hello, spriggan!

art & curiosities by Leigh Ann Gagnon

It’s September (October, as I finally post), and the weather is finally changing, and I could not be more thrilled about this! Being outside is pleasant again!

Griffin started kindergarten, and Gwen & I have been adjusting to daytimes spent just the two of us. We’re working on the garden, tidying up around the house and in the studio, and having stuffed animal tea parties. It’s been really great so far! Griffin is enjoying school, with some growing pains along the way of missing us or worrying that he’s missing out on the fun at home. We’ve also been sick a lot. :0

There’s a lot going on at home– two bathroom renos, replacing the front step (all DIY), adding some temporary kitchen cabinets. I’m also working at tidying. But– I’ve had a real shift in my thinking about our home the last few months, and I can attribute it to a comment of my friend’s and two books I’m reading.

We bought the house in 2017 knowing that it needed a lot of cosmetic work, but ever since moving in it’s been what feels like a constant barrage of practical issues. The basement flooded five times in 2018 and we had to dig a French drain. The flooding meant my studio became a total gut job instead of a repaint. We’ve replaced: AC unit, radon system, oil tank for the furnace, the well pump, the well tank (twice), hot water heater, water softener, washer/dryer, roof, gutters, windows, sinks and toilets, the entire master bath. I’m sure I’m forgetting things, too. What it boils down to, is that we’re still struggling to accomplish those cosmetic jobs that we expected to have finished in our first year, like stripping wallpaper and painting. It’s been very easy to feel resentful of the house. (Although I want to be very clear: I am immensely grateful to have a home. This is a privilege that I do not take lightly. I do want to be honest about the challenges, though.)

I texted my friend Molly a picture of one of the previous owners’ annoying “fixes”, and she said something along the lines of, “OMG that poor house, it really is like a shelter animal that you’ve rescued.” My heart did a sort of flip, and I was flooded with compassion. Seriously, this poor house; so many people would give up on it. I feel so sorry for it and am trying very hard now to actively cherish it. It’s an older house. One family owned it before us, raised a family in it and grew old in it. It has bits that are old, in need of fixing and replacing. We have recognized all along that that is normal, and expected, it’s really just been the fact that we haven’t had much choice in our projects. Most of our work has been done out of necessity, not as a decision to upgrade before issues arise. It’s the lack of choice that has been difficult.

This feeling intensified when I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Kurashi at Home. There were so many things in the books that I appreciated, especially the idea of being grateful to a home for providing you shelter and warmth, and greeting it as a friend. The way she talked about personifying our homes and possessions; that they wish to be helpful to us but bear us no ill will; that they will not feel hurt for being discarded or donated, and are happy to move on where needed…. I felt like a weight lifted from my shoulders. (Do I… have Toy Story induced trauma??)

I have always struggled with the “but what if I need it later, or change my mind? I might still use it someday” mindset. Also the “what if my kids want this in twenty years” mindset. It’s taking a concerted effort to break that, but I do find that very simply asking if something sparks joy, for me, right now, is a really effective start.

I started with clothes, like she suggested, and it was amazing how easy it was. I have clothes I’ve been holding onto for years because I used to love them and wear them all the time, but my weight and body shape have changed since having kids. Periodically I’d get them out and try them on, and it just made me sad when they didn’t fit as they used to. They don’t spark joy for me anymore, but they did once and it was lovely while they did. I like the person I was then, and I like the person I am now. They are not the same person and are not going to wear the same clothes, and that’s okay. I did keep a selection of things that still make me happy to see, even if I don’t wear them.

There was a passage where she talked about a client who noticed after the clothing step that they had kept only a certain color, and something clicked in my mind. Sure enough, I found that when I started discarding clothing, most of what I kept was black! I love wearing black but for the past few years have been forcing myself to buy other colors. Black makes me feel sleek and confident, and it goes with everything. I’m 36, I may as well embrace my inner goth! (I know whimsigoth is a thing now, is there naturegoth? Dark academia cottagecore garden witch, that’s my vibe baybee.) I ended up mainly with plain black shirts and jeans, and patterns & other colors on sweaters and skirts.

I highly recommend the books.They were a very gentle read, easy to pick up and read a chapter at a time and to muse over. I’ve been thinking an awful lot about what “sparks joy”. Not just in terms of my home and possessions, but also in my studio and creative practice. I’ll save that for another post. 🙂

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