Joy is in the Details

A year ago, we put our house on the market, preparing to move into the slightly smaller, much more manageable apartment we had just signed the lease on.

The move was precipitated in part by my health, and the busyness of the bakery, but mostly it was because we were afraid of our tenants. They were loud, they were angry, they were violent. We called the police when the fights got too loud or went on too long, but it didn’t do much good. I was afraid. I didn’t feel safe in my own home.

So the fact that the new place was quiet and clean made it just about perfect in my eyes.

It’s taken me awhile to fully relax and trust that I’m safe here. And as I do, I’m starting to notice little things that I can do to the place to make our lives easier or more enjoyable.

Because I believe that our homes are meant to be supportive friends, fully backing us up in whatever adventures we wish to have. They should be quirky and kind. Warmly welcoming of all your other friends. If you want to throw a dinner party, your kitchen should say, “Let’s do it!” not “But I don’t want to get my counters dirty.” And if you don’t want to have people over, your home should say, “Let’s have a snuggle in the living room, just you and me.”

And mostly, our apartment was saying those things, but there were a few little details…

The whole apartment was painted a very pleasant, light cream. It makes it feel airy, clean and spacious. But the end wall of the hall closet, the part that faces our ‘prep kitchen’ looked a little bland. And I really missed the blackboard I had painted in my old kitchen, so, one small can of paint later and we have a lovely bit of blackboard again. All on its own, it was a bit much, so i added a couple of pictures, but left enough room to write down all our appointments for the month, giving us some hope of staying a little organized, especially if we both remember to check it.

The day that it was done curing, my niece came for a visit with her two youngest daughters and they drew on it for me. I left a few of their scribbles on it, because they make me smile.

Keeping the chalk in a bowl on the counter wasn’t really working, so I put a chalk holder round the corner. It’s an overturned drawer pull and it works really well, and adds a nice little industrial touch. I’m hoping it will encourage visiting friends to doodle.

Inside that closet, we have our laundry baskets, one for darks and one for lights. They’re really quite lovely and came with lids, which, when they were out in the open in our old house was great. The dirty laundry went in, the lid went on and everything stayed tidy. But inside the closet, with a shelf just inches above, the lids were an inconvenience.

Alan and I can work hard, when the occasion demands. We can also, at times, be the laziest-assed people on earth. And, apparently, lifting the lid off the laundry basket and putting the laundry actually in the basket was just far too much to ask. Of either of us. So for the better part of a year, we would put the dirty laundry on top of the basket until the pile grew too big and fell to the floor. At which point one of us, feeling martyred, would lift the lid and stuff a week’s worth of dirty clothes inside.

Then one day I had the brilliant idea to just take the lids off the damned baskets. And life has been so much better ever since. Tiny. Little. Detail. Almost too embarrassing to mention, especially since it took so long to come up with a solution. But we’ve all got these details in our homes, I think, these moments when, instead of being  a helpful friend, our homes get in the way and trip us up.

Or they just don’t look as good as we want them to.

I love the pink tile in our bathroom. It reminds me of my parents. They had the exact same tile in theirs, so I smile every time I go in there. But the bathroom was renovated sometime in the ’80’s and filled with white laminate cabinetry. The amount of storage is a total luxury, but the choice of materials really clashed with that glorious old tile. So I very carefully removed some of the doors and replaced them with curtains. I think the tile is happier for being allowed to shine and because the hinges on the doors were a bit snappy, we’re making less noise retrieving things from the cupboards, which I’m sure makes our neighbours happy.

None of these details are a huge deal. I wasn’t lying awake at night missing my blackboard or wondering what to do about the laundry situation. The argument could be made that there are far more important things to concern ourselves with. Ending racism. Helping the environment. Fighting poverty. And yes, we need to work on those issues, every way we can.

But a home that is truly supportive, that soothes your spirit and encourages your path, is a home worth building, one tiny detail at a time. Because those tiny details that we might feel are not worthy of our notice, are the things that will make all the people who live in your home more peaceful people, more joyful people. And adding to the store of joyful, peaceful people is, I think, a noble aim. It is, I believe, the first step to solving the bigger problems of the world, which, let’s face it, will be solved one tiny detail at a time.



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6 Responses to Joy is in the Details

  1. says:

    Love the idea of the home as a friend!!

    And love you!!

  2. Anu says:

    Yes! Yes, indeed!! Well said again, Barb. There is joy in those little details; for me it’s having something beautiful to look at everywhere, whether it’s a patch of garden out every window or that little pottery mug with traces of the potter’s finger marks. Or joy in the details that no one else notices but me – like the absence of squeaking in a hinge because M oiled it!

  3. Tim says:

    Architect Mies Van der Rohe said: “God is in the details.” It’s the small things that add up to something much greater than all the parts alone. A contractor may be able to build a house, but the individual detail make it a home.
    Love to read your blog Barb. Hugs to you and Alan.

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