House Math: When you move from a smaller place to a bigger place, only your stuff doesn’t all fit.
This happened to me once before, when I moved from an apartment that had once been a garage into this current house, which offers four bedrooms and two bathrooms. I took the furniture from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom place (plus a couple of storage sites), and started moving it into the new house — and a table that had fit in the old kitchen that I was going to put in the new kitchen ended up in the garage.
The saddest part of this story is that my mother, envisioning (as I was) that my furnishings would look sparse in my new house, had started to offer my grandpa’s rolltop desk. Now, this is not any rolltop; this is a wall-filling, absolutely gorgeous presentation of oak that dates back to the turn of a previous century. But then . . .
Then my mother came to visit — and there was no space for the desk. The offer was rescinded due to space limitations. In hindsight, I should have crammed other, lesser furniture into different rooms and left a big empty space along a living room wall. Why, look at how empty this room is. If only I had a desk to complete the ambiance.
But I wasn’t that strategic, and the desk remains with my mom and stepdad, who use and appreciate it in a manner that would please Grandpa.
So now Lynn and I are moving up (really, down: no more stairs) in the world, and already House Math is kicking in.
We will be leaving this same house where the table never has fit in the kitchen and going to a house that is reputed to be 100 square feet more than this one, with a second garage bay. And we keep wondering where everything is going to fit.
By choice, because the house is our own design, we are losing a bedroom, from four to three, and sort of going without a second living space (a rec room, in early ’70s parlance). Every room in this house is stuffed full, so how do we put two bedrooms’ worth of stuff into one?
We also made no provision for items that are largely taken for granted, like linen and broom closets, and after complaining about how cramped our current hall closet is, we will be swapping that for cubby spaces, and I’m not feeling certain that the closet contents will fit.
Of course, Lynn has visions of us down-sizing the contents of this house, but she has not reckoned with my streak of sentimentality — and my thought that if I throw something away, it will contribute to the overwhelming mass of garbage with which humans are littering the planet.
It does not matter how sternly I tell myself that whether it’s in a landfill or sitting unused in my house, it’s still taking up planetary space. It doesn’t matter how much of a pep build-up I give myself: when I pick up a half-used notebook that I know I’m never going to touch again, I think about how the unused pages could be used by someone and set it back down again. I still have two reams of carbon paper, but recently I read that artists are making some use of that (I don’t recall exactly what), so maybe someday I’ll call the college art department and see if they might want it . . .
Of course, it’s not just me. Our new house will have what everyone agrees is a giant kitchen (well, not Mt. Crested Butte giant, but in proportion to the rest of the house on paper, plenty big), but we just realized there is probably a provision for only about three feet of cupboard space. There’s a 16-foot-square pantry, but what Lynn doesn’t realize is that, for all practical purposes, we have more than 16 square feet of pantry in our current garage, along with the remnants of a commercial kitchen. The garage is full; so is every cupboard in the house. I’m not really sure where it’s all going to go.
We acknowledge a couple of points of expansion: the big kitchen, and an open floor plan with a large living space (rec room within a living room, as it were), and my new laundry room, with plenty of space to air-dry everything without scattering it all through the house.
We get higher ceilings, so perhaps some more vertical space. In our quest to leave stairs behind, we will end up investing in step stools. But we get a lot fewer walls, so we may be having to make judicious decisions about artwork. Plants are a discussion for a different day. Tomorrow, maybe.
We will have space in the garage for two cars (instead of no cars) and three bikes, but we also have to fit a boiler, hot water heater, commercial appliances and my random assortment of lumber that will never be used but you never know when you might need it. (In my defense, some of this is a legacy from my dad, who never met a bolt or screw on the street that wasn’t worth picking up and putting in the collection can in the garage.)
I don’t know about Lynn, but I know what I should do: hire one of those ruthless people who will make me throw things out if I haven’t used them. I see that being a very fraught relationship, with this person seeing absolutely no reason for me to hang onto 10 pairs of Converse Chuck Taylor shoes with holes in them and me wondering if I might not need them should I ever go rafting again. I can already tell you, such a person would make me cry, and in turn I could end up putting this person in tears.
In the meantime, I just keep eyeballing everything around us, mentally trying to find a place for it in the new, bigger house and wondering how it can fit here when it isn’t going to there.
And I count up our multiple desks, none of them rolltop, none of them oak, and wonder where we will fit all them — never mind how I’m going to leave a big expanse of non-existent wall open as a beckoning hint for my mother when she first visits.