Tag Archive | new (old) house

Beyond “cheap” and “easy”

When I first bought my house (which is a fixer-upper), someone told me the golden rule of hiring remodeling help:

There are only three criteria that count for any kind of service professionals (or amateurs, for that matter): good, fast, and cheap. You will never find anyone who meets all three categories. The best you can hope for is 2 out of 3. Which two, is up to you.

That has, so far, proven true.

The electricians were wonderful to work with, did quality work and were reasonably priced.

The roofers were very quick at their work … but my roof is still leaking.

I recently organized a Lenten study on food ethics for the congregation I serve. As part of my research, I listened to a lecture by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) who pointed out that the selling point of the fast food industry is that they are fast, cheap and easy.

I occurs to me, in both cases, that fast and cheap are thought to be desirable characteristics in everything from hamburgers to handymen.

I don’t have more hours in the day than anyone else, and I have less money at my disposal than many … and so I am often seduced by the wiles of the quick and inexpensive.

But this is the season that challenges us to consider that, perhaps, we were not made to embrace the easiest, fastest or least expensive. We were made for so much more.

The staggering beauty of trees in bloom, the grandeur of fields of purple, the lushness of soft, moist grass, the majesty and ferocity of thunderstorms … nature in springtime forces us to concede that God does not settle for quick and cheap.

I suspect that God doesn’t expects us to settle for that either. What if, instead of fast and cheap, we sought to surround ourselves with things of another quality:


My grandfather (who passed away before I was born and, of whom, I only know the legends of family) was famous for often saying: “It only costs a dollar more to go first class.”

Spring (and, of course, Easter) challenge us to a “first class” way of thinking, challenging us to embrace what is Beautiful, Interesting, Rare, Mysterious, Delicious, Melodic, Abundant, Important.

This Easter, may the risen Christ transform our lives … and our choices.

Out of Sync

Just over a year ago, I became a first-time-homeowner. That may not sound like a spiritual experience … but, I assure you, it is.

My most recent confirmation of this began last month, when I declared war on clutter.

After moving into my new (old) house – which required cleaning out at least two storage units and the attic of my parents house – I discovered that I was up to my ears in clutter.

My first attempt was to try to manage the clutter.


Clutter refuses to be managed.

I engaged in attempt after failed attempt. Finally, the time came to launch an all-out assault against the clutter.

I gave away furniture and linens and kitchen items and clothes. I recycled and organized and discarded. I spent a portion of each of the 28 days of February working my way through boxes and drawers and closets.

I would love to say that I’ve finished (we all know better than that, don’t we?) but the extraordinary thing about this project is not the completion of it  … it’s the reflection that occurred along the way.

Like an archaeologist, I sifted through the remains of my previous lives: piecing together histories, wondering at riddles, and trying to understand someone who lived a (seemingly) long time ago.

Like an anthropologist, I used the evidence in front of me to trace the development of someone I (almost) don’t recognize: the child who hid, the girl who obeyed, the woman who sought.

The experience was both strange and profound.

After a month of clearing clutter, I have recently found myself sneaking quiet moments with seed catalogs, planning this year’s garden. This yearning points me toward a timeless truth: once space is cleared, things begin to germinate and grow.

Though the season of Lent doesn’t start until next week, I’ve already been on a journey through the wilderness. (I guess you could say that I’m a bit out of sync with the liturgical calendar.)

Lent is the time when we engage in disciplines that help us clear away the clutter and cultivate space for God to be at work in us, the time when we take a closer look at who we are and who we’ve been along the way.

Lent, too, is a strange and profound experience: one that can easily be minimized by convincing ourselves that the focus of the season is on giving up soda or chocolate.

Instead … clear the clutter; make space; wonder; investigate;examine; remember. Give yourself the time to listen for the quickening of seeds within you that God is germinating.


I’m just a little over halfway through the month … and halfway through the ClutterBuster28 Challenge.

I had high hopes for all the progress I would be making … but I’m quite pleased that I’ve stuck with the challenge and have actually done something toward reducing clutter every single day (so far) this month.

There have been days – I confess – where I haven’t done much … but I’ve done at least a little bit each day.

In honor of the beginning of the second half of the challenge, I’m posting a few pictures.

The top pictures are the before and after pictures of my linen closet. On the left – before the Clutter Patrol struck – the chaos was spilling out into the hallway.

