Coming Home


Clear sky in Copenhagen.

Coming home from a trip to Europe and seeing my house after two weeks away gives me some much needed objectivity. It’s more than just coming back to my house, it’s coming back to my life, and it provides a fresh look at what I’m doing – what works and what doesn’t. It also makes me think more about what kind of place I want to live in when I finish this house-simplification project.

What is it that looks so different around home?  First: it’s so BIG.

After two weeks of hotel rooms and living out of our suitcases, a whole house seems just …wrong. I’m not going to expand on how self indulgent I feel coming home to not only a car in my garage, but my 20+ year old pickup too.  Ecologically, it’s not a pretty comparison to all the bicycles in Copenhagen.

IMG_3599 It’s not only the house that seems big. Sam and I both loved Copenhagen, but we both like our coffee. And we’re frugal. So imagine two frugal coffee drinkers keeling over in horror at their first sight of the price of a cup of coffee in Denmark, especially when we were jet lagged and really needed caffeine. Our stopover in Reykjavik was expensive too (more about Iceland in a future post).

Then we spent a couple of days in New York on the way home. The first morning, we went to breakfast at the little shop across the street from our NYC hotel, and I was shocked again – this time by the size of what now seemed like a vast bucket of American coffee. It was the same size I usually get when I go out for coffee here in the States, but I hadn’t quite realized before how huge it was, or that it was good, as coffee goes, but not delicious. Those Danish cups were expensive, but they were flavorful, and I have to admit, a small one was enough.

By the way, the breads and pastries were yummy too.

Copenhagen breakfast breads, Hotel Opera

Just one of the tables at breakfast, Hotel Opera.

OK, move along past the pastries folks, nothing more to see here …

Second difference: this house is complicated!

Big brings complexity, and complexity can be a waste of time. I want something easier to take care of. 

I want my home to be like the coffee in Copenhagen — small and delicious and enough.

What else do I see differently now that I’m back home? I see I’ve been slowing down lately. I’m hoping this new objectivity lasts long enough to help me ramp up my speed at letting go of stuff. Last spring I wrote about having too many plants. Yes, I gave some away, but now it’s autumn and time to bring the houseplants back inside. Guess what: apparently they have expanded over the summer. I still have way too many. And the books… I haven’t sorted any more books since I pledged to finish five more boxes by the end of the year. I see that blogging has a way of keeping me honest.

OK: enough thinking about it – back to work!

Does your house look different when you come home from a trip?

Synchronicity & related articles:  Word Spy: “Copenhagenization”


Accepting Help when Offered: a Painting Job Done

I started this blog at the first of the year, intending to use it to keep myself motivated and also to track progress in clearing out the house. Documenting the effort led me, for the first time, to formulate a list of rules for clean-up. By my second post I’d added a new rule – when friends offer to help, say yes. I’d been stuck in the mode of doing things by myself and hadn’t been able to unbend until I saw that list laid out.

Today’s post is a tribute to Sam for helping me with yet another project. And he didn’t just help, he got me started. “I’ll be off work Friday and available to help you,” he said. “Have something ready to work on.”

That put me on the spot. Help was on the way, and no moping or procrastinating allowed. First up: the basement steps. I’d had this project in mind for years but it looked so dreary that I just hadn’t been able to do it.

Here's the "before" picture of my grungy basement steps.

Here’s the “before” picture of my grungy basement steps.

One more good thing about painting this stairwell — I used up leftover paint from an upstairs room. Now there’s one less paint can to keep in the garage. Here’s Sam painting the ceiling. Does he have a halo or is that a trick of the light?

Sam painting the basement stairwell.

Sam painting the basement stairwell.

I did buy new paint for the steps. Once again I maintain that any painted floor should be the color of dust. It seemed a little dull when finished though, so for some pizzazz, I used leftover red front-door paint for the handrail. Here we are, looking up…

Painted basement stairwell, "after".

Painted basement stairwell, “after”.

Having help means more than just division of labor. It’s moral support, company, camaraderie, and salve for the spirit. Even a dreary task seems like fun, and this job certainly makes a trip to the basement much more palatable.

Do you have something you need to accept help with?

Related posts:

Rethinking the Rules  and Still Cleaning the Garage Utility Closet