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The Congruence Contract : A Year Ago Today

mostly after.

A year ago today was my first day of working from home.

(It’s funny to read how it was unseasonably cold. It is hot as balls here now, and my daily wardrobe pretty much consists of beach coverups.)

Last year we busted ass to get my office ready to be my office in time, but as hard as I tried to clean house, I was left with one very tall stack of, er, ephemera, in the corner of the room.

very before.
still during.
during.

(Backstory: I inherited my house—and most of the crap in it—from my mom and my grandparents.)

I promised myself that pile of crap would be gone very soon because it would be annoying me by taking up valuable real estate, and plus it would be so much easier to ebay things now that I had an office with a functioning computer, and my little mailing station, and an organized stockpile of packing supplies.

Right.

Still here.

Actually, right this second the vacuum is gone because I donated it. But in front of it is another pile of things now needing to be donated. And some boxes for work.

Sigh.

When I created my Congruence Contract back in March, the 2 big things on my mind were sending cards to our wedding vendors. (Because we got married in 2011. I mean, really.) And getting rid of this pile.

We all know that I didn’t really do much on this list until June. (But I did send the notes.)

Sooo. Yesterday was the due date on my promise to myself.

A year to the Monday I first started working from home. 

Technically, I failed big time.

BUT. 

It was a huge list. I mean, like maybe if I-didn’t-work-and-had-no-husband-or-friends-and-didn’t-eat-I-could’ve-gotten-all-that-done-in-3-months huge.

And more to the point, giving myself a deadline actually worked.

I wound up starting a bunch of things on my list I probably wouldn’t have otherwise—weeding through my enormously embarrassing VHS collection, combining electronic nonsense spread across 3 shitty computers onto one central (and backed up) location, filing a stack of inspiration photos ripped out of magazine (obviously I’m old school). I even listed 2 whole things on eBay.

And finally cracked the code of meal planning! This one was not on the list, but talk about things I have been wanting to improve upon for YEARS. More on this to come for sure.

Granted, a lot of those things got underway just this past weekend, when the looming deadline finally enabled me to prioritize “my stuff” over work commitments and socializing and spending the day on the couch watching countless hours of Too Cute.

So just maybe, this was enough to get me started and momentum will take care of the rest. 

Stay tuned. But don’t hold your breath.

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The Congruence Contract

Actual junk from the attic circa 2008.

I am by nature a list maker. I have them everywhere: on scraps of paper, on my phone, my trusty clipboard, forever synced to the cloud in workflowy. And I get a lot done. But some things seem to languish on the lists for an embarrassingly long time. Like, uh, years. Maybe most people just forget these little things they intended to do but never did? The follow-up emails they never sent, the thank you cards they never wrote, the packed closet they never got around to purging. But I don’t. All these things I should do follow me from list to list, haunting me like ghosts that whisper “failure”.

“Should” may be a dangerous word, but I believe it’s a necessary evil. Though often we feel we “should” do something because it’s something someone else wants or what we think is expected of us, other times—the ones we “should” listen to—it’s because it’s something we promised ourselves or someone else we would do, and that unkept promise lingers until we either fulfill it or officially absolve ourselves of it.

I believe this both because it totally plagues me and because I have read many a published expert with the same philosophy. Brendan Burchard’s The Charge and its concept of “congruence” may be my favorite presentation of “doing what you know to do”. Burchard’s challenge is to “follow through on spoken and inspoken promises from start to finish”. The “unspoken” bit is what sets “congruence” apart from “integrity” in my mind.

See, integrity I have in droves. I am dependable and reliable to a fault. I don’t flake, I don’t forget, and if I have to cancel or reschedule it usually involves tears of guilt. Which is exactly why everyone else’s “stuff” gets done before mine. Why magazines and TV shows that are supposed to make me happy go unread and unwatched. Why tons of posts go unblogged, and why occasionally, my husband goes unloved.

When there is no external pressure involved, there is very little congruence.

So this is my attempt to inflict some.

Beyond the mental pressure of all those “to do” lists, there’s also the physical pressure of all this clutter.

I hear it prevents the accumulation of wealth and other things one may actually want in life. How true that is remains to be seen, but I’m sure game to give it a shot. I was a packrat growing up, but thought I’d left it behind in college, until my accumulation issues resurfaced when I moved back to NY after school in LA, into the house I’d grown up in. That my mom had grown up in. That my grandparents had lived in for 50 years. It, uh, had a lot of shit in it.

