I’m stuck on my upholstery project while I shop around for a better staple gun, so that project is stuck in a rough draft stage.
The most used room in our house is in rough draft mode too. It’s seen several iterations in the few months since we’ve been here, but they’ve all been temporary tweaks as it’s on its way to what I hope it will be. Sometimes the room feels like little more than a cluttered hallway that connects the family room to the kitchen.
In a way, this rental house is a rough draft for us as we try out life in this small town, being back on the east coast, and finding a workable distance between DC and New York.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role that patience plays in progress. And all the life that takes place between the before and after shots of a meaningful transformation.
We lived in our aging ’80s home for nine years, and by the time we moved out it looked fan-freaking-tastic. But it didn’t look like that most of the time we lived there. When we first moved into the house from our 500 square foot condo in Boston, we didn’t have furniture to fill it up, and we didn’t have money to buy even cheap furniture. So for six months, we had furniture on loan, furniture we found in our crawl space, and furniture that was donated to us.
There were times when it was hard to be patient and let it be what it was. I had a vision for it, but I didn’t have the resources to execute that vision. So, we lived with the rough draft.
And life moved on, and we had two more babies there. And we’d make little changes that helped a lot along the way. But it really only looked the way I wanted it to for a few months, compared to the years we lived there. And though I have tons of pictures of the room and all the drafts along the way, in most of them the room is the background. The picture is of the birthday party, the family dance night, the missing tooth, and my family on Christmas morning.
The drafts happened slowly behind the scenes so real life could be our focus.
I want progress to be a steady march, but it usually slowly meanders. And I need to learn to give progress the time and space it really requires. To give myself, and the people I live with, time to get to address things and make changes. Most of the time home transformation takes so long because we’re busy with things that we’ve prioritized above it, with things that matter even more to us.
I have a friend who recently moved into a new house that needs a lot of work. She’s already balancing being a mom with being a student. Throwing home renovations into the mix too is too much for now. She says it’s a struggle to let the house go until she graduates this December. Choosing to let the struggle continue, instead of jumping right into hurried renovations, is the right decision. I wish we could learn to see these kinds of undone projects as the daily victories they are.
The picture above shows a previous draft of our current dining room. The table was a Goodwill find. Someone didn’t want to bother with the huge water mark on the table. It was with us for a few different drafts, but I recently found the table that’s the right size for all of us and this space. It’s in the picture below. It will be a project eventually—I love the beat-up finish and want to accentuate it but also seal it to protect it—but we are living with it in rough draft too.
When I was a new parent to our first child, I had so many people tell me that by the time I had another child or two, all the little decisions that felt so overwhelming wouldn’t even be things I thought about. Needing significant help, I started to treat my first baby like she was my third. Would I freak out when my third baby dropped her pacifier in Target? No, I’d blow on it and stick it back in her mouth. Would I need to change my baby’s whole outfit if she just spilled on her shirt? No, I’d just change the shirt. It allowed me to become a much more laid-back first-time parent, which was better for me and my daughter. By the time I actually got to my third child, she was never in clean or matching clothes. But that’s another story for another day.
Maybe we need to treat our current house like the house we just moved out of. Maybe we need to tell ourselves that eventually this room, this project, this task, will be finished the way we want it to be. Or at least be a few tweaks beyond where it is now. And when it finally gets done, it will be fan-freaking-tastic.
But for now, it is in the background. And that’s where it needs to be.
I’m ending this post with a picture of our in-progress-ness: the radiator cover and pipes that are still yellow even though I painted the rest of the room Simply White by Benjamin Moore. Hopefully getting to those will be the next tweaks in this room. But there will always be another one after that, and then another one.