When we were looking to move from Maryville in 2010, I wanted to buy a smallish, updated condo. I didn’t want a yard to maintain. I didn’t want to move knowing, for example, that the kitchen cabinets would have to be changed out. So what did we do? We bought a large house in Edwardsville that’s, like, a thousand years old. With a large yard full of plants I can’t name.
My wife and I have “discussions” about my flimsy motivation for renovation. She might think I’m an alien. I call it “philosophical differences.”
On Monday I found a catalog on the dining room table that said something about an IKEA dream kitchen. I don’t physically roll my eyes when alone, but I did make a point to roll my “internal eyes.” I don’t dream about kitchens. In fact, I don’t think much at all about kitchens, or bedrooms, or bathrooms–I don’t fantasize about home improvement. And I don’t like to watch HGTV.
I occasionally venture into the room where she’s watching that stuff. To me, it communicates this basic message: Your house sucks!
If I could expand on that a bit it would be: Your house sucks and we’re going to show you why it sucks and how much it sucks and then we’re going to make it look easy to fix and then we’ll show commercials and will expect the depression we caused to compel you to spend thousands of dollars to fit in with the rest of the country. If you don’t you’re a big … fat … loser.
“Why do you watch?” I ask her.
I understand all the fuss with home improvement. I know it’s important to feel comfortable in one’s home. I get that. But it seems excessive. And expensive. Happiness, what Aristotle called “our highest good,” will not be satisfied by a kitchen remodel. And it will fail to magically create a love of cooking.
My goal is an easy, undemanding happiness, regardless of living conditions. I see myself living in a Tumbleweed Tiny House some day. All the wise people will tell you: happiness comes from within, not without. With that in mind, our kitchen is fine.
So where does home improvement fit into my life? Well, it doesn’t … right now. I often ask myself: what really matters in life? And in June of 2012, this is it:
- Creating (writing, blogging)
- Education (For me right now it’s self-education and includes studying current events, philosophy, history, politics, and literary fiction)
- Family (Spending time with the family, teaching the kids how to best live to maximize future happiness)
- Health & Wellness (exercising, yoga, meditation, eating well, etc. and this includes helping the family achieve this)
- Social Responsibility (helping others, driving less, etc.)
(Hey, stop judging my list!)
Luckily, nothing on there requires much money. I have no expensive hobbies (unless you count Starbucks, where I am right now). Notice that “creating a dream house” is absent, as is “winning a beautiful yard contest.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m capable of working on the house. I do have experience. And when I get one thing done it can lead to a string of others. For example, I experienced an epic wiring binge a few years ago. With a good book, I can knock out even the more difficult household tasks.
It’s just not the kind of book I gravitate towards, you know?
So the next thing I do is compare what I want to do to reality. So over the last eight years, I’ve added and subtracted to align with what’s most important to me. Here’s a partial list.
- Quit smoking, drinking (health & wellness + Social Responsibility + Family)
- Went from carnivore to vegetarian to vegan (health & wellness + Social Responsibility + Family)
- Meditation (enhances all)
- Jogging & bicycling (enhances all)
- Joined a CSA, or community supported agriculture (Social Responsibility + health & wellness + Family)
- Began a regular writing habit (Creating + Education)
And how can I fit this stuff into 24 hours? That leads to a third bullet list. (Wow, that’s a record!) So I try to account for my time. Like this:
- Sleep, 8
- Jogging, 20 minutes
- Strength Training, 30 minutes
- Eating & Food Prep, 2
- Writing, 3
- Reading & Studying, 2
- Meditation, 20 minutes
- Yoga or stretching, 20 minutes
Then I keep going until I have a full day
On paper, it looks easy. I should be able to fit it all in. But that rarely happens. Such is life. Some days I feel like crap and have trouble doing anything. That’s when my reading and sleeping numbers inflate to the detriment of everything else.
Marriages collapse when priorities are too far apart. One wants another child; one doesn’t. One wants to move to Europe; one doesn’t. One wears underwear; one doesn’t. Or whatever. Recently, I asked my wife to create her list, because I can’t always piece together her life philosophy by watching and listening. I don’t know if she will, but I can assume “dream kitchen” fits in there somehow.