Teen Lair Project Update
There are no stand-alone home improvement projects. The newly improved thing demands the old thing next to it be likewise improved. The rearranged objects necessitate the rearrangement of other objects. The clearing of one space requires the finding of new space. And so on, like a cascade of dominoes, where “dominoes” stands for painting equipment, stacks of possessions temporarily dispossessed of shelves and closets, no place for anything, and everything out of its place. Life coming together and coming apart, as life does in this ecosystem we call a home.
I love going to estate sales, pretending to shop, but really to study—to note where and when the cycle of domestic renewal ends, and stasis sets in. The founders of our mid-century suburban neighborhood are in their nineties now, dying and dwindling. I walk through the houses that were their homes for decades, measuring the half-lives of a lifetime from the wallpaper, the lamp shades, the kitchen tile. Many of them are like time capsules from the 20th century. It seems if you live in one house long enough, there comes a point when you stop putting energy into changes. The material kind, anyway.
Maybe it’s because income contracts, or physical ability diminishes, or priorities simply shift. I suppose if I live long enough, I’ll get to find out. For now, I’m the amateur archaeologist, hypothesizing the end of little lost empires from artifacts left behind.
Here in my own little empire, civilization is still bustling. We have entered the Teen Epoch, and have switched all the bedrooms around to accommodate it. It isn’t as simple as changing beds (which wasn’t at all simple)—bedrooms also contain wardrobes, books, toys, and an astonishing amount of STUFF. Stuff that is all over the house while we redraw the lines of our household map.
And even though it’s all uncontainable, I’m managing to contain my focus on one smallish project at a time, breaking the overwhelming, vast whole of it into increments of weeks and fifty dollars (which is as much money as I can afford to put into this project at a time, and a great safeguard against starting more than I can finish in a few days). In other words, I’m harnessing the Power of Small. Which converts to the awesome Power of Done.
Instead of starting the Teen Lair project in the Teen Lair (formerly our master suite), I began with my new bedroom (formerly the 15-year-old’s room), painting the bright green walls a serene ivory that captures the beautiful natural light that pours in from the southeast and southwest windows. I found room for my writing desk, that I’d sadly thought I’d have to give up, leaving just enough space for our antique dressers. It still has a way to go—I need to make curtains and hang some pictures on the walls—but it’s lovelier than I imagined it could be, a sanctuary in the midst of all this upheaval. I don’t miss our giant suite even a bit, after months of talking myself into making this big sacrifice!
In home improvement, and other dramatic changes of altitude, always, always, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting fellow passengers.
As for my fellow passengers, they’re loving their new quarters., even though I’ve barely gotten started on the Teen Lair. Last week, I painted the bunk beds and moved them to their new position. It brought up memories of moving the older boys to their very own room the first time, decorated in a vintage cowboy theme. They were so excited to each get their own bed, though they still slept together anyway, piled like puppies on the lower bunk. I had a brief pang before painting over my 13-year-old’s five-year-old hieroglyphics, but settled for a keepsake photo. This isn’t a time capsule, it’s a home, still growing and changing with us, still improving.