This Old House

When I think of old houses or antiques, I’m reminded of the Japanese philosophy called wabi-sabi.  Loosely translated, it’s the art of finding beauty in imperfection, revering authenticity above all. It celebrates cracks and scratches and all other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. A good lesson in appreciating old houses, and…life in general.

Some of the things that I love best about old houses are the creaky, uneven floors, the lack of right angles, wavy glass windows, hand-planed woodwork, and hints of the lives of those who lived there long ago.  It’s this character, charm, and history that attracted me to the idea of restoring a 200-hundred-year-old house that’s been in my family for over 100 years—my family’s ancestral home or homeplace.  I relish the sense of continuity; I literally follow in the footsteps of my ancestors as I walk through this house and around the farm.

As one can imagine, caring for and maintaining this home is of the utmost importance to me.  So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the other thing I love as much as an old house is a well-appointed, everything in its place, clean house.  I know that it’s mainly because I’m wired this way.  However, the other view is that restoring my family’s homeplace was a significant effort and expense, and I value and want to take care of it.  So, messy, unclean rooms, scratches on the floors, and dings on the walls tend to bother me.

This is the issue:  I appreciate a clean, well-maintained, old house, and I also really enjoy spending time with my beloved pets. My cat, Clementine and dogs, Dash and Bizou inhabit this house daily, along with their sometimes dirty feet, shedding fur, and little messes.  There is also the occasional scratch on the floor. This is because Dash and Bizou like to race into the den at top speed every evening. There is also Clementine, who sometimes startles at the sound of a rustling grocery bag and takes off in a full sprint across the hardwood floors. Anyway, our house has taken on some imperfections over the years. This really bothered me at first; I’d find myself on hands and knees, kneeling on the floor, trying to buff-out a scratch with burnishing cream furniture polish or going into overdrive cleaning everything. However, after a while, I started to make myself crazy.  I thought….something’s gotta give.

In struggling with this dilemma, I remembered a comment that a guest once made about the house.  She said, “This house looks like a museum.  Does anyone really live here?”  At first, I took it as a compliment that I’d succeeded in restoring this old home with family memorabilia, and that I’d taken care to make it attractive and keep it in good condition.  However, the more I thought about it, I realized that what she’d said wasn’t really a compliment.  The more I reflected on her comment, the more I didn’t like what my house was saying about me.

Perfection is an illusion…and, it’s exhausting!  Furthermore, the problem lies in never being content with the state of things or enjoying the moment. I decided that I wouldn’t waste time fretting over imperfect floors or stringent levels of cleanliness anymore. No. I didn’t want my house to say that perfection was my priority. Instead, I decided to accept those tiny imperfections and spend more time focusing on the many sources of beauty and joy in my day.

We do live in this house now, and so does Clementine, Bizou, and Dash.  I still appreciate a tidy, well-maintained home, but I won’t spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning it anymore. As for those scratches on the floor…they really don’t bother me; They are evidence that we share this home with those whom we love.

Here’s the thing:  All of those little imperfections—well, they are OUR contribution to the character and charm of this house.  And, what I’ve come to realize is that this “old house” is also a metaphor for life. Because we all know…life isn’t perfect. The point of wabi-sabi, or finding the beauty in imperfection is really about grace. Being able to live in a place, both physically and spiritually, where we accept and embrace life—scratches and all.

 

Here’s wishing you a beautiful beginning to your NEW YEAR! 

All the best!

 

*Photos of Bizou and Dash are courtesy of Alison Creasy Photography

23 Comments »

  1. What a perfect metaphor for accepting ourselves. How often we are our own worst critic. We accept others but fail to accept ourselves. As I look ahead in 2020 I will try to improve, but also accept my imperfections are part of being me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No matter how new or old, a house is only a home when people actually live there. I’ve been in houses that were so picture-perfect I was afraid to even sit down, for fear I might accidentally move something a quarter-inch in one direction or another. I’ve also been in houses that were so disgusting I was afraid to sit down, for fear of catching something. A home should be somewhere in the middle. The worst insult I ever received was when an invited guest entered my home and asked if it was ok to sit on the couch. Sure, it was a new couch, but really? Did I inadvertently give off that vibe that my house was a showplace instead of a home? Sounds like you’ve managed to keep the charm of the old homestead while also enjoying the life there – and enjoying your pets. That’s the way it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed This immensely. As we age , we accept imperfection in so many ways , and it makes us enjoy life more. One reaches a perfect imperfect balance!
    So glad you found it!
    Happy New Year!
    Kaky

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great blog! I possess the “clean and tidy” gene too. Living with 2 teenagers who aren’t sure how to open the dishwasher door, aren’t bothered by clothes on the floor, and aren’t sure how to toss empty boxes from the pantry is sometimes a test on patience. Than you for the enlightenment of wabi-sabi.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a beautiful place. Glad you took the time to bring it back to life. I’ve always felt old homes should show some of that wear and tear of the families that have spent time there. Within reason of course And be full of cool old stuff too! Sounds like you’ve found a good balance.

    Liked by 1 person

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