Spring Cleaning: Beast Mode

This weekend I went full beast mode on my apartment. In truth, I’ve spent so little time there this past month that there was a laundry list of things that needed to be done (up to and including actual laundry), and given the next 12 days will be entirely dedicated to managing two big projects at work that wrap up around the same time, this weekend was my only chance to get through that list. It started as an innocent idea: I’m going to give everything a good cleaning, and maybe I’ll do my seasonal closet purge, something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. It somehow spiraled into the most productive weekend I’ve had all year, allowing me to wake up this morning with a fully-decluttered and rearranged apartment, every single meal prepped and ready for the upcoming week, and even a few spare minutes this morning for some extra stretches in Monday yoga.

One of the big reasons I wanted to give a good clean to my apartment is to prepare for the new furniture I’m getting next month. It would be a big deal regardless, redecorating the apartment, but this is bigger than any redecoration I’ve done in the past. This is the one where I’m finally getting rid of the things I’ve carried around from apartment to apartment, trying to retrofit the style into the new place but ultimately leaving myself with more clutter than style. This is the one where I’m mounting things on the wall, cleaning out all the closets, tossing anything that I don’t need and only keeping the things I do. This redecoration officially marks the apartment as Mine for the foreseeable future, as I have no intention or incentive to leave. The biggest change started on Saturday evening, as my lovely friend M and I systematically removed hinges and doors from my old dresser, walked the skeleton down my five flights of stairs and left the drawers next to it on the curb. It was a really sad moment, actually, watching the very first piece of furniture I bought when I moved to New York sitting on the curb like an outcast. But it was also thrilling in a way, like everything I did this weekend makes it real that things are all about to change.

My apartment has looked different with every year I’ve lived there. There were no decorations for the first year, since I thought I’d be leaving after just one, and the furniture didn’t fit with anything, having been purchased for my completely-different apartment in the Upper East Side. The place felt empty for a while, the brash white walls and the furniture that didn’t fit; I couldn’t figure out how to navigate my bedroom with the two closets and wonky pipe running down a prime corner. Ten months after moving in, the somewhat-impulsive-may-have-been-reacting-to-a-break-up decision to paint the living room kicked off a burning desire to redecorate, but in planning a major re-do, I started realizing it was going to be a much bigger ask than I’d anticipated. I put everything on hold, living with a painted living room but clutter everywhere else for the next year; and now here we are: freshly-painted kitchen and bedroom to match the living room, and everything rearranged how it’s never been before. Each of these little milestones connect back to a different time in the apartment: different jobs, LB in a relationship, single LB, 24 years old to 26 years old, blonde LB, redheaded LB. The past two years have probably been the most formative of my entire life, all growth, learning experiences, great moments and horrible months. Having my ever-evolving apartment change with me has been such a massive part of this time in my life, and it’s crazy to think that in just a month it’s going to change that much more.

I sat on the couch last night with a Sunday treat, a strawberry-banana-almond-coconut milk smoothie and my favorite TV show in the background. I looked around at the place, so excited to see everything come together like the vision I’ve had in my head for a year. I checked my phone for a message, caught a glimpse of the date and all of a sudden realized that I’d moved into this apartment exactly two years ago, March 15, 2013. I started to smile, and then laugh, as I looked around at the still-new set-up, all the changes the place has already experienced and the bigger changes yet to come. It’s so funny how something like your apartment defines your days, how milestones like painting a living room blend into new beginnings and occasionally endings. This weekend may have been on the tamer side, but it was a spring cleaning in every sense: out with the old furniture, the memories of the early years in the city, the baggage associated with those extra Chapstick tubes hiding in the bottom of a dresser drawer and the unnecessary nostalgia of a photobooth reel; and in with the new. New furniture, new set-up, new attitude and a new season of growth.

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Holiday Spirit(s)

It's beginning to look a lot like (a meager) Christmas!

It’s beginning to look a lot like (a meager) Christmas!

