Reducing Excess Indoors and Out
(Note: There was no post for last week, as the overloaded Log House Plants site needed a boost to handle a high volume of visitors.)
I’ve lived in this large, lovely house for well over a decade now. Over the years, I’ve renovated and repaired and re-imagined pretty well every square foot of its three stories. I mended and refinished the deck and installed new windows and sliding doors. Instead of the rusty, rattling old gutters, we’ve now got the new kind that don’t fill up with leaves (call me a wimp, but ladder work at 20-plus feet no longer tempts me). I replaced the aging heating system and water heater twice, renewed old plumbing and wiring, cleared out the crawl spaces, restored insulation. Last year, I turned the jammed-full-to-the-ceiling garage into a clean, light-filled studio and built a study, attractive screened in porch off the sun room. Now, I’’m done.
In fact, I’m done altogether. This summer, I’ll put the house on the market and look for a smaller place that will suit me better as I age. That might sound sad; indeed, several friends seem quite dismayed to learn that I’m planning to leave so soon after getting the house just the way I want it. Oh, there’s a twinge or two of sorrow mixed in, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work. I deeply enjoy the creativity of the renovation process and have always felt pleased to leave each home better than I found it. Right now, the idea of a move feels freeing and wide open to possibilities; indeed, VERY wide, since it’s not clear just where I’ll be going. I’ve appreciated this big house enormously. It’s a beautiful, hospitable, flexible place, with plenty of room. These days, however, my kids have homes of their own and the family that’s home-shared with me is excitedly planning to move on to their own new home as well. So, I’m done.
Sharing The Pleasure
All this releasing really does feel great, but any move is a pretty major life event and can’t help but be somewhat emotionally mixed. This winter, I’ve found joy in clearing closets of extra clothing, knowing that the homeless people who receive it will be snug and warm. I’ve donated carloads of treasures I haven’t looked at or touched in years to benefits, nonprofits, and appreciative friends. (I’m at the stage where anyone who admires anything ends up taking it home.) Now, I’ll be setting this happy, handsome house free to more active use than I can offer, and that feels positively wonderful too.
At the very same time, sorting out each box of memories requires some processing (definitely some more than others) and I’m finding it best to pace myself a bit. The broom closet, while amazingly packed (how did I end up with so many light bulbs for lamps I no longer own, and why was there a waffle iron and a stovetop griddle in there?), did not trigger an emotional cascade. The filing cabinet full of old house papers, death certificates, family pictures, well, that one I’m taking one drawer at a time, with several easier tasks in between.
Outside, I’ve similarly edited over time, removing overgrown shrubs and leaning trees, renovating beds and replanting the front entry. I’ve redone the driveway twice, improved the drainage systems twice, and built a splendid new garden shed. After two years of growth, the mounded bed garden is a delight and the carefully chosen, much loved plants are thriving in the blend of sandy loam and digested dairy manure. This garden was thoughtfully planned and planted, with each hand picked plant given an appropriate spot. Mostly. Despite my care, it’s clear that plant lust has overridden my design sense here and there. There are certainly going to be some extra plants for Hannah’s Garden, the kid-friendly plantings at Owen’s Playground, an accessible play space for everyone of any age or physical ability.
In the past, I might have waited months to see if the hard freezes truly killed off certain tender plants. This year, out they come with barely a backward glance. It doesn’t hurt to know that there are plenty of replacements in the wings. My original plantings were hedged with boxleaf honeysuckle (Lonicera pileata), which are now filling in fast. To keep the deer disinterested, I had circled the whole garden with a new Dutch catnip called Meow. These strapping plants easily get 3 x 3 feet and where the hedge encroaches, I’m digging out the Meows to replace the silvery white sage, Salvia apiana, which definitely gave up the ghost this winter.
Going, Going, Gone
I’m usually a total sucker for garden seedlings, carefully nurturing and protecting them, but these days, a new ruthlessness makes it easy to yank them out wherever they mar the overall design. Or perhaps it may not be ruthlessness as a sense of abundance rather than scarcity. It’s very obvious (to anyone weeding my driveway, at least) that nature’s first principle is abundance. If I pull the dozens of crowded, over-eager seedlings that blue the edges of the beds, I know very well that the act of weeding will bring dozens of seeds to the surface. The most willing seeders are often plants of disturbance, whose seeds germinate most freely when exposed to light and air rather than smothered under muddy clay. Perhaps my own spirit will similarly awaken and stretch and grow into new strength once the weight of excess ownership is lifted. I’m certainly eager to find out, and I’ll certainly keep you posted!