If you’d like to give it a shot, you’re welcome to use my referral link to get your own free Mrs. Meyer’s kit: https://www.grove.co/referrer/8255262/. (Note that I, too, will get a $10 credit if you order the kit using this link.)

And now I’m off to clean the kitchen.

Brace Yourselves.  John is turning 21. - Brace Yourself Minter Is Coming

Somewhere, under all this dust, is me

I cleaned my office yesterday.

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And then spent the time after the kids went to sleep researching storage options, so I totally forgot to write a blog post.

I love organizing. Which is good, because around here I have to do it a lot. The whole KonMari thing sounds great in theory, and I actually did it once before it was even called that (yes, I am an organizational hipster — I KMed before it was cool), but right now I am living in the intersection of several different realities and KM doesn’t really work for my stuff. A few examples:

  • I am 5-10 lbs heavier than normal because I am breastfeeding.
  • Regardless of whether or not the weight leaves me when Kai weans, I am breastfeeding.
  • I telecommute, but occasionally have need of business attire for interviews, meetings, etc.
  • My life mostly calls for sneakers and flats, but I am not ready to give up my heels; I might go out on a date again someday.
  • I freelance, but I may eventually be a FT employee again.
  • I am an editor, but have not abandoned my former hats of writer, indexer, graphic designer, and page designer. I am still toying with the idea of a career change.
  • I have vast and varied craft interests. I’d have more clutter from this if I hadn’t tossed everything that smelled like cigarette smoke.
  • I am a voracious reader who presently has precious little free time.
  • I have an entire box of home decor items I’ve tucked away because I have small children.

My life is in flux, and I’m trying to cover my bases so that when it changes — which could be tomorrow, next week, next year, or three years from now — I am prepared.

And at times, I feel like I’m a fool for doing so. Live in the now, dude.

No, I can’t really say that my raggy pregnancy underwear spark joy. But nor do I feel like going out and buying a bunch of new underwear when my weight keeps changing. This is a fitting metaphor for my relationship with my stuff right now. Am I reading books these days? No. But nor am I ready to just say “I will never read again” and throw them all out.

So I periodically pull everything out, weed out what isn’t actively used, dust under and behind what’s left, and put everything back. I am refining my possessions more than purging them. And at the same time, I am honing in on my priorities and goals. I will probably never see the pristine organization I lived in while single so long as I share my house with my minions, but at least I’m getting a better handle on what’s important to me.

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They definitely spark joy.

 

More thoughts on stuff and cleaning and clutter

The other day I treated myself to some makeup from Sephora. I am beginning to see the attraction of more expensive makeup; it really is better. And, based on the quantities I am using, should last much longer. I’m not 100% sold on the shade of BB cream I bought; I’m trying to split the difference between my freckles and the pale skin between them, and I think I may have gone too dark. But the nice thing about Sephora is I can return it. My quest for makeup that suits my new normal (aging skin, a plethora of freckles, mom-of-toddler undereye bags and dark circles) has been educational in more ways than one. I’m finally beginning to understand that, truly, cheaper is not always better.

Nor is homemade. I have returned to commercial dishwasher soap. Over the weekend, my homemade stuff just…quit working. I ran the same load through twice, and both times they came out filmy and speckled in food. We did nothing different, so I am not sure what the heck happened there. I’m still nervous about the store-bought stuff, though — the whole reason I was making our soap to begin with is because I was afraid the kids would get into the soap and eat it. Especially Kai, as he can defeat the child locks on our cabinets. (Clever little bugger.) So I cleared an overhead cabinet shelf, and store the soap up there. It’s not the ideal solution, but it’ll do for now.

I’ve almost eliminated my homemade cleaners, in fact. I’ve finally found a free and clear laundry soap that doesn’t break me out in a rash (Simple Truth, from Kroger). After Anya’s month-o’diarrhea, I have become a bleached bathroom convert. (Probably not a bad thing, as Kai is fast approaching the potty-training stage.) I’ve been beyond pleased with the results of the Green Works all-purpose cleaner. So pretty much the only thing I still clean with vinegar is the kitchen floor. I don’t think I’m saving that much there, though, so I will probably switch back to Mr. Clean (if I can find one with a fragrance that doesn’t irritate my allergies). Like the yard service (and the cleaning service, when I could afford it), the time savings involved in buying store-bought cleaners seems to offset the extra work involved in making and using homemade stuff. And as a freelancer, my time is literally money.

But it’s not just that. I started an afghan for my daughter when I was making Kai’s baby blanket. It’s still half-finished. I would much rather spend my spare time working on stuff like that than making homemade laundry soap.

Playing catch-up (and clean up)

We’re getting back into the swing of things this week. At this moment (Tuesday morning), I am not overloaded with work. Anya has returned to school. R is on an antibiotic for his sinus infection, so he’s still sick but getting better.

The minimalism game is going well. I am a little behind, but I still have things to go through. It’s a good exercise in seeing what I can truly live without; I wish I’d been more diligent about it these past few years.

I’m also working to get more organized, as I clear out crap. I’m tired of having to clean under and around things because we have no room for anything. So as I clear out, I am organizing what’s left so that it is up, away, and out of sight. I know I will have to deal with the toys, but if I can get everything else put up, I will be happy.

 

 

I’m rethinking gifts, as I do all this — a timely pondering, as my parents’ birthdays are in the fall, and Christmas is around the corner. My daughter made my mom a stepping stone for her garden. (I say that like she has a garden. She has a few marigolds and mums in pots in front of her house. We are not green-thumbed people, but we’re trying.) I bought her flowers. In the past, she didn’t really care to receive flowers; she considered it a waste of money for something that would die in a week. But now I think she appreciates the gesture. She truly doesn’t need any more stuff. And the flowers were beautiful. I gave a gift, she received a gift, and we’ll enjoy pretty flowers on her table all week. That’s more than enough.

