Settling in to a not-forever home

Somewhere deep in a landfill, or draped around the tip of a mountain of trash, like a pig wearing costume pearls, there is a garland of construction paper candy corn, crafted to decorate my apartment several Halloween moons ago.

Presumably nearby:

  • A mini Christmas tree with pine needle ends that alight in LED technicolor.
  • A cornafauxpia made to overflow with plastic fruits and vegetables, the waxy purple grapes soft from wear and punctured, thanks to fingers that liked to squish and a cat that liked to gnaw on their spongy exteriors.
  • A Valentine’s Day Cupid window dressage, whose silhouetted sharpened arrow may have seemed menacing from the second floor if not for that cute little bump of an angel baby bottom. If we count Cupid, we’ve been blaming a child for our relationships for a long time. A threatening, flying child whom we’ve given a weapon.

Throughout my young adult years of living along, my holiday decor has been nothing short of Pinterest worthy. In fact, I hold Pinterest accountable for my former highly held expectations of a home stunningly outfitted for the season. That, and holiday movies of every rank.

Similar to how SATC tricked Millennial girls, fledgling in life outside the nest, into thinking a one-bedroom apartment and closet full of Manolos was possible for any woman in NYC not in finance or with a trust fund (let alone as a sometimes-freelance columnist, not even a freelance reporter, gah!), holiday movies have made it appear that affording an entire dining table worth of golden turkey embroidered napkins, squash-scented pillar candles and salad forks would, like, totally be possible on the average 20-something’s salary!

That’s about as real as the families that smile from your newly purchased picture frames.

It is time we held pinned Pottery Barn catalogs accountable for the monsters they truly are.

For nearly 10 years and nine apartments I’ve hauled plastic tubs full of stockings and feathers and firework centerpieces and light-up reindeer, then tried to find room for all of it in closets the size of a Christmas card.

For my cross-state move, however, I trashed it all. Gave the best pieces away to Salvation Army. Washed my hands of all that glitter and gold and never looked back.

I did save a few of my favorite pieces that I’ve had since my first year as a post-graduate. I’m still a weepy sentimental softie, just more economical, hardened by the reality of how much moving sucks, as does finding storage space for things you don’t really need after you’ve taken the luxuriously large U-Haul back.

I’ve purged a lot of my everyday decor, too, much to the relief of my now-husband, who, no exaggeration, will straighten my things into parallel lines when I’m not looking. I’ll return to notebooks, shoes, half-eaten snacks I’ve mindlessly strewn about and find them perfectly aligned and laying at attention. Good little soldiers, keeping his demons away. The whereabouts of my hair ties are no longer a mystery with a non-debilitating-OCD dude as my roommate.

The thing about tchotchkes is this: They’re all well and good in a home that you’ve bought and will be paying off (ie. living in) for the rest of your life. But I was tired of them clogging up my apartments. They created pressure. If I bought a cute vase for my fireplace mantle, I’d have to then get cute matching bookends for the books I have up there. Oh! And maybe a few new books to showcase a variety of topics I can pretend I’ve read about.

You know, that age old “the more you have, the more you want” chase that never seems to end. Happiness and satisfaction never achieved by way of “stuff.” Plus, everything from big boxes to drug stores to mom and pop-style gas stations now have an inventory of something fucking adorable tempting me to buy and hang at my house. I was starting to feel suffocated by my options. NO MORE. I HAVE TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH.

Our now minimalist apartment style can be attributed to a reaction against all of the above. A husband who gets itchy over disorganization and an exhaustive fatigue courtesy a tireless consumerist culture and decade of moving unnecessary items that I don’t even like that much, just feel like I need to have or keep.

But can a house (a one-bedroom apartment house, but still) become a home without this stuff?

Can touches of personality come simply by way of a cute bedspread and matching curtain?

Can I miss having a place of my own to decorate and pattern mix and generally make a delicious mockery of class and sophistication but at the same time grow increasingly satisfied with having little of worth or heart-value in here except a flesh and blood person, my greatest accessory yet?

We know we won’t be here long (I mean we won’t be here long in this apartment but you could read that sentence as something more metaphorical about life). We’re tramps born to run and eat vending machine cheese sandwiches on the road, after all. Acknowledging this has not only saved us (me) a lot of money on flash sales at Target and Michael’s, but also imbued a sense of peace and focus into our relationship.

For each life choice you tick off the list of choices that life — and its no-nonsense, objective passage of time — forces you to make, the easier your life becomes.

We will decorate a house together someday, but for now, why worry? All we have to do is be with each other. Be ourselves, stripped of pretense and a perfunctory going-through of life’s motions. Enjoy each other’s company.

Which, when I consider it, is what all that holiday decor was supposed to inspire in the first place.