Tag Archives: house



Few things trigger my anxiety more than having a cluttered home.

My mother will laugh as she reads this, because I do not hold the title of “tidiest person in the Rambler household.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I was never even the runner up. My definition of orderly doesn’t always align with most people’s. As a general rule, though, I prefer to see straight lines and empty spaces and recognizable stacks and clean surfaces and no trash littered around. I do like having more things to look at—those sleek, modern spaces with no more decoration than a vase on a table are, in my mind, impersonal and cold—and since I own so many things there tends to be quite a bit to look at and to keep in line.

I can tolerate clutter to a point. I generally know where things are. I may not be able to easily access them at all times, and when I’m in the middle of a project or a semester I prioritize art over tidiness, but I always try to keep things clean.

My orderliness comes in waves. Over time, clutter and dust and grit build up in my space: bits of paper, stacks of books, discarded clothes. I’ll ignore or put off the rearranging of these possessions until I see clutter everywhere and seeing the clutter makes it difficult for me to breathe. Empty spaces are driven to extinction by little piles, little assemblies of things I’m sure I’m not responsible for and weren’t always there yet somehow are now.

I’ve lost control of my space. It will get to a point where I don’t know where things are. Until I can get it under control again, to a state where everything has a place and sits there, ready for use, I cannot enter my home without feeling extreme stress.

So I’ll snap and clean everything.

On my own, when I had a room in my parents’ house instead of a whole apartment, I could keep a state of order and cleanliness for a solid two months, maybe more, before noticing the need for a straightening up.

Add another person—particularly a person whose standard of orderliness is (perhaps, maybe) even less conventional than your own—and that length of time dwindles rapidly to the course of one week, maybe, before everything is in disarray again.

It is one thing entirely to convince oneself that items like pencils (or pens, shoes, clothing, whatever) need to be returned to the same location after use for greater ease of finding that item again when needed in the future. It is another thing entirely to convince the person you live with that the practice of returning things to a designated location is a good idea.

One person trying to keep a good habit is hard. Two trying to do it together is harder.

That aside, even with the best intentions towards tidiness and minimalism can be thwarted by the arrival of new items into a small space. And, over time, once enough items accumulate, even my perpetually somewhat untidy (and hoard-y) self decides it’s time to get rid of some stuff.

All that to say I’ve spend that last two weekends getting rid of stuff.

I got rid of clothes. I got rid of yarn. I got rid of kitchen stuff I haven’t used in a year. I tossed old papers. I cleaned out drawers. I cleaned out the closet. I cleaned off the dresser. I got things out from under the kitchen table. I reorganized the cabinets in the kitchen. I sanitized counters. I scrubbed and shined and vacuumed. I took bags of stuff out the door never to be seen again.

I can see so much more of my floor. The nightstands are free of superfluous nonsense. You can open the closet door all the way inward. My dresser drawers open and close without a fuss. You could perform surgery on my countertops, they’re so sterile.

Most importantly, our shared space is now much more serene, much easier on the eyes, and we know where everything is and can access it easily.

I hope it lasts the week.


Pictures of the Past


For almost every Saturday for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the day cleaning house. It’s a lovely constant in my life, being able to know that I won’t wander far from the house that day. Instead I’ll be sleeping in and cleaning until the family gathers for dinner around seven. It’s therapeutic. Some of my happiest memories of the house we live in are cleaning memories.

We’re getting new carpet put in upstairs this week. That means my room needs a major cleaning and reorganization. There needs to be as little on the floor as possible so things can be moved out of the room fairly easily, or at least moved around.

Today I tackled a closet.

I have two small closets in my room—one on either side of a recessed window. The one on the right holds my rainbow of clothing, arranged in the proper order of colors 9how else will I know what I have?). The other holds junk. It is the closet where I put things that are important to me, if to no one else, but aren’t very pretty to look at. It’s also the place where I put things I want to forget about. Or things I want to remember, but not all the time.

The trouble with cleaning things out is, for me, the temptation to stop and examine everything. The relics of my high school days are holed up in that closet. Boxes of them. Notebooks full of them. I have old high school newspapers. Photographs. Assignments. Class notes. Competition ballots from high school speech tournaments. That one grading sheet that has legible proof that my speech teacher thought I did well in a duo scene. Hundreds of doodles. Old plays scripts I wrote. Old poems.

All I wanted to do was to re-read everything. I was surprised at what I saw in skimming things. I remembered things I had forgotten. Good things. High school was great.

Looking through photographs of our senior year, I see how much younger we all looked, even though it was only four years ago that the pictures were taken. We’re more tired now, I think, and it’s strange to see us looking so awake and alert and alive.

For decades, mankind has discussed the possibilities of time travel. More like impossibilities—but humans have dreamt for years of being able to build a machine or a box or a car that could take us back and forth in time. There are movies about it, and TV shows and books that discuss the subject.