In the top right, you’ll notice that not only is the closet better organized, it’s practically empty.

I haven’t forgotten my commitment to get rid of 100 Things this month (either by giving away, giving to Goodwill, or trashing them).

In fact, tomorrow I will be dropping off five large boxes to Not-So-New in Golconda. (Four of the boxes are shown in the bottom picture.) These boxes contain 73 items of extra linens, towels, washcloths, clothing and home goods.

Yes, this challenge has had quite an impact on my home life. You’ll also see that I’ve been doing some painting. The two middle pictures show the paint colors that I’ve chosen for the bathroom (left) and the painted beadboard before installation (right).

So, that’s my update! I’ll keep you posted.


Diamond in the Rough

Usually, clutter is just clutter.

It’s frequently a pain in the neck and dealing with it is always a chore.

But sometimes you are rewarded with treasure.

Tonight, I am half-way through my 28 Days of clutter-busting … I suddenly, out of the blue, I am rewarded with these nostalgic goodies: a cheerleader shirt from when I was VERY small (complete with my name on the back); a monogrammed sweater (from a day when that was cute); and a vintage Malan Jr. High Redbirds jacket.

ClutterBuster28 – Day 1

My first day of the ClutterBuster28 Challenge is complete … and it was a smashing success, if I do say so myself.

I fearlessly began where all women dread to go: the closet. I thought I could get it done in a couple of hours; but a couple of hours later, I was spent and the closet was not finished.

However, I made progress of which I am quite proud:

1) all non-closet items have been removed from the closet;

2) all clothing and accessories now have their appropriate place, including seasonal items;

3) almost all of the clothing has been folded (relatively) neatly and put in its appropriate place (I have one laundry basket of clean clothes that still needs to be put away);


4) I managed to find 4 items that can be counted toward my 100 Things Challenge (1. a hanger for belts or scarves or something, 2. a pair of camo shorts, 3. a pair of camo pants, 4. a pair of strange blue lounging pants).

This means that my closet clutter is actually going to end up being a two-day project. I still have to finish putting away the clean clothes … and then I have to start weeding out the things that will be going to charity.

I’m fairly certain that there isn’t much that will be thrown away … but I know for a fact there are a few items that no longer fit. It’s time to get ruthless: if it doesn’t fit, it goes.

On a related topic:

Yesterday, I promised to post the before pictures of the clutter in my house that I would be attacking during the month. I took all the pictures, I uploaded them to the computer, and then I froze. You know, it’s a very different thing to see your chaos on a computer screen than it is to see it in person. It seems so benign when it’s sitting here beside you. When you see it all framed up on a relatively tidy computer screen, it just seems … well, words fail me.

I just couldn’t post them. At least, not all at once. I’ve decided I’ll post the before and after pictures together. That way, you’ll still be able to see the change … but your senses won’t be quite so shocked as if I had posted all the chaos at once.

Well, that’s all for me today!

Peace …


A Room of Her Own

Today, I began to make my home my own.

It sounds a bit theatrical to say it quite that way, since I have actually been working on the house for almost nine months and living in it for more than a year.

But my work on the house up to this point has been dictated by the tyranny of the urgent, and can be categorized as “infrastructure” rather than “inspiration.”

Fix the roof.

Rewire the basement.

These projects (among others) have certainly been worthwhile, but could not be considered part of the work I keep hoping to do that will make this house more my own.

So, today, I began that work.

The back room of my house is a large, wood-paneled, multi-purpose room. It’s off the kitchen, so it lends itself well to use as a dining area. It’s the first common space inside the back door, so it functions nicely as a sitting room. It has a wall of built-in bookshelves with a large, television-sized opening, so it also seems to have been built as a tv-room.

Today, I began converting part of this space into an office. This is most certainly a project that will require more time than I can give in just one day. (I am currently working on the house for about two hours at a time, either before or after work.)

In addition to the arrangement of office-related items on the bookshelves, there is also attention that must be paid to the strategic hiding of items that are unsightly. And, not surprisingly, there are also a few other construction-related projects that are required in order to transform the area into the workspace I envision.

I’m hoping that my new office can be a birthday present to myself, so that gives me a few more weeks to finish it. And even if I don’t meet my own deadline, at least I’ve begun making my house my own.

And that feels nice.


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