Reflecting Upon Home Renovation

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
? Chuck PalahniukFight Club

If I had to make a list of ‘Quotes That Changed My Life’, this one would be among the top positions. My mom is a homemaker who can’t stand any untidiness I avoided going near our rug in the living room because she would comb the rug fringes to make it perfectly aligned again. She spent so much time making our home clean and comfortable, but ironically, sometimes to the level that I couldn’t live that comfortably. I love my mother, there’s no doubt about that, but I promised myself that if I ever had a house, I will not let it ‘own’ me; my time; my energy; my relationship with the other family members. I kept repeating the reminder from ‘Fight Club’ and I got careful about being owned by my furniture.

Fast forward to me being a fully responsible adult in my 30s today, of course, I betrayed myself. Of course, I’m (at least mildly) being owned by my house and the furniture. Just like any other relationship, having a house means attachment, commitment, and sometimes, disappointment. You just have to protect and take care of each other.

Including mitigating the termite attack. *inhale-blamingitallinMercuryretrograde-exhale*

So yeah. In 2022 and the first weeks of 2023, there went our months, millions, and whatever unit you want to use to measure well-being: home renovation. The largest portion went to the ceiling because the wooden joists and beams were mostly damaged by the termites. Tsk, Classic Bekasi.

And yes. Reconstructing the ceilings basically meant moving E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G from sofas to books, from the giant mirror to little trinkets bought from Chinatown all around the world. When we realized this, we decided to go ahead with some plans we postponed: splitting our working area upstairs, turning half of them into a bedroom for Isa, and turning an unused bedroom into our working space downstairs. We thought, “Okay, let’s go all in.” And ‘all in’ meant all things were out like this. *inhale-blamingitallinSaturnretrograde-exhale*

Amidst the chaos, this renovation gave me a chance to reflect on some things.

First, I came to realize that this felt like detoxification. Not only for the house but also for us. We did multiple rounds of decluttering everything; those reusable bags we only used once, those tumblers we received in the name of saving the environment, those books we bought but haven’t read, those educational toys for babies that no longer worked, the expired warranty cards, the unrecognizable cables, the unrecognizable pieces of furniture and everything else we kept just-in-case. This process was rather painful, just like detoxification usually is. What made it painful was probably the decision fatigue. Should I donate it? To whom? Should I keep it? Where? Will I ever use it? Wait, what is it again? Repeat.

And why exactly were all these things exhausting? Because we all are scared to let things go, especially if it is us to decide. What if we make a bad decision? What if one day we need the box and manual instruction of a portable charger that we bought 5 years ago? What if one day we need to use those extra 7 rubber erasers?

But then, there was another Fight Club wisdom:

“Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.”
? Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Second, this renovation pushed us to think more seriously about the future. Should we demolish a bedroom to have a permanent working area at home? (So far, yes.) How large should our son’s room be? (We decided to leave an area as big as his room open, just in case we have another child.) Guess what, the future has never been that far.

The last I could think of for now: this renovation got me to understand myself better. At least it confirmed some things. For example, all those gifts and pieces of hampers I couldn’t let go kind of assured me that my ‘love language’ tendency is giving & receiving gifts. When I thought about why was it so hard for me to let go of some gifts despite knowing that they will be more useful for others, I noticed that I often associated them with the love that was given to me, and letting them go felt like throwing the love away. The other thing that I got conscious of was my conscientiousness. This trait got reorganizing a big mass of things from scratch overwhelming. Indeed, it took me several days to put our books back on shelves.

What a time for gaining self-awareness, huh?


Now things are back to normal. Just like after detoxification, our house seems to be fresher and less cluttered. And I think I am too. I got to let go of things I should have been but hadn’t. I got some clarity about the future plans. I got to know myself (a bit) better. I got to know my house again; was reminded where the shoe polish, spare batteries, and hammers are located (Marie Kondo-san, this is your second hint!)

Now things are back to normal, I’m hoping to establish my not-so-new routines again! Wish me luck and, bismillah!

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