Last night, wrapped tightly in a woven Christmas blanket I stole from Mama B over Thanksgiving, I looked around the living room and smiled. I’d spent all of Sunday furiously cleaning my entire apartment so I could put up my meager decorations: a string of lights and garland over the back windows, DIY paper triangle strings along the blue wall above the TV, and a tiny fake tree I bought at Duane Reade in 2011 for $20. It’s not much by way of decorating, but I’ve had them since my days in the Upper East Side, and despite being old and cheap looking, they bring a little bit of holiday into my apartment, even if the only ones who get to enjoy them are little miss and me. I wrapped my hands around the warm mug of cider and whiskey I’d poured earlier and pressed “Play” on my Rudolph claymation DVD, the classic Christmas movie with all my favorite songs, the same one my family watched together every single year growing up, and prepared to recite and sing along to all the words. “Don’t you just love Christmas?” I said aloud to little miss, and she just nudged my hand for another pet before promptly biting one of my fingers. I think that means yes.

My family adores Christmas, and Mama B loves it the most. I mean, she L-O-V-E-S it. She would happily start listening to Christmas music on November 1 if we hadn’t imposed a rule around 15 years ago that she’s not allowed to play it in the house until after Thanksgiving. Even now, it’s practically tradition that the house is blasting her favorite Vanessa Williams album by 7:30 a.m. on Black Friday. Since children aren’t allowed to like things parents like until you grow up and realize how cool your parents are, I tried turning my nose up at all things holiday, scoffing at Mama B’s Christmas-themed wreath pin and Papa B’s ridiculous snowman tie, but even in my most sullen teenage years I couldn’t ever resist the soft glow of the white lights around the trees. I have such wonderful memories our little family traditions, like how my siblings and I would wait at the top of the stairs as children so my parents could “check that Santa came” (/make coffee because it was probably at or before 5 a.m.), or how we wouldn’t open stockings until after church, a tradition that carries into today. Many traditions have stayed the same, like Mama B getting everyone new pajamas on Christmas Eve, but we’ve made some fantastic new ones too, like making sure by 11 a.m., everyone is in possession of holiday spirits.

Not a typo. Spirits, plural. As in, my new favorite thing to do on baby Jesus’s birthday is mix drinks with my family.

It’s hard being home as an adult sometimes. Outside of that house, you’ve got an independent life, where you’re paying bills and working in the real world, and yet somehow the second you’re back sleeping in the no-longer-comfortable twin bed of your childhood, you’re still being scolded for leaving towels on the bathroom floor or sleeping in too late. The holidays can exacerbate this already semi-stressful situation, and we’ve certainly had our share of familial blow-ups over the years. And yet here we are, however many years into adult holidays, and I can’t remember a single one. But I do remember sitting near decanted wine six years ago, a special bottle for the holidays I’d brought back from my time in Argentina, and feeling the tannins coat my tongue, bringing sweet memories of those six months. And I remember my brother and Mama B accidentally spilling Harpoon Christmas Ale everywhere three years ago, after our dog jumped on the big armchair they were sharing and demanded a cuddle. And I remember waking up last year to mugs of D&D’s special slow cooker spiked cider, sipped slowly throughout the morning, aromatic and warming, while we laughed at the familiar jokes in A Christmas Story over and over.

This Christmas season is going to be a little different for my family, as Mama and papa B prepare to spend most of the month in Europe, galavanting across multiple countries, and arriving back home with just enough time to obtain and decorate a tree, and welcome us all for a long holiday break. It’s probably why I’m clinging to cups of warm cider and whiskey in my almost-decorated apartment, and forcing little miss into a Christmas collar that she absolutely hates (pics to follow). So much of my holidays have changed over the years, from feelings on carols to the people I thought I’d be spending it with at this point in my life. But with my family’s track record, we can at least hold on to a few steady pieces of the holiday season: we know Mama will start playing music the moment she can. We know we’ll all be together in matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. And we know we’ll all be toasting our wacky Christmases that are full of surprises with a drink in our hands and lots of love in our hearts.