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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Teeter

After a wonderful mini-break at my parent’s in CT for the holiday, complete with post-Christmas hike and obligatory “look at me doing yoga outside” Instagramming, I made it up my stairs on Saturday afternoon to find that little miss had somehow gotten hold of one of the roses I’d left on my windowsill and that I had a package from my partner-in-crime R. After vacuuming up the aggressively shredded rose petals and scolding the cat gently, I grabbed a knife and tore into the box. I had an inkling it was the formal request to join her as a bridesmaid when she and her Scot H are married next year, but it was so much more than the goofy card I’d imagined. Inside was a beautiful card and a delicate silver necklace with a needle charm. Immediately donning the necklace and fighting back tears at the personal words she’d included, I took a look at the card, which started with the following phrase: A happy life is not built upon the goal of perfection, but balance.

Those words have been rattling around in my head this week, while I’ve been enjoying a few days off from the office to paint two rooms in my apartment and prep for new furniture arriving next month. Unsurprisingly, none of this redecorating process has been in any realm of perfection, let alone any semblance of balanced: the grand idea of painting stripes along my bedroom wall was nearly ruined when I accidentally lost track of stripes and started painting the wrong one, I bought the wrong type of paint for the kitchen, and I didn’t buy nearly enough. Also, I still haven’t unpacked from my days in CT, living out of my suitcase for no reason other than sheer laziness. And outside of redecorating, even though I’ll be enjoying a great night planned by H to ring in the New Year tomorrow, I’m semi-wallowing in the fact that despite all the new tattoos, the new job, the redecorated apartment and all the lessons learned, I feel like I’m in the exact same place I was this time last year. It seems reading those words about balance on the card from R has put a lot of tiny things into a very large perspective.

Balance is not something that comes naturally to me. I mean that in a few different ways, like how I fall down pretty much all the time or how this morning I though chocolate was a healthy start to the day. But outside of those little things, I’ve quickly learned in this year plus of being single, that it’s really difficult to balance all the important parts of my life: work, yoga, blog, personal whatever. As I’ve recently learned, it’s even worse when those parts of me collide, leaving me somewhere on a spectrum of terrified, to elated, to sitting on my couch on a weeknight after eating half a salad, three drinks in, asking myself how the fuck I managed to tip the scale in the wrong direction yet again. It’s like sitting on the bottom of a see-saw alone, wishing it would bounce up and down despite no one counterbalancing you on the other side. It hurts in a very resolute yet resigned place, stuck teetering to one side, never experiencing the upswing or the joy of a well-balanced anything.

When I finally finished painting the bedroom, I started to pull the tape off the wall, hoping that if nothing else, the stripes weren’t a complete disaster, mostly because I didn’t have a plan B if they were, I’m so freaking sick of paint fumes and I can’t keep telling little miss that no, none of this is food so please stop sticking your face in the paint cans. And honestly, the walls are FAR from perfect, despite obsessive measuring with a level and a lot of hard work. But after I managed to rearrange the furniture back to it’s new normal, and got my shit together enough to put away clothes I’d packed a week ago, I took a step back and realized it actually looks pretty good. Maybe even close to the image I’d had in my head. I twirled the beautiful necklace that hasn’t left my neck since Saturday and smiled down at little miss, who was happily crunching on a stray piece of tape. None of this is perfect, and none of the problems I keep playing over and over in my head are going away any time soon. But maybe it’s okay that I haven’t found that balance yet, or maybe I never will. Either way, I’ll have these beautifully wonky walls, a tiny silver needle and the hope that balance is out there somewhere to keep me going for now.

Redecorating: It’s good for the soul

I’m not what you would call a “crafty” person. Up until recently, the last thing I DIYed was my sandwich for lunch one day and I still managed to mess that up. I have a collection of wine corks I’m “going to craft” someday that’s been steadily growing for 3 years with no final project in sight, and my Pinterest is littered with “easy DIYs!” that I pin on a board and promptly forget about. So understandably, I received more than one skeptical look when I announced my plans in December to redecorate my one-bedroom apartment “all by myself.”

When I first moved into this apartment, it was never supposed to be more than a one-year commitment. My ex and I were planning on finding a place together once my lease was up, so I didn’t see the point in really decorating the apartment, since I knew from Day 1 it was a temporary living situation. I lived for 8 months with a too-small rug in the living room, mismatched furniture everywhere and wall art haphazardly distributed between the four rooms. Nothing matched, nothing fit together, but I loved my little apartment, with it’s huge kitchen, 2 closets and bathroom that sometimes rained dirt from the ceiling. Once the plan to move out fell apart with the relationship, I looked around at the apartment that was now mine indefinitely, and hatched a plan.

It all started with the living room. I wanted to make a statement when people walked into my apartment, distinguishing it from the myriad white-walled rentals across the city. After almost zero deliberation, I set my heart on a deep but bright blue, a bold color to contrast the mass amounts of natural light in the room. Everyone (I mean that literally) I discussed this with tried to talk me out of it: “It’s going to make the room look smaller!” “Why don’t you try an accent wall first?” “I thought you meant like a pastel blue!” But I had my heart set on a dark blue and I wasn’t going to let that go. A few paint samples and a difficult decision later, I walked out of a hardware store with a gallon of the exact color I’d envisioned.

Step 1: Paint Walls

Step 1: Paint Walls

Despite covering my entire body in blue streaks during two days of coffee-fueled painting by myself, I made it through the first part of the Great Redecoration unscathed. No paint on the floor, no paint on my cat, and a beautiful deep blue, surrounding me like a wave of calm energy as I turned to admire the work. It was just paint on the walls, but decorating in such a large way cemented that this apartment was my home for an indefinite period of time. My apartment started looking like it belonged to me for as long as I wanted, rather than a place that I was renting for just a few months.

Never. Again.

Never. Again.

After laying down the new carpet, a generous Christmas gift from my parents, the next step was covering my old Ikea dark-wood dresser in wallpaper. My lovely friend M, resident HGTV superfan and person of Great Ideas, inspired this DIY project and helped me pick a beautiful yellow pattern. The problem? Wallpapering anything sucks. We spent a Sunday covered in mod podge and shellac, fruitlessly trying to smooth bubbles that appeared out of nowhere, as though the Ikea dresser refused to distinguish itself from the rest of the place. M stepped in mod podge, I hurt myself with the Exacto knife, and after steadily drinking throughout the afternoon, we finally called it a day, bubbles and all. Fortunately, once we stepped back and took a look, it was a pretty beautiful new dresser.

I have a million more ideas, from changing the light fixture in the living room to getting a new bedframe and upgrading to a queen-sized bed by summer. This decoration project, what started as a simple painting the living room idea, has blossomed into a way for me to make this apartment feel like home. I never thought I’d be in this apartment for what may be the rest of my 20s, but as I sit on my soon-to-be-reupholstered couch and soak in the changes around me, I also can’t imagine living anywhere else.