And while soooo much has left in the last 6 years, by way of yard sales, donations, and our overworked garbage men, there is still a good bit to go. And it is hard not to get discouraged thinking about how oh my god, how has this… “project” consumed SIX YEARS of my life and is still dragging on?!

But. Better late than never. Better 6 years than 10. And while I don’t expect I’ll get it all done in 2 months, everything I do will be more than I’d get done without this initiative.

Which brings me to my official list, which is posted below. Anything on there look familiar? Like something you too might be putting off? It may be pretty specific to me, but surely there’s a pile of paper somewhere to be sorted, a book to be read, or an email to be sent? I know I’m not the only one who secretly doesn’t have her shit together…

If you make your own list—with your own deadline—then we can cheer each other on?! I know it’s not as glamorous as a life list, but I have a feeling it might be just as effective…

 
You can see that I’ve already been procrastinating this since April. Oops. 
I’ve only gotten one thing done—donated the LeBaron—which is simultaneously laughable and commendable. I’m blaming it on my poor wording of the “contract” bit. Like I’m gonna clear ALL my clutter on July 8th?! BY July 8, BY! Duh. 
Ah well, onwards!
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House : Office continued.

P1020870 this photo was not staged. nope, not at all.

Last year on Thanksgiving weekend we converted a spare bedroom into a proper office for Scott. (And me too, kinda. I got a desk!)

Yet, with my plodding nature and all the other things (read : wedding) we had going on, half of the room was filled with a snap-together type metal crate college dorm appropriate storage unit that I—shocker—got for my college dorm ten years ago.

A few weeks ago I made the executive decision that I would lay off the shoes (one day I’ll link this sentence to an as-yet unwritten post about my pre-Italy shoe problem), and use my personal money to buy stuff for the house. (Nesting much?)

The first order of business was ditching the godawful wire crates and getting some real live grownup Billy bookcases. Cause, yes, in this case IKEA is a step up.

Along with the Billy’s came a new light fixture! This was an overly simple stroke of genius if I do say so. I threw away the $7 Walmart emergency purchase floor lamp from 2006, and just hung a simple bulb and cord combo with one of our leftover wedding lanterns.

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Because everything barely fit in the car (and dammit if I didn’t totally forget to take pictures of how we managed to squeeze it all in there), I’m still waiting on this shelf for my collection of Vogues. Not quite the invisible spine shelf I really want, but good enough for now.

And because I’m a regular Holly Homemaker, I also finally [this one’s only a year and a half late] installed a medicine cabinet in our bathroom, and put a door handle on the vanity!

Checking stuff off the list feels really good. I guess sometimes in the world of home decor and personal style it’s doable, or even preferable, to work with what you have. And other times you just need to go out and buy new stuff.

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House : Kitchen Difficulties

This weekend my lovely girlfriends are throwing me a bridal shower. This required registering. That we’ll talk more about tomorrow. But first, why I didn’t feel ready to register.

To stock up a kitchen full of nice things, we should probably have a nice kitchen.

And right now? We have a very not-so-nice kitchen:

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These photos are about a year old now, and actually paint a fairly nice picture compared to its current state. Let’s just say we got ambitious and decided we should do an “interim fix up” of stripping the wallpaper and cabinets and repainting, and then we, uh, didn’t get past the “stripping” stage.

Last year when the bathroom was being remodeled and the electricity updated we started constructing a plan for the kitchen.

My lovely boss was so kind as to draw up our house, kitchen included:

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kitchenplan1 1

Unfortunately, her ideal kitchen plan would’ve involved some serious moving of the plumbing (think moving the kitchen sink, washer/dryer and adding a dishwasher), something that our home improvement grant didn’t cover.

But her plan did give me a great starting point for tackling the IKEA Kitchen Planner.

kitchen2

After playing with many, many different versions, what I finally settled on was fairly similar to the original. The sink, stove and washer/dryer are in roughly the same places, but the fridge is freestanding (I hate covering the window, but it is really the only option that allowed us to keep the sink in the same spot and still have room for a washer/dryer).

It’s a solid plan, but unfortunately 2011 became the year of the wedding, not the year of the kitchen, as wedding planning (and budgeting) took over our lives before it could be executed.

Eventually, I hope it’ll look something like this…

kitchen

But first we have to:

1) Figure out what to do about our sinking slab floors and asbestos tile. Self-leveling concrete and some respirators, I think…

2) Decide whether to make do with the existing walls work or re-drywall the whole thing. Based on the state of the peeling ceiling, it’ll probably be option B.