But honestly, I think we’ve had time machines for a long, long time. They’re in our closets and under our beds and stored on our computers. Time machines are wherever we keep those pictures that mean the most to us.

And I catch myself wondering—just what pictures will still be dear to me four years from now?

Almost There


C’mon, guys. You know what I’m going to say.

It’s November. We’re almost to the end of the month. All through the year, we’ve been waiting. Waiting through spring and fall to hear silver bells ringing; see wintertime bringing the happiest season of all.

Our tree is up and decorated, covered in multicolored incandescent lights and a thousand little painted ornaments. The gas logs are on, Karen Carpenter is crooning over the speakers, and all is temporarily right with the world.

That can only mean one thing, dear readers.

Only one month until Christmas. Are you done with your shopping?



Once a year, the Rambler household undergoes an astonishing metamorphosis. Alright, perhaps it’s no more astounding than anyone else’s house at the beginning of the Christmas season. But still, making things go from “boring” to “utter abandonment to seasonal festivity” is an exciting process.

There are Santas on the T.V. stand, Nativity scenes on the mantle, angels on the coffee table, nutcrackers on the bookshelf, wreathes on the walls, eggnog in the fridge, and candles everywhere. Pictures on the wall have been temporarily replaced with calligraphy copies of “The Night Before Christmas” and woodcuts depicting St. Nicholas. The only thing left undecorated is the 7-foot-tall Frasier fur standing in the front window, which will be strewn with ornaments come Sunday afternoon.

And yes, dear readers. Yes, I did decorate my blog. Thanks for noticing. I’m waiting with baited breath for the “snow” widget to become available again.

Christmastime is here.

The Remains of the Day


As I look around my dorm room right now, I see spotless, polished, organized perfection. There is truly a place for everything, and everything is in its place. The room smells fresh, there’s a vase of flowers on the dresser, and every surface gleams for lack of dust.

My coffee maker. That thing gets a lot of use all year. Rarely do I get a chance to actually scrub the things out and wash it until it shines. It’s practically glowing right now, it’s so clean. I anticipate the best cup of regular coffee I’ve had all year tomorrow morning.

The closet. The closet is organized. Granted, it was organized before: at least I knew where everything was. But now total strangers might be able to find something in there.

There are no longer haphazard piles of paper strewn across the room. No random piles of unfolded laundry. No stacks of library books on the floor. Nothing lurking on the unused bunks. For the first time all semester, the room looks like something other than a war zone.

It’s beautiful.

The sad thing is, after a week, the room will have settled back to normal. And by “normal,” I mean “chaos.” Ah, well. it was nice while it lasted.

I Have a Dream


Nope. This isn’t a MLK tribute. Sorry. Check the blog next door.

I have this picture sticky-tacked to the back wall of my desk. It shows a green forest on a steep hill and a wide stream rushing over craggy rocks on its way down the mountain. On a stony ledge alongside the stream sits the tiniest house you have ever seen. It’s a log cabin with a narrow porch and a narrow chimney, and its roof is entirely covered in moss. Even though the picture is a photograph, the picture it shows looks like an illustration from a book of fairy tales. Mother Goose would feel quite at home there, I think.

Call me crazy. Call me stupid. Call me Ishmael, for all I care. But I want to live in that little house on that green hill by that tumbling stream. Or at least in a house that’s similar. Like one of these:

Of course, every time I tell this to someone, a few pointed questions inevitably arise:

Where would you put all your stuff? I’d dispose of/donate/give away what I didn’t need to live and work. If I were honest with myself, I’d say that’s at least 50-60% of what I own. What I still wanted to keep but wouldn’t fit (i.e., furniture, some of my books, keepsakes with emotional but no aesthetic significance etc.) I’d put into rentable storage. I’d cut back to what I needed and hope that the rest could do someone some good.

What would you do with the money you would save on electricity/water/rent/a mortgage? I’d spend it on eating organic, supporting my church, and paying for fuel for the truck I’d need to haul my house around. I’ll come up with more creative options as I go.

Where would you live? Somewhere with a temperate climate where I can easily keep a veggie garden. Somewhere where I’d be close enough to civilization to have a P.O. box and drive/bike to Earth Faire. Somewhere where I can volunteer at a local theater and either act or teach acting classes for kids and teenagers. Somewhere with a small church I can throw my energy into.

Is there room for two? Next question.

How are you going to buy this tiny house? What, you think I spend my entire paycheck on yarn? Most of my library paycheck, such as it is, goes to the nest egg. And one day that baby’s gonna hatch.

That’s all very well and good, but how are you going to support a life in the boondocks? Being a part-time librarian or a free-lance writer won’t cut it, you know.

…Don’t rain on my parade. I’ll think of something.

I’ve got a dream.