Like many homeowners early in the pandemic, I experienced a burst of energy which resulted in the completion of major yard work projects like trimmed hedges, edged flower beds, and a bumper crop of tomatoes. I’m winning lockdown! My best life is right here at home, I thought. Invigorated by my early success, I made bold plans. Think of all the painting! The deep cleaning! Maybe I’ll even learn to wallpaper! When all this stay-at-home business was concluded, I was sure my 1927 home would have new life. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, if butterflies had basements and mortgages. I’d turn my adequate abode into the showplace house of HGTV’s dreams.
But as the months dragged by, I lost the will to arrange my bookshelves by the color of the covers. I watched closet organizing shows, but did no closet organizing. Even the monthly changing of our decorative flag went by the wayside. I was emotionally stuck. That’s when the fixations started. First, it was the outdated velvet drapes in my guest room that scream Pottery Barn 1997. That had to go, but how? Then, I couldn’t unsee all trim that three generations of German shepherds had scratched over the years in an effort to protect us from the United States Postal Service. (For the record, no mail carrier has ever harmed my family.) Finally, I focused all my COVID rage on the side table in the living room that I’ve NEVER liked. The longer I stayed at home, the more flaws I noticed, but the less interest I had to do anything, and still I couldn’t stop obsessing about it all. Does Big Pharma have a product for this? Or IKEA?
With the help of the new season of “Queer Eye” and several tweets from Psychology Today, I’ve identified the four stages of Pandemic Home Ownership:
- Enthusiastic Improvement and Project Management
- Netflix and Momentum-Sucking Inertia
- Should We Move?
- Unbridled Holiday Décor
My husband and I noticed that quite a few of our friends and neighbors reached Stage 3 by August. It was an epidemic of moving! Goodbye, longtime family house filled with memories. Hello, Easy Upkeep Empty Nest. And the tales they told in texts and distanced goodbye parties of multiple offers and bids over the asking! These unburdened sellers were like cult leaders trying to draw us into the real estate market by highlighting all the family-friendly features of our home that today’s buyers would love. (Like that outdoor entertaining space that we’d spruced up in April before we realized we wouldn’t be doing any outdoor entertaining in Summer 2020.) I’ll admit, it was tempting. Why fixate on refinishing the floors when you can just move?
But we have a house full of rebounded twenty-somethings and a large dog. All of us need a place to live and work, and the dog needs to bark. So a one-bedroom condo with a loft won’t cut it for us. We abandoned our flirtation with Stage 3 and moved right into Stage 4.
That’s right, Unbridled Holiday Décor. My strategy will be to cover the place with seasonal decoration to hide the flaws, fight the boredom, and amuse the neighbors. There will be gourds. There will be mums. There will be ropes of artificial bittersweet. I have pottery squirrels and large acorns, and thanks to my late mother’s affection for T.J. Maxx, so many cornucopias I could open a cornucopia pop-up shop. And I’m rolling right from Fall Foliage to Pilgrim’s Pride to Happy Holidaze. All the decorations are coming up from their neatly labeled storage bins in the basement, because if not now, when?
No really, when? Because we’ll probably move or lose our minds by Holiday 2021.
I hope other homeowners join me. Let’s make these holidays extra, as the kids say. Show me your giant pumpkins and bales of hay at Thanksgiving. I want inflatables galore by early December. If you’re thinking about putting a life-sized sleigh and reindeer on the roof, do it. Order that menorah for the front lawn and make it glow. This holiday season, there is no such thing as too many Christmas lights. We’re all home for the holidays this year, whether we like it or not, so let’s make them shine.