Sure, stuff is fun. But I would rather have a little bit of nicer stuff and not have to slave over a house to store it all in than have a steady stream of cheaper stuff that I stumble over constantly.

My brief love affair with tiny houses

A few years ago, I became obsessed with tiny houses. I was clawing my way out of the debt hole I fell in when I got divorced, and was daunted by the price of real estate. I had started out renting because it made sense at that point in my life. I continued to rent because buying a house was scary.

A tiny house cost roughly what a car cost. I’d already paid for a car in full. I could deal with that kind of debt.

I started poring over tiny house plans in my free time. I liked how elegant and efficient they were, how you could upgrade the heck out of them because everything was so small. Less to clean! Simplified living! I’d already downsized my stuff to the point where my 2-bedroom apartment was excessively roomy. I was the prime candidate for a gussied-up shed.

There were a few sticking points, though:

  • I wanted a laundry room. Not a mini washer and dryer, or a washer and a clothes line. I wanted an actual room that would hold my (by today’s standards, quite small) washer and dryer. Add a room for that.
  • I planned on working from home at some point, which meant having an office. I didn’t really want that office to be my kitchen table. My job is kind of hard to do on just a laptop. Add another room.
  • I have a lot of books. Even after ruthlessly culling my shelves, I still have four large bookcases full of them. I suppose I could buy some of them on Kindle, but some will never leave my possession; they have been reread, loved, annotated. They are treasured mementos. That’s fine, though; they could go in my office. But now I really needed a good-sized room for my office; it was roughly the size of the living area at this point.
  • I wanted a family someday. At the time, I was thinking just one kid, but still — that meant that R and a little person would be living in this tiny house with me. Add a room for the child. (I did not know, then, that I would end up cosleeping. Still, they need their own rooms simply to store all their crap.)
  • Around the time I was researching all of this, I sprained my ankle. That night, after I pulled myself up the stairs to my second-floor apartment using the railings, hobbled to my bedroom, and collapsed on the bed., I realized there was no way in hell I could possibly live in a place that required me to climb a ladder to go to bed. Because accidents happen. No, I needed a real bedroom.

So. My tiny house had grown into a small 3-bedroom house. Which might be tiny by McMansion standards, but is not hipster, off-the-grid tiny.

(You can tell, by the ridiculous notions above, that R and I did not live together at the time. If we had, I’d have known that a tiny house was not in our future — not unless he lived somewhere else and just came to visit me in the tiny house on weekends.)

As I’ve said before, I’m crunchyish. Not truly crunchy. Not reusable toilet paper, make-my-own-compost crunchy. And, apparently, not tiny-house crunchy.

It all worked out for the best, though. Because as it turns out, even my smallish 3-bedroom house (which I also rent) is too small for my family. I may not be a McMansion girl, but I’m closer to that than a tiny house.

They sure are cute, though. Maybe there’s a she-shed in my future, at least.

Ball pits: Cute, but kind of evil

While visiting in-laws a few years back, I noticed that they had a little inflatable ball pit for their son, who is Anya’s age. How cool, I thought. And without the ick factor of public ball pits. We need to get one for Anya.

I had never played in a ball pit — I’m just a little too old, or perhaps just from too small a town, to have had access to one when I was the right age. And I am so the kind of parent who goes out of her way to give her kids everything she never had. So of course Anya had to have a ball pit of her own.

Famous last words.

If you’ve never purchased one of these things, know that they come with about 10 balls.

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Stores helpfully sell “expansion packs” — bags of 50 or so balls, to help your ball pit look less like an empty swimming pool with a few balls rolling around in it. I bought one to start with, then bought another couple bags at an after-Christmas sale. Ball pit, here we come.

Anya barely played with it. I sat in it more than she did. (It’s oddly comforting.) But when she got a little bigger, she took great delight in dumping the balls all over the floor. Over and over and over again. If we failed to fill it back up for her, she’d start picking up the balls herself — but only long enough to get us to join in. Then she quit, and let us do all the work. The second that last ball hit the pile, she would dump it again. And cackle.

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Do you know how big a mess 160 ball pit balls make in a 15 x 12 living room? A snow shovel would have been useful.

Eventually, R took the ball pit away. He was tired of picking up the balls every single day, and tired of fighting with Anya about the dumping. For a while I kept the balls in the playpen, which at least she could not dump.

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Ultimately, though, the proximity to my books (we use the playpen to bar access to my bookshelves) became too tempting, and she started pulling covers off paperbacks like wings off flies. So I washed up the balls (which get quite sticky in the hands of a toddler) in the tub, bagged them up, and packed them away.

When Kai was about a year old, I started pestering R to reinflate the ball pit. Kai is not nearly as destructive, or as ornery, as his sister. He wouldn’t dump the ball pit. And he, too, should know the joys of burying oneself in small plastic balls.

R wasn’t budging.

As the ball pit had spent the past 2 years in our hot, stinky, spider-infested garage, I was loath to put my mouth on it to inflate it. So I did the next best thing: I bought a new ball pit. And dug the 160 balls out of storage. Set it all up while R was at work. He was…not pleased with me. But he noted that Kai didn’t dump the ball pit like his sister did.

No, Kai belly flops in it, penguin-like. Immediately after you’ve put all the errant balls back in it. Over and over and over again, unless you take the ball pit away and put it where he can’t reach it. Somewhere like the laundry room.

I can’t bring myself to take it away, though. He enjoys it too much. Also, when it’s in the living room, he forgets about trying to pry the outlet covers off the electrical outlet behind it.

Does picking up 170 ball pit balls every single day count as doing crunches? If it doesn’t, it should.