January 13, 2020
Last week, as we looked back at our first six months of 2019, we talked about inspiration, love, archaeology, blended families, household stationery, and homegrown flowers. Let’s see where our journey through the year’s second half has led.
In JULY, while on a business trip, I slept on a mattress that changed my life. I woke up and felt the oddest sensation. My lower back, which, when I get up, usually feels like someone poured concrete down my spine and it hardened overnight, felt as loose as a licorice rope. I must have slept funny, I thought. But the second night, it happened again.
This hotel stay prompted two actions: A quest for this mattress (a Sealy Posturepedic Plush Euro Pillowtop custom made for Fairmont Hotel), and a four-part series about the squishy mattress business, which is long on marketing and short on science. Because mattresses are an important and expensive household purchase, I went under the covers to interview makers and sellers, sleep industry experts and spine doctors to separate hype from fact.
Lesson: While a mattress will neither cause nor cure a back problem, for many who routinely wake up with garden-variety, low-back stiffness, a better mattress can help. Almost any new mattress – and experts recommend replacing yours every 10 years — is an improvement over any old mattress. Replacing my old mattress did make an appreciable difference. You cannot know how a mattress is going to work by lying on it for five minutes in a showroom. You need to sleep on it.
In AUGUST, I looked up from the kitchen table and saw a fresh brown water stain about the size of a saucer on the ceiling, forming a dark cloud of doom overhead. A series of calls and inspections determined the worst: We needed to replace our 17-year-old asphalt-shingle roof. Insurance wouldn’t cover it, and I would be eating Top Ramen for the rest of my life. What’s more, I didn’t even get to enjoy whatever gratification a new roof color might have provided. After considering a gamut of asphalt-shingle colors, and talking to an architect, I chose a medium-gray shingle as close to the existing roof color as I could get. This is the definition of being an adult