Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sharing clutter

When I got back from Paris and Stockholm, and the three dynamic days of focus groups in Chicago, I returned to my home that wasn’t mine alone anymore. It had been occupied. Not by mice, or bugs, or that barking and scurrying Olive upstairs. It was bigger than that.

I had prepared myself. I reminded myself that anytime I had left town before for a long period of time, I arrived home to find my house felt different. It had a weird smell. Things seemed larger or smaller than they had before I had left. Returning home would be no different than those previous homecomings, but there would be different furniture and more clutter.

When I get off a plane and return home, I leave clutter in my wake. It’s the curse of a Libran’s business travel ways. I get home and open my suitcase and usually leave it in a corner unpacked. Or I dump the contents in a pile. Or I take the things I need out piecemeal so my suitcase ends up remaining slightly packed and slightly unpacked with remnants of my trip strewn across the sofa or the bed.

I did that. I got home and dumped my stuff out alongside the stuff Brad had deposited in the house. It was now a house for two. It would take a while to unpack his belongings, so I figured I had a lot of time to deal with my own things. It was nice to hide my sloppiness in the chaos of the household merge.

A few weeks have now passed. As time went by, I put away my traveling things. I also managed to do a better job of clearing out space for Brad’s things. He eventually had space for his shoes and a sill for his collection of dollhouse toilets. His bedside table slid neatly against the wall.

Even with these minor steps toward progress, the house remained cluttered for a while and I felt guilty that Brad didn’t have any space to call his own. But then one day he took charge. He established the back bedroom as his principal domain, laying a carpet from his former house and putting his antique oak desk in the window looking out onto the garden. He slid my crumbling chest and glassy wine chiller under his desk. He moved my filing cabinet to the closet, hanging his clothes on the rod next to it. We yanked the scraggly lily-like plant out of my yellow terra cotta urn under the window, saving a couple of stems for replanting in a smaller pot; we then repotted his three-stalk tropical foliage in the much larger urn, giving its compressed root system a chance to spread out and grow into its new surroundings.

Gradually, the other rooms have filled in with a mix of Brad and Joey. Our belongings will continue to integrate with each load he deposits in the living room. And I’ll learn to accept that a blond wooden bench that served as his coffee table doesn’t have to be tucked in a room of similarly stained bookcases. And he’ll come around to admit that the pairing of similar furnishings gives a room a more complete look. And that modernish is not evil.

Hooray. He already bought a nice Knoll side table yesterday. It’s nice to see he’s adapting so quickly.

The table. It will look good when it's not shoved next to the Judaica cabinet.

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