Thursday, May 21, 2015

Move Is a Four-Letter Word

What’s worse, a periodontal deep cleaning or moving 350 miles? While I’m no fan of long sessions in a dental chair, moving trumps that for prolonged discomfort. Moving is scary (the unknown), exciting (the unknown), and exhausting (the mental and physical effort). Unless your move has a corporate sponsor, i.e., your brains and experience are desperately needed in Cleveland, pronto; the muscle and money come out of your (and your S.O.’s) hide.
Nobody writes about moving because it’s so unpleasant and stressful that once done, it’s best forgotten. Yet, it is memorable. I recall a major move in my twenties from Columbus, Ohio, to Brooklyn, N.Y., in a pale blue Mustang, most of my possessions in the small trunk and back seat. Briefly, in the middle of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I had a euphoric feeling of freedom. Then I realized the creepy guy smiling at me in the rest stop had been following me for the two hours since the last stop. D remembers his move from Toronto to New York in a “woody” station wagon, having a flat tire near Syracuse, and sleeping in the car with his beloved Rottweiler Raspberry. Moments like that get even more poignant in the remembering and retelling.

Photos by Staples
No one asks for advice these days but it flows like a river from wise and friendly sources. So here it is, my advice in preparation for the next move, which surely will come: reduce, refuse, release. Reduce your possessions to the essential; life becomes simpler. (Confession, I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) Refuse to take on more stuff. New rule: no more birthday or holiday gifts that can’t be consumed; food, wine, tickets, and gift cards gladly given and accepted. Release yourself from subscribing to the consumer mentality that says x is in style and y is not. You decide. You will have more time to enjoy now, wherever that happens to be.

P.S. We’re moving from New Jersey to New Hampshire next week. I’ll check in here after June 1, but might not detail the moving ordeal (hoping that it is entirely uneventful). More logging and excavation work coming up soon on the mountainside. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Discovering Our House Design Philosophy

Long before we secured our piece of paradise on a mountainside in New Hampshire, D and I talked abut building a home for life in our sixties and on.

I borrowed books from the library on house plans and D poured over layouts online that are searchable by key words. Fueled with our separate researches we started taking about our ideal house. Open floor plan; no walls between kitchen, dining, and living areas. No need for a formal, separate dining room that won’t get used except on “special” occasions. Every meal is a celebration. Friends and family want to be in the kitchen where the action is and with two cooking or prepping at a time, there’s lots of action. A mud room (mud season is the fifth season in NH and it’s going on right now) is essential and the place for boots, hats, and scarves; and should have plenty of storage and room for the freezer and laundry. A walk in pantry. (I make a mean sauerkraut and tasty dill pickles.) A first-floor master suite with huge walk-in shower and his and hers sinks. The list got long. We didn’t find a plan that came even close to what we wanted—a house to fit our needs not require us to change to accommodate some architect’s idea of how we should live.

When we stumbled upon a design book (not a book of house plans) in the library called The Not So Big House we felt we had met a kindred spirit. Sarah Susankah’s 1998 book, subtitled A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live, is based on the philosophy that a house should be designed for how people live, not some preconceived notion of size. The Not-So-Big House is better rather than bigger, with attention to details, and, most importantly consideration of its specific inhabitants, not future resale value. Gone is the idea of the house as a series of separate rooms. (Really, breakfast nook, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room? A living room and a family room? All that duplication just doesn’t make sense today.)  

We now had our philosophy to guide all design decisions—function comes first. D started sketching spaces, floor plans, many iterations of how we want to live and how our house would serve us. He also, it turns out, is quite adept at visualizing roof lines. We would have find an architect to help us realize our vision, not one who dictated a lifestyle to us. That turned out to take time and (only) one major misstep.