One of my favorite year-end rituals is to look back at the 50 columns I’ve managed to eke out, and survey how much we’ve gone through together and how much I’ve learned. Then, to recap, I pull one little nugget from each month, a bit of advice that strikes me as especially noteworthy, and cobble those pointers into two retrospective columns. Here are my takeaways from the first six months of 2023.
In JANUARY, I began a column about furnishing a rental property you also occasionally stay in with this line: “I do not have a second home for the same reason I do not have a second husband. I can barely keep up with the one I have.” By December, I was eating my words for lunch, and finding the rental decorating tips coming in handy.
Lesson: Never say never. Decorate your vacation home nicely enough to attract good tenants, and to occasionally enjoy yourself, but also affordably with replacement in mind. Don’t put your heart and soul into it. Plan for attrition because small furnishings – pillows, bedspreads, pots and pans – have a way of disappearing.
In FEBRUARY, I helped two friends stage their beautiful lake house and home of 31 years to help them sell it so they could rightsize. For them, this meant selling one home and using that money to buy two smaller homes, one in their hometown of Orlando and another in Wisconsin, near their new grandchild. Their example of making a practical, intentional lifestyle change made it into my new book, “Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow,” due out next month on Jan. 2 (HCI Press).
Lesson: This empty-nester couple proved that, although clearing out a home you’ve lived in for decades is daunting, if you plough through, you can clear the path to a better rightsized life. They’re looking forward to spending less time on a home, yard and pool, and to spending carefree summers in Wisconsin and winters in Florida, they said.
In MARCH, Matt Paxton, host of the Emmy-nominated PBS series “Legacy List with Matt Paxton” and formerly of “Hoarders”, and I had one of those house-on-fire kinds of conversation, the type you have with someone who thinks like you do. We had fun.
Lesson: When I asked Paxton what he wished more Americans knew, he rattled off three edicts: One, you already have enough stuff to live. You do not need more. Two, TV shows make the job of downsizing and decluttering look a lot easier than it is. Realistically, it takes most people trying to downsize several months. Three, the clock is ticking. Getting rid of stuff lets you make room for the life you want. Amen.
In APRIL, I got out of the shower, took one giant step over my lazy sleeping dog with my wet left foot. My heel skidded on the tile floor as if I’d hit ice. I crashed down on my right kneecap, breaking it in three pieces. The dog remained undisturbed. In that split second, I became one of the 36 million Americans who suffer a preventable injury in their homes each year, according to the National Safety Council. These are injuries serious enough to require medical care. More accidents happen at home than in public places, the workplace, and motor-vehicle crashes combined.
Lesson: We need to be more careful. Among the ways to prevent slips and falls at home are to secure area rugs with tape or nonslip mats, clean up spills the second they happen, light dark halls, stairways and corners of your yard. Cut clutter, which can be a trip hazard. And tell your dog to move.
In MAY, I read a new book by design psychologist Toby Israel, “Designing-Women’s Lives: Transforming Place and Self” (ORO Editions, 2023), and developed a severe case of nostalgia. The word, from the Greek nostos (return home) and algos (pain), perfectly captures the bittersweet agony I, and I’m betting you, feel when we long to return to the place we grew up, and can’t. However, Israel believes you can go home again – by design.
Lesson: We all, consciously or unconsciously, repeat elements of our early homes in our later homes, she said. They seep into our later homes whether we are aware or not. The goal is to consciously channel the best and not repeat the worst. Note what you loved and didn’t about the places you knew as a child. Integrate those best memories into your home through memorable color (a parakeet green cookie jar), texture (velvet pillows), special objects (a conch shell). Create spaces that look and feel good because they positively connect you to your heritage, your place in the world.
In JUNE, I got enlightened thanks to Wayne Edelman, of Meurice Garment Care, a luxury cleaner based in New York. We talked about a life-changing topic – how to get whiter whites. All you need to know about Edelman is that an armored car once delivered Princess Di’s gowns to his shop to be cleaned. I aired my dirty laundry when I told him that I couldn’t get my linens as white as I wanted.
Lesson: “People don’t understand that white is a color,” Edelman said. “Many wrongly believe that all fabrics are white at their core and with enough washing will reclaim their whiteness. White textiles are dyed white, and fade like any other color and become less white.” This was somehow reassuring. While you can’t replace lost color, you can brighten your whites by getting them their cleanest. For that, he said, you need long wash cycles, very warm water, plenty of detergent and a sodium-based, non-chlorine bleach. The world looks brighter already.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Join Marni next week for a recap of highlights from the second half of 2023.
Marni Jameson is the author seven books, including the forthcoming“Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow: A Motivational Guide for Those Seeking Their Ideal Home Later in Life” due out Jan. 2, and “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want.” You may reach her atmarnijameson.com.