3) Upgrade some of our appliances, as our current vintage sink and stove are far too large for the space. Fabulous, but impractical. And our washing machine is neither fabulous not practical, but it does work! Eventually, I’d also like to upgrade the fridge to a counter depth model that will block less light.

4) Save up & buy those IKEA cabinets.

5) Do all the work.

So it’s a long road until we have a place to proudly display a KitchenAid…

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House : The Great Cleanout

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Last month, when I was having my really shitty week—on my actual birthday, in fact—I had an appointment to see a man about an estate sale. And it did not go so well.

 

To make a long back story short, in 2006 I moved back into my childhood home that I inherited after the deaths of first my grandparents, and then my mom. It was bursting at the seams with 3 generations of paraphernalia, which I have been slowly and painfully paring down.

 

(For a longer version of the story—with pictures!—go read about my bathroom.)

 

Heading into year 4 of this process, a lot of what I’ve been learning about psychology and productivity and general get-it-done-ness, kicked in to say HIRE SOMEONE! (Well all that, and watching Cari Cucksey on HGTV.)

 

So I emailed some folks about an estate sale. And I procrastinated. And I emailed again, and finally, on my birthday, someone came by to assess our situation.

 

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And the answer?

 

We’re fucked.

 

Because we don’t have *enough* stuff for an estate sale.

 

Apparently the right time to have had one was 2006.

 

I know psychologically I wouldn’t have been able to handle that, but OH CRAP.

 

Because we still have too much stuff for your average yard sale.

 

Cause yea, we’ve already had 3 of those, and I’m SO over them.

 

We also have too much stuff for me to singlehandedly list on ebay at the rate of an item a month.

 

At this point, we’ve consolidated everything into one bedroom (and a half a shed), so it’s not bothering anyone, but that’s kind of the problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

My best solution right now?

 

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I’m bringing it all to the wedding.

 

Yup.

 

I’m getting a cargo van and loading it up with bins of glassware, vintage suitcases, lamps, knick-knacks.

 

I will play records, and find some Super 8 to project on the screen (because we have every Super 8 thing know to man except the fucking camera).

 

It’s all coming, and then some of it can stay, and I can get my house back.

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House: Art Buying, Or My Trip to the Dark Side

Back in April I wrote about how to be an art collector on a budget, and since then we’ve picked up our original pieces (and more) from the Cotton Candy Machine (and others).

 

I’ve always needed to have something hanging on the walls (even back when I wasn’t allowed to put any holes in them), and so collected art museum postcards and prints, would never throw out a calendar, and even occasionally made some art of my own.

 

My transition to grown-up art can’t really come as a surprise—since I started working at Esopus in 2007, the pictures torn out of magazines have stepped up a notch, and I’ve scored some incredible actual artist editions as well.

 

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“Untitled”, Berend Strik, Esopus 10 (Spring 2008)

(Reproducing the artist’s original stitched photo X 10,000 was a labor of love!)

 

My jobs have also introduced me dangerous, dangerous places like Art.com and 20×200, where I scored these sweet Mickey Smith’s after we published her in Esopus 13:

 

P1000944 Collocation No. 14 (NATURE) Right and Left Panels, Mickey Smith

 

I’ve also been surrounded by Scott’s art. Now granted, we have discovered some amazing things we BOTH like together,

 

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“Snowy Egret,” Charley Harper, Charles Harper’s Birds and Words

 

but his kind of art looks more like this:

 

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Scott

 

And then last year I found a man who bridged the gap between Scott’s art world and mine:

 

The Welcoming Party_lores "The Welcoming Party," Greg Simkins

(A limited edition print of this was my Christmas gift from Scott!)

 

It was the allure of an original Simkins that motivated me to motivate Scott to get in the car and drive to Brooklyn on a Saturday afternoon for the “Tiny Trifecta” show at the Cotton Candy Machine. But it was the art that motivated me to buy some after the Simpkins very, very quickly sold out.

 

P1000934Eric White

 

I even let Scott buy some of his own pieces.
(I was supposed to be in charge of us “not

going crazy.”)

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                             Dave Correia                                                              Brian Ewing

See, our office was supposed to be the “scary art zone,” and maybe it will be, but for now the scary art is spreading.

 

P1000919 Alex Pardee

 

Sometime between our first trip to the Cotton Candy Machine, and our second my brain got addled. See, we went back for the ZeroFriends’ shows, and suddenly there were all these things I wanted. How could I not? I mean, My Little Pony looks totally badass as a skeleton, amirite?

