“It is true that the aesthetic turn has led to a frantic search for mystical experiences of all kinds, and to addictive behavor and its accompanying levels of stress. But the abuse of goods underlines their indispensability; it should not lead us to deny their source in God and God’s created purposes. What we cannot do, despite the deviations we prefer, is ignore the turn to style and aesthetics that is so prominent.” William A. Dyrness,Poetic Theology,(35-36)
Two lives melding into one. Nothing has been more visceral on a daily basis than learning how to live together. It’s been one of the stranger experiences that has followed marriage. It has been equal parts novel, comforting, and hard.
Merging Stuff has been hard and costly, but has also been exciting. We merged two households: we both lived alone and with roommates for a good decade after leaving home. Far from being teenagers we possessed a library each and a mish mash of stuff collected on 4 continents. After 6 years of nomadic life, I have all my worldly possessions in one house, on one continent. There is a level of cognitive dissonance in this no longer being split into boxes all over the world. I’m beginning to be settled in new ways; renewed, and transformed.
We’re still exploring what it means to truly merge our lives into one home. We truly like living together. He is my best friend and I’m lucky to be able to say that. We have plenty of moments where we are reminded just how different we are.
Merging Styles is harder even than merging stuff. It is however, something that can be measured.
Does this look like my home, his home, our home?
The merging stuff part was made markedly easier because I moved from the other side of the world. Nevertheless, we had almost nine months of marriage before the final shipment of my stuff arrived and took over the entire guest bedroom. I didn’t even ship furniture or electrical appliances.
The merging and unpacking is still in process. After another 8 hours of sorting yesterday, I could walk into both the study and the guest bedroom and touch all four walls and shut their doors – this is a vast improvement!
1) Both of you will need to let go of stuff.
Choose those things you really love and let go of the rest, give it to friends or to a church jumble sale if you don’t want to give it to a charity shop or throw it away. This can be as small as the coffee cups you both have, or the furniture that won’t fit. If you both own the same thing, stick with the newest one or the one still under warranty and sell or donate the other.
You both need to own your own stuff, because when there’s two of you even the smallest amount of clutter on each side can add up to an unbearable amount for one or both of you. We don’t use a toaster on a daily basis….actually we use it so rarely it is still in its box in the linen closet.
Scaling back was easier because I was moving continents and to be fair, RM is a minimalist. But, even still, even he has had to let go of stuff.
I admit I still have a problem on the paper clutter front. It is better than it used to be since the great paper purge of 2014, but I have at least a few filing cabinets of documents related to teaching, and no filing cabinets in which to put them. That’s not a zero sum game unfortunately!
2) Reconcile this with a change in season.
I find myself checking in with him and discussing his ideas, thoughts, and feelings on decisions I’m making when he’s not around. I’m also aware that we have embarked on something new — no I haven’t left behind my own identity — but in marrying, my priorities and focus have changed. Therefore, the things I surround myself will naturally have a different focus.
3) Plan and Dream together
Talking about what you would live to save to purchase, paint colors, linens and the purpose of the home are all great place to start and will help, when the communication is good, and the focus is on compromise, with merging your lives, and your stuff.
Be willing to learn from each other. A home is as much a collection of stories lived by the inhabitants as it is a place for asserting your aesthetic style. You may come to love that kitschy collection or that training school badge.
Merging styles is easier if you can scale back on the stuff first. It will also help manage the clutter.
Try to test out your styles. It helps to have a language to describe things, that’s where labels like “traditional” or “shabby chic” or “nantucket” might come in handy. I pulled those out of thin air by the way.
Just like Gary Chapman’s love languages which I recommend heartily, it is important to know what your styles are. It is about being empowered with information.
This a great quiz. It felt like it connected with my style.
It reported that I was Traditional, and like a sense of familiarity and history.
Better Homes & Garden
This one identified me as Craftsman.
Says that I’m French Country. This is interesting and somewhat unexpected. I don’t like light kitchen cabinets and that seems to be a feature of Houzz’s version of French Country.
4) Agree to disagree or compromise.
