I’ve heard it said somewhere that it takes around twelve months to really settle into a new home. Even if this isn’t the number for most people, it has definitely been true for me, and I realize it each time we pack up to move on to the next year-long lease. It always seems like I spent the last twelve months shifting things around and reorganizing as I take stock of how we live in each space, and every time I think I’ve found the ideal arrangement and started to feel at home, it’s time to pack it all up again.
Of course, this is one of the inherent disadvantages of renting instead of buying (though we don’t really have another option in the current housing market, but that’s a different blog entirely). However, even homeowners cannot escape the reality of change as it affects our living spaces. Unless you’re the type of minimalist who doesn’t own more than thirty items or who views your home in purely utilitarian terms, I would guess that you aren’t likely to have exactly the same home in five years that you had when you first moved in – even if you only changed your mind about which drawer should be the junk drawer.
The fact is, humans change. Despite what the beauty and health advertisements tell you, you aren’t going to live forever; in fact, you are in a constant state of growing and changing and dying that begins soon as you enter this world. And so our needs are changing all the time. Something falls on the roof and you have to buy a new one; the kids stay in their current clothing sizes for (what feels like) one week before we have to drag out the storage bin or go to the thrift store for bigger items; your body changes after having a new baby, and your entire wardrobe (including all the familiar clothes you’ve been wearing for years prior) is rendered null and void, perhaps forever; you finally receive that lovely standing mixer for Christmas that requires you to rearrange all your current kitchen organization to accomodate.
How about this one, which millions of people experienced last year: You suddenly find yourself homeschooling your children while working from home, and your spouse texts saying they will also be joining you to work in the home office or at the dining table. Suddenly you need a bigger dining room table. Or a few sets of noise-canceling headphones. You get the idea. The routines and expectations you had for your life had to change by necessity of survival. The thing I’m finding is that this isn’t only true during a pandemic or cultural collapse or political instability . . . it’s just one of the most basic facts of life.
We only harm ourselves when we have the expectation that if we just find a better laundry system, buy that home or car (you know, that one), meet our lifelong love, or curate a perfect morning and bedtime routine, then we will have arrived. Life will finally be Right, and we can eliminate the unpleasantness that comes with the transitions and fluctuations in body, mind, and soul that we all experience. But what we always find is that after managing to fix certain perceived problem areas, it isn’t long before we develop new needs or notice new problems that come with our supposed solutions. The elaborate laundry system isn’t sustainable with the addition of another child, the little fuel-efficient car doesn’t function well in the snow and you suddenly have to relocate to Colorado, or your marriage actually turns out looking very different from what you were expecting at the time of your engagement photoshoot.
In my life, then, what I’m finding is that it does no good to fight the inevitability of change. It does no good to expect that I will find the perfect, problem-free arrangement of items within my home. It does no good to cling to a version of life that cannot exist in the season of parenting young children. It only harms me and my family to pursue some arrival point – that I will never reach – rather than to pivot and yield and even celebrate each new change as a catalyst for growth and life. Because that’s the thing we have to remember: A stagnant, unmalleable life is really no life at all. Schedules, home arrangements, wardrobes, diets, and sefish habits that demand a permanent place in your life will never be a real service or tool to you as they are meant to be. If you are living for these things rather than making them work as tools for you, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment when something outside of your control happens that demands some new arrangement.
And it will happen. Again. And again. Because you are not God, and neither am I.