How to Have a Happier House

Some people live in houses and apartments that simply don’t fit them. The three most basic problems are 1) the person doesn’t know what’s wrong 2) the person thinks it’s too difficult to fix 3) too much stuff.

1) should be the easiest but is actually the hardest. There aren’t classes about how to be copacetic with one’s surroundings. People move into a place, toss stuff around and expect things to work out. No, my dear, no. It’s like opening up the fridge and tossing two tablespoons of everything into a bowl and calling it salad. You need to sit in each room and THINK. (Champagne helps this process). Now don’t go overboard (a phrase you will seldom hear form me – you SHOULD go overboard, but in-home decorating one must think, sigh, of the budget or one won’t have a home to decorate) but contemplate – what does this room need? Do the chairs need to be a different color?  Buy white cotton sheets, dye them the correct color and drape. Does something need to be higher or lower or disappeared or moved?

Step 2 is easiest. Think about poor but strong college students. Most colleges have a surplus of robust undergrads who would love to whitewash your basement walls or run an old piece of furniture to the dump. In the States, of course there is Craig’s List, but wherever you are, try a nearby college, especially the student affairs people who often have a list of students who will work for low pay and beer tips (except Germany or France – the German students are all studying; the French ones all look so much more chic than you, it’s depressing when the people who are coming to regrout the bathroom are dressed infinitely more elegantly than you. Avoid all French people unless you are in full war regalia including good perfume, catwalk-ready make-up, major gold, fey shoes, a non-color-coordinated ensemble and a purse that costs as much as a car. Of course, they will still not accord you any respect but at least they will not subject you to withering scorn by hissing scathing remarks at you. You have been warned.)

Yes of course you should hire professional painters if you can, but college students can also paint. They can hang pictures, dust the top of shelves, move beds, assemble IKEA furniture and haul anything to whichever charity you prefer.

Need curtains dyed, shorted, hung, or repaired? Hie thee to the college theater department in which there will be a costume and set designer, hidden in a corner and obscured by a sewing machine the size of a harvesting combine. Remember Edna in The Incredibles? That’s who you need and theater departments have Ednas galore. If they can’t help you, they know who can.

The ‘too much stuff’ issue has gotten a lot of press but Tosha Silver and Gretchen Rubin have a wise point that is often over-looked. Some people say, ‘my house is clean.’ Now clean is good, but clean is not enough, Liebchen. Clean means there is no dirt – but there still could be drawers, cupboards, even whole rooms which although dust-less still fill you with fear. Those five boxes in the attic, that low shelf in the garage, the ‘back closet’ of doom, the bottom drawer of your nightstand. No, my dear, you cannot rest yet, your task is unfinished.

The goal (and no it’s not impossible, don’t even think to whine at me, you lump) is that on a Saturday afternoon with a glass of something cold, sparkly and a delicious shade of light pink in your hand, there is not one corner of your domain that sparks concern or fear.

I am not saying there isn’t room for improvement, of course you want your sofa covered in Jim Thompson silk, but there is no dread of that cabinet, that room, the attic, etc. Find your inner rhinoceros – vanquish your fear – attack that place in your house that you do not want to think about.

I am not saying (keep up buttercup!) get rid of everything, of course if you want to keep 8 boxes of Hildegard’s paintings from kindergarten, you have a dispensation, but they must be study cardboard or plastics boxes, labeled on three sides and at least 4 inches off the ground.

And I am not saying the everything must be Martha Stewart/ Marie Kondo level of organized, but that you are NEVER wasting time looking for X because X has a place to live and is in that place or in your hand. Be as disorganized as you please but if you are stomping around your house muttering WHERE IS THAT *#&$^ – you will be uninvited to my Solstice Party on my tropical island because I do not want guests stomping around my yacht muttering WHERE ARE MY SUNGLASSES or stomping around my 7-star hotel muttering WHERE IS MY HOTEL KEY.

Pour yourself something yummy, pull yourself together, attack the no-go zones in your house like a charging emu then curl up like a wombat and watch Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day or Casablanca.