Mice, cookies, and other tales of home…

If you are unfamiliar with the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I should warn you that things do not stop at a cookie. He will then require a glass of milk, a straw, a napkin, a mirror, some scissors… the dominoes begin to fall, and it’s all downhill from there. If you ARE familiar with the book, then you may well know where I am going with this. My dear readers, I must confess: I am a mouse. A house mouse. I am not sure if it was the dawn of the New Year or the profound anxiety and subsequent relief of the changing of the guard, presidentially speaking, and along with it the shiny sense of a new day, but I have been on an absolute bender of a home refresh. Nothing as calculated as a specific room, mind you. No, no, it has been as meandering and quaintly maddening as the cookie mouse’s whims. Buckle up, my friends…

Quarantine has been a weird time. Most of us have been lucky enough to stay healthy — home and bored and feeling cramped while the world falls apart outside our doors and friends or loved ones fall ill. Boredom and doom see-saw for our attention. What has remained constant, though, is our collective need to make our homes work harder for us. Dining rooms have become home offices. Home offices have become playrooms and homework rooms. Bathrooms have become many of our sole opportunities for solitude. My own January saga began when the bottom drawer of my dresser broke. Ugh. Dressers are surprisingly expensive, folks. After some online browsing I turned to Facebook Marketplace, bought a dresser for a fraction of the price of a new one that I was assured was solid wood, and then once I got it out of the car the following morning, realized it surely was not. The broken one I had was much sturdier. So. We put or heads together, moved a few little things out of the living room, and voila! An underutilized space in our living room was suddenly rife with functional storage. AND with some elbow grease and wood glue, I was able to fix my old dresser. Win, win!

My appetite was whetted, folks. Soon I was mentally lamenting the wasted space that our pair of mismatched desks left in our “study,” aka the small area between our dining space and our bedroom. My desk was too deep and too tall for me — a kind hand-me-down from my in-laws at least a decade ago. Maybe I could get our home office space to work harder for us, too? An L-shaped desk could help perhaps? I was on a budget, but I thought a pair of simple Parsons-style tables could work if I couldn’t find an L-shaped desk to fit the space properly. Ikea had a ton of different options to customize last I knew, so I hopped online and found just the right sized items. Except… they were all sold out. Every style. Every finish. Most leg options. Currently unavailable. COVID-19 had hampered supply chains AND there are a ton more people working from home, so I was out of luck there. One excruciatingly long internet search later for something inexpensive, inoffensive-looking, and the right dimensions, I eventually found a pair of desks on Amazon. They arrived two days later, and victory! I listed our older two desks for sale and had buyers within a few days, but we had the too-big desk smack in the middle of in a major walkway for a way too long while we waited for it to be picked up. Wah-wah. It made me crazy for those few days, but the payoff was worth it! Functional new desks with room for both of us, and no space wasted.

Not long after this episode I was sitting on my couch, looking through the doorway of our kitchen. My admiration for all the various glass display cabinets popping up in beautiful home spreads magically collided with my continued desire to use our spaces more effectively, and *lightbulb* I knew what I wanted to do. Another comically exhaustive internet search followed, resulting in my procuring the very last display cabinet in stock of any model at any Ikea in California. The black framed glass Milsbo was MINE ALL MINE and it was perfect. I was elated. Drunk on victory. Rearranging and plate-stacking and styling made our kitchen prettier AND more functional. Success (again) was sweet. Wasted space begone! Storage is here! Except now I had a spare side chair to find a home for…

I began adding and subtracting and moving and shuffling in the living room. I wondered if perhaps a small table and pair of chairs would work at the far end of our living room. (I should mention that around this time, the striped side table I’d been wanting to add to our living room had arrived. So now I had a spare side chair AND an extra side table, full disclosure.) In the end, a pair of our dining chairs and a stool migrated and made a nice bit of additional seating in our living room, the original extra chair was rehomed at my dining table, and my sweet niece inherited the side table for her new bedroom. All was well. Except…

Again, while lounging on the couch scrolling through my Insta feed watching Netflix my gaze wandered, and it occurred to me that out of all the artfully mismatched chairs around my dining table, none of them were actually the ones I loved anymore. My favorites now were residing in the living room for the guests we’ll get to have once upon a dream and far far away. I started thinking a matching set of chairs could be a fresh, harmonious change of pace after going with mismatched chairs all these years… you see where this is going, don’t you? Spoiler alert: our hero bought a set of chairs. Beautiful mid-century ones. Except now she (I) had 6 (six!) extra chairs to find homes for. Up for sale they went. And my sweet niece now had a pretty velvet chair to go with her new table.

Same tale for the DIY mirror on the dining room wall that I replaced with a sleeker, more geometric option. My cloud mirror now lives in my bedroom, but to make room for it, I had to move an old TV that I hated having out in the first place. So then I thought, well, why don’t I use this opportunity to make room to store it by cleaning some things out? I was selling my dining chairs anyway, so I figured I could get rid of some items I had languishing, disassembled in the back of the closet. Up for sale went a couple end tables, an old art print, a wall hanging, the faux fiddle-leaf fig that I relocated earlier in the pandemic… I was on a ROLL. Out with the old, in with the new, bitches! This girl was on fire!

Then, while proudly showing my mom a photo of our newly freshened dining room, I decided realized our entryway cabinet was now “too much brown” with our new dining chairs. Eye roll. Forehead slap. Yep, I even annoyed myself. Yet another exhaustive search ensued, except this time… I came up empty! Nothing attractive, affordable-ish, and the right size materialized. I was stumped. My phone was crying for mercy with low-battery warnings after repeated searches, because I was SURE I just had to figure out a slightly different search criteria to find the right thing. Google would not fail me, right? And yet, still nada. Finally, I had a sudden surge of creativity born out of desperation. A small cabinet I was using for odds and ends near my desk, freshened and beautified with a whopping $8 investment in forest green spray paint, became the perfect answer to my entry conundrum! And goodbye to the too-big, too-brown old cabinet. VICTORY! All it took was yet another round of shuffling things into different storage spots. Eeesh.

By this time, however, I was starting to get frustrated by the fact that our theoretically freshened, beautified, more functional home was actually starting to feel like a cluttered warehouse. Some but not all our old things had sold, and extra storage or the luxury of a garage are not part and parcel of our 1920s home. Today, after a buyer bailed at the last minute AFTER I assembled a table for them to pick up — dear reader, I snapped. SNAPPED. I was cranky and annoyed and my poor long-suffering husband had to listen to me very un-gracefully rant about people who don’t follow through while I piled as much extra furniture as I could into the back seat of my little car, just to get it OUT OF THE HOUSE.

And here we are. If you have made it this far, I salute you and offer my thanks. All this to say that home — and our concept of it — is ever-evolving. There often is no such thing as “done” or completed or finished. We are living, changing beings with a myriad of needs and wants and aesthetic desires, and it’s okay to change our minds, or refresh and refocus what our homes are and how they function. Also, the middle is always the messiest! To make changes you need to pull things apart and rework things before they come together, so don’t despair if you are in the middle of a project — whether it is a large scale remodel or some small-scale organization — and you want to tear your hair out. It will come together. Trust. I know my house will feel more “done” soon. And it will be worth it — it will be the home I need and love right now.

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