Last month, I annoyed my husband by shoving around all the furniture in several rooms of our house.
The piano went from the middle of the right half of our long living room to the end of the left half, right up against the fireplace, while the couch and chairs flowed in the opposite direction.
“But you’ll just have to move it back again in October when we want fires again!”
I know, dear.
In the meantime, though, we will sit bathed in sunlight from early morning until well after dinner.
Our beautiful custom bed (Finger Lakes Woodcraft, Ovid, NY) went from an end wall to the interior wall, along with the matching nightstands, the lamps, and the power strip + extension cords to keep my electronics charged and handy at 3:00 am when I need them to read my current ebook, jot down an idea or two in my iPod Touch, or answer a wrong number on my cell phone. Recliner and swivel rocker migrated to the two large windows. Dressers, cedar chest, coffee table, fireplace tools, and laundry hampers slid hither and yon, causing a temporary flurry of misplaced socks and shin bruises.
“But I thought you liked sitting where you could see the fireplace?”
Yes, but we don’t have fires in July and August. Now, I want to look out into the branches of the front oak tree to watch the squirrels, and the cat loves looking down on the birds in the dogwood.
“Why did you move the bookcase and chair?”
Well, I had to find someplace for the temporarily-displaced cedar chest, didn’t I? Besides, now the lamp-on-the-timer will light the whole stairwell instead of just a corner by the bathroom.
His reaction got me thinking about why we arrange and decorate our houses. I suppose, for some people, it’s a way of impressing guests when they entertain. For others, the main motivation may be maintaining memories of childhood and family, or looking at favorite art pieces, or just keeping the place easy to clean.
For me, it is a bit more complicated.
I am easily bored. Looking at the same stuff arranged in the same way for months on end makes me itchy. If there isn’t a new thing to look at, then I need to shove the old stuff around until I can see the old things in a new way.
That’s pretty simple, really. What complicates things is that I’m a perfectionist. Nothing is ever arranged quite right unless I’ve tweaked it. And tweaked it again. And again. And again and again and again.
Of course, it doesn’t stay perfect. Something moves, or the light changes as the seasons change, or we get a new vase for the flowers Andy brings home from the public market every Saturday. So, the cycle starts again.
I used to think I was weird. My mother never did stuff like that. She arranged everything the day she moved into an apartment or house, and that’s where everything was when she moved out a decade later.
- There were very few things hanging on the walls because they collect dust.
- Drapes, rugs, and most pieces of furniture were neutral colors so they wouldn’t clash with the colors in the next apartment.
- There was a place for everything, and (at least once a week) everything was in its place.
Now, though, I know that I’m just part of a long—a very long—historical tradition of arranging stuff. Archeologists, excavating an Iron-age settlement, recently discovered a brightly painted wall and decorative objects in what seems to be a private dwelling (not public space like a temple or large hall) <http://www.archaeologydaily.com/news/201108117054/Iron-Age-people-gave-interiors-of-dwellings-a-decorative-streak.html>. And the Chinese art of arranging stuff for heath and success (feng shui) was already ancient by the Tang dynasty.
S0, I will continue to arrange and rearrange as needed, without feeling guilty. Hmmm. Would that vase would look better on the other end of the shelf? Let’s see…