February 17th, 2008



There is a weird dichotomy that goes on in my brain when it comes to living space. No matter where I've lived I've worked very hard to make my home perfect: attractive, comfortable, a place of peace where there are beautiful things to look and where everything you see as you look around you is right where it belongs. I'm one of those people who move things back to their spot if you happen to pick them up and move them a few inches off-base. My mother-in-law, while helping me spring-clean in the past, hopefully never noticed that after she dusted I would re-adjust picture frames to the correct angle or move knick-knacks over slightly so they were back where they belonged, in the RIGHT PLACE.

It's probably the same impulse that makes me rearrange the dirty dishes in the dishwasher after my husband has loaded it ALL WRONG, though I'm always really glad that he loaded it in the first place. But part of me doesn't understand how he can not know where things go. My mother is probably laughing at this manifestation of my control impulse. It's what keeps me moving around the house during the day and in the evening when the kids have been put to bed: I'm picking things up that are out of place and returning everything to a state of grace by making sure it is all where it belongs.

At the same time, I adore rearranging with a passion. Rearranging rooms, moving furniture; it's like getting a makeover, a facelift and a new living space all in one. Everything looks new suddenly when you move it around, out of the accustomed position it has held for months or years. Suddenly, you see things with new eyes, and hey! the room looks bigger, too! Bonus!

I probably drove my mom crazy with my incessant room-rearranging when I was a kid and a teenager. I don't know how often I moved my bedroom around in each of the various places we lived, but I'm pretty sure I tried every single possible permutation and combination for putting a bed, a desk, a dresser, and bookshelves between 4 walls in each of them. It was endlessly amusing and endlessly satisfying.

That's the dichotomy, you see: the pull to move things around and make them come alive with newness, and the urge to put everything in its perfect, proper place and leave it there forever.

How can you reconcile these two impulses? I supposed you just have to learn when to give each one of them free rein. Yesterday I went to IKEA and bought a CD/DVD tower to put in the playroom. Anders put it together today, while I was in the midst of the second half of the cleaning frenzy that gripped me early yesterday and shook me like a...um, dustrag. I've been taking the opportunity, while the kids are picking up their rooms, to purge: toys that they've outgrown, games they never play, etc. Today while dusting and vacuuming and rearranging to figure out the best place for the tower, we ended up moving two bookshelves, the giant basket full of stuffed animals, and the art bench; and removing another large basket full of dolls, along with the toddler-sized table and 2 chairs that the kids are too big for.

We have plans to totally renovate the entire kid's department in the (hopefully) near future, but just this rearranging made the whole room look brand new, and bigger to boot! Both sides of this dichotomy give me great satisfaction, just like the other one in my life, which is obviously related: the urge to keep everything, balanced by the urge to de-clutter.

Which gives you more satisfaction? Are you a packrat or a purger? A rearranger or a everything-in-its-place person?


Anders is going on a business trip to Italy all week, and the kids will be spending 2 nights & 3 days with their grandparents (it's spring break this week), so it's almost like a mini-ski-trip-vacation-week for me. I expect I'll be working late, though, so the glee is tempered with resignation.