 

P1000920Dave Correia

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Alex Pardee

 

And who cares if this is “Mothra,” and I don’t even know what that is, it’s really awesome colors. And we had to get a “Jaws” for Scott, and it looks so perfect in the white shadowbox frame…

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Alex Pardee

 

IMG_20110507_220311the before: a lazy pic from my phone

 

When we got home I reformatted our living room collage wall (that Scott had always complained about—I will never understand what was wrong with having Kirk and Spock there!?) with our new acquisitions.

 

P1000961 the after

 

So by the time this guy showed up in our mailbox a few weeks ago, I just shrugged, admired the beautiful light, concluded it reminded me of the Haunted Mansion, and hung it in the living room.

 P1000930Skinner
(Note: my shelves are on the right complete with Harry Potter collection and my prom photo, as compared to Scott’s shelves on the left full of menacing looking things.)

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Bedroom before & after, princess & the pea version.

DSC00914 Before.

I apparently disliked it so much I never bothered to take a good picture of it.

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Also before.

 

P1000745 After

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P1000728 Yes, I was too lazy to unplug my humidifier. Clearly this isn’t Elle Decor.

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We’re not good sleepers, the two of us. Scott has night terrors and I just have general sensitivity to feng shui or something. I seriously wish I knew what “or something” means so I could fix it, but out of the several bedrooms and myriad hotel rooms I’ve slept in, some just feel right and others just feel wrong. [And wrong often results in night terrors myself.] Thus, I can be a bit of a nomad, sleeping months at a time in odd places throughout my house or apartment.

 

Somewhere pre-digitalization are pictures from my old LA apartment, which I loved to pieces with the great exception of my bedroom. It was entered through a closet, had another door to the outside, and a giant picture window that could never be uncovered because it was just a huge view of the motley crew of ‘Nam vets who lived next door and smoked weed in their driveway all day long. And so, there was no good place to put a bed. For two years, I dragged my mattress to different places around the room and was never settled.

 

Needless to say, when I moved back into my childhood home, I was hoping moving into my grandparent’s former master bedroom would result in good sleep vibes, rather than bad ones. (My childhood bedroom fell into the latter category.) But alas, it was kind of a fail.

 

Even sadder, it took us 3 years (including an embarrassingly long time camping out on the living room floor – why is it so embarrassing? Can everyone else really just sleep wherever they’re supposed to?!) from when I “finished” the bedroom until we finally rearranged. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think this configuration is a winner.

 

Now I just need a firmer mattress. Sleeping on the floor can do wonders for your spine.

 

Also to do: Recenter my Tord Boontje pendant. Figure out a less random this-is-where-the-hook-already-was placement of the large dancer print. Get a flatscreen TV. Maybe paint the furniture lacquered white or black. Maybe add a row of chunky white hooks to the empty wall for weekly clothing storage….

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Nice little Saturday planned : Shiny new office and storage closet

 

Literally! It’s shiny, see:

 

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So I spent Thanksgiving weekend busting my ass. This is the 2nd year running of using my only annual 4 day weekend to get these kinds of project done, and I kind of regret this, as the highlight of my mini-vacation was catching snippets of the dog show Thursday afternoon each time I walked by the TV.

 

The lowlights include hands so raw (constant washing + an assortment of cleaning products – any kind of lotion = a big mistake) they literally cracked & the meltdown I had somewhere around 7pm Sunday night when the house was still in shambles. (Does it make me extra crazy that how blissfully clean it all ended up was totally worth the meltdown?)

 

Projects we tackled:

 

1) Recreating our crappy office into a nice office, as inspired by some  repurposed stainless steel IKEA cabinets courtesy of Felicitas Oefelein:

 

Before

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After

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2) Moving this:

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Into this:

 

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As these things go, it got worse before it got better:

 

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But we ultimately transformed the whole thing into a slightly less-messy, definitely less-DIRTY closet:

 

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Success rate : 80%?

 

I would still like proper storage vessels for my grandmother’s china and crystal to perhaps put those where they belong, like the attic, hahaha.

 

We haven’t yet done anything about re-editing art or hanging guitars and /or bicycles on walls.

 

I would also like a sweet vertical shelf thing for my Vogue collection. And any old IKEA bookcase in order to do away once and for all with stupid wire snap together shelves…

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Oh yeah, and I need an actual desk chair!

 

BUT, in real life "before and afters" don’t reach 100% overnight, or even over a weekend. So it’s never too late to fix the lingering details that are bothering you…