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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Gotta Keep'em Decorated

Houses are a pain in the ass. I love being a homeowner, though. Sometimes I feel like I rushed into the whole deal. However, looking back at how the economy took a nose dive and mortgage owners became almost like third class passengers and steerage on the Titanic I’m sort of glad I did jump on the bandwagon. After all, when Wall Street collapsed under the weight of its own nefarious practices, I was still sitting in my home with a monthly payment I could afford and my lender wasn’t sweating bullets.

But that is the process of buying and paying for a home. What I really find frustrating is keeping the darn thing from collapsing around me. My yard makes Jack and Jill exhibit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I have four trees that rise up like turrets, surrounding a keep, in the corners of my yard. Unfortunately, these turrets do little to protect the house except from rain. I can pretty much walk to my car in a downpour and get only a smattering of rain upon my brow. Otherwise they constantly threaten the safety of my home from falling branches, well placed acorns atop my head and the prospect of having gutter grown trees in the Spring and clogged up pathways in the Fall.

On the inside we have another story. Every January, I must make the arduous process of tearing down all the decorations from Christmas and stow them in the attic. Now, the attic is not exactly friendly to persons over four foot tall. The top of the staircase leads to an area where the hunchback of Notre Dame may feel slightly comfortable but that’s about as far as he can go. While there is ample square footage in which to store items, the ability to get them to and from their destination is a tricky process.

Being that Christmas commands more area, the space immediately to the left of the steps is designated as all Christmas as well as the space immediately in front of the steps, where I keep the Christmas trees. To the right of the steps is Halloween and the temporary spot for everyday items. In the ten and two positions, on either side of the steps, belongs the Easter decorations and the Stuff-we-don’t-use-but-weren’t-smart-enough-to-throw-out-before-it-got-blocked-in-by-huge-seasonal-boxes items which include old luggage from a relative and a disassembled futon.

If I am lucky, and I mean lucky in the sense that I am not boarding stray cats, hoping that they get adopted, or having a family picnic, I may be able to use my back porch for storage. It’s enclosed and, while not fully weatherproofed, stays dry, yet cold. This year we are using the porch for the empty bins that once contained newspaper wrapped contents which are now distributed around the house in an organized fashion.

I say organized because I made the decision to not have the repeated conversation of “Where did I put this last year?” with my wife. I took pictures of all the decorations once they were up and kept them handy. Still, sometimes her tastes change and the location of such items as wood carved scarecrows or wall hangings in the shape of sleds will shift to other parts of the house. This is why I usually maintain a laissez-faire attitude with her decorations and focus mainly on the things that are always a constant. Those things are the mantle decorations, the Christmas trees, and the little Victorian Village houses on top of the entertainment center. These areas are my domain and I rule them with an iron fist.

Now, every September we experience a bit of a crisis. We have to get decorated for Halloween. The problem is that Halloween is such a constricting holiday. I mean that in the sense of you can decorate in September but then you kind of usher in the end of Summer. You also have one day to truly celebrate your interior decorating achievement. It used to be that once Halloween was done, we would remove all of the Halloween type items such as ghosts, witches, Jack O’ Lanterns and other spooky stuff and leave up the harvest items like pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. That ended after we found it difficult to keep the upstairs and downstairs items separated as well as having half empty bins with Halloween items and overstuffed bins with harvest and Fall items. Also, I got tired of lugging bins up and down the attic steps every other week. So, we opted to just leave Halloween up until we were ready to decorate for Christmas. Christmas is a holiday that stretches over the end of the year into January because we just want to enjoy the lights a little longer.

But Halloween has its frustrations as well. After all, it seems like we just decorated and now it’s time to tear it all down and put up another set. I will say that this year we are somewhat on top of our game. While Halloween was down probably a week before the holiday, Christmas will be done by the end of the first week of December…hopefully. I say that because we always find some reason to put off the finishing touches. Thankfully, Halloween is all down and packed away and my wife, who I love dearly, but sometimes can’t reconcile her cleaning methods, always does her Spring cleaning in November.

It actually makes sense, in a way. Her reasoning is that this is the time of year that everyone comes to visit and why not have the walls and floors really scrubbed well for that onslaught of visitors. I think it needs to happen in September with the usual dusting and floor mopping to keep it up until the end of the year. But once again, I am just the hired hand, the serf who just gets roped into late night cleanings or all day carpet steaming sessions. I will say that, for the money, renting a Nautavac from the local grocery store was an awesome idea and it did wonders for the carpets we do have.

Now, for those of you who ask, “How bad could it possibly be to decorate your house?” I realize it, too. I only live in a three bedroom ranch with a finished basement. Really, how much stuff could I have to decorate the house with for the holidays? It’s not about quantity it’s about insanity. We literally have seven Rubbermaid totes dedicated just to Halloween. That’s probably a half or a third of what’s in the attic for Christmas, not to mention two Christmas trees and the outside lights, wreaths on all the windows, the ten individually boxed houses that go on the entertainment center along with all the towels, pillows, dishes, and floor coverings that are Christmas themed. Believe me, it is a lot. That’s nothing of the three or four bags or boxes of stuff we haven’t used in a couple of years but haven’t thrown out.

So, yes, home ownership is a blessing and a curse. It has its joys and moments of desperation. In all, I like having the house looking nice, but I wish it was someone else’s job to make it that way. After all, you’re talking to the guy who got stranded on his roof while trying to clean the gutters last month.

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