Both of you must have veto power. That is you don’t get to veto something staying unless it is yours, it is better if you both agree it should go. Veto power is pretty important on any decision that involves spending money.
5) Be flexible and adaptable
If you live with a sense that it’s okay to change things up, then you are more willing to try things you might not otherwise…
Experiment with locations and ordering: our frame wall and our cube bookshelf get this treatment most regularly. I like to change things around, seeking aesthetic beauty and simplicity.
6) Don’t isolate one of you.
If you live in a couple, then the home is yours, not just one of yours. Forget the “man cave” and consider bathrooms, hallways, offices, and guest bedrooms as shared spaces. Seek opportunities to make sure your home reflects all of its inhabitants.
7) Embrace the eclectic.
When the right balance is struck, both in relationships and in decor, the result can be perfectly harmonious. Make sure th
at there is a common theme to the mixing–we suggest choosing a color, a material, or a focal point to start from–and then watch your style as a couple unfold.
If you are like us, and one of you likes traditional and the other like modern/contemporary, this post from apartment therapy might be helpful: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/eclectic-decor-134813
8) Celebrate your stories, both in the past, and the present!
The collections you’ve built
This is the rug you picked up in Peru, and hanging there on the wall is the painting you bought on your honeymoon. Whether it’s your old record collection or the vintage plates you’ve found at flea markets, all the stuff that proudly adorns your home tells the story of who you are and where you’ve been.
And the family heirlooms
That story can stretch far into the past, too. Whether it’s your grandmother’s quilt draped over the foot of your bed or in the blanket box, your grandparents’ wedding china, or your great aunt’s Victorian dresser now standing in your bedroom, these objects root your home in the past while you make new stories in the present.
8) Declutter on a regular basis.
One of the advantages of having the military move us every so often is that it forces a decluttering to take place. I know the same was true as I moved countries. You sort, you give away, you sell, you throw away. But sometimes this reliance on those markers means that we become blind to the need to declutter on a weekly basis.
One rule of thumb is to let go of one item when you bring in another. This may be a good rule to apply to your closet in particular, or to your library (we certainly may be looking at something like that).
9) Be Creative
We’ve been trying to figure out ways to make our TV less of a focal point. We both like conversation and prefer it to having a TV dominating a living room. This Apartment Therapy post has some food for thought on how to hide your TV in plain sight. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/wheres-the-tv-our-best-hide-th-118769 and this one on controlling cords: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/exercise-a-little-cord-control-apartment-therapy-january-cure—day-15-181840
So what can you do to spruce up your base house, the temporary home where you’ll be for the next couple of year, or the rental place that’s not your forever home?
- Hit the thrift stores and grab some mid-century modern pieces. Jazz them up by painting them white, sage or red ochre. Don’t worry if they aren’t flawless. Embrace the imperfections and use it as a conversation starter.
- Check out temporary peel-and-stick wallpaper, decals, and/or decorative wall art available through home-based businesses, craft stores and online sites.
- The handmade marketplace, Etsy, has a Military Wives Team so you can easily browse their rad artwork, door hangers and other fun patriotic-inspired goods.
- I love original art – Make some of your own or frame a favourite art card or print.
- Spray paint older frames to bring them new life.
- Think about rooms as being dressed in layers. Focus on getting rid of clutter and keeping only things that are beautiful and/or useful!
Remember that most landlords want renters to treat a property as if it were a well-loved home, but make sure you get permission before making any major decisions on decor. Painting a room or hanging window treatments may sound non-invasive but it’s always good to get the okay in writing. Use professional materials and use good practices for any drilling or hammering.
Don’t be afraid to try diy! Ana White (http://ana-white.com/) has some amazing resources for first timers and people of all experience levels!
In the next post we’ll be exploring what it means to be at home where you are!
Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.
Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. You can follow her adventures on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. More of her photography can be viewed here. For more domestic things take a look at Quotidian Home or her previous website, Goannatree.
This is Day 7 of 31 days to Making a House a Home. The Introductory post is here.
This is the first 31 days series published on Quotidian Home.