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We have a framed, signed print of Jane Cooper’s “Rent” in our hallway. It suits us, and our home:

If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let’s have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair’s arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don’t want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle’s flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us—
Not a roof but a field of stars.

In the past week or so, we’ve pulled over three hundred books off our (still miraculously full!) bookshelves. We’ll be giving them away. This is in preparation for putting most of the others in storage, a step in getting our place ready to show. That’s right: we are going to sell.

the art section (141/365)

We’ve lived here eleven years now. I still love it — I love our deck, I love the light, the city view — but my knees don’t love the climb up to and down from the fourth floor. (Especially the one operated on this past summer.) While the cane I’m still using to get around may be temporary, the fifty stairs represent a permanent problem, so it is time to say goodbye to this place.

It has probably always been true that there are poems for every occasion; I just don’t know them. So I’m grateful when folks like Carpentrix, who has been saying goodbye to an old and much-loved family home, share what they know. This is from Mary Oliver’s “On Losing a House”:

1.
The bumble bees
know where their home is.
They have memorized
every stalk and leaf
of the field.
They fall from the air at
exactly
the right place,
they crawl
under the soft grasses,
they enter
the darkness
humming.

2.
Where will we go
with our table and chairs,
our bed,
our nine thousand books,
our TV, PC, VCR,
our cat
who is sixteen years old?
Where will we put down
our dishes and our blue carpets,
where will we put up
our rose-colored,
rice-paper
shades?

We’ll go somewhere, not far — not past the limits of the subway system, at any rate — but it will take awhile to get used to the idea of here not continuing to be home.

Housecleaning

I have impulses toward a clean, modernist living space but what I have is crap overflowing the top of my dresser onto the floor. A stack of out of season clothes slowly compacts and slides off the side. This impulse, I must admit, is mostly in my head.

Sometimes I think I could throw away half my possessions. My possessions in this case being clothes: always there is a multiple of things that aren’t right and a shortage of things I really need. Not books, oh no, books I could sort in rows and stack as long as I have room, and a little past that. Occasionally I make progress, bagging up the worn out and the stained and tossing them. I put all the cards that come in the mail in a box with a label, and we’ve decided not to keep every single holiday decoration.

It isn’t all my stuff, see, and that is where I can run into problems. Mrs 12frogs seems to have no such minimalist impulses. She’s a pack rat, and not very neat about it. I suspect she worries I wish to purge our place of everything, including her dear things. I think I want less stuff, she wants another room. What we probably need is both.

I want books, comfort, art, and not so much clutter. Not fewer illusions, possibly different ones.

I have a messy jumbled wave of artifacts pinned to the bulletin board over a neat and orderly desk. (Ok, fine, the desk is that way half the time.) The history of eroded domestic life smoothed by the ocean in the form of sea glass and beach pottery sits in a blue glazed ceramic bowl on the top of a bookshelf. I love them both for the colors, the textures, the contained chaos and random chance they represent.

As I type this, there are fat, zipped bags with clear plastic windows under our bed. Filled with flannel, cotton, and some wool. I should have switched out the clothes, but instead opted for a tactical raids. I freed a quarter-zip sweater with polar fleece lining the collar and the one with the yellow stripe I’ve had for at least a decade now, but left the turtlenecks behind.

I need to empty and refill the dishwasher. Vacuuming wouldn’t be out of line, but it’s not a crisis yet. Sift the litter box, because all the cats do is eat too much, poo, vomit… and be adorable, and curl up with us at night, damn it. Or I could lift my gaze past the laptop screen at the unread bookshelf arranged just so, with beloved items set out on top of it, and the art on the wall above it all.

Closing my eyes, I can imagine vast, clean polished cement floors with spotless, perpetually cat-vomit-free area rugs — just the kind of living space profiled in Dwell. Then I laugh, because that will never, ever be my home. Even if lived in that loft, I’d probably still have neat, folded laundry sitting in plastic bags in the hallway because I haven’t gotten around to putting it away yet. I will soon, of course, just not right now.

“Clean enough” is a shifting standard, a slippery slope, and I have to believe a less stressful way to live. Until the housecleaning I do is in my utopian loft space, our charming and eccentric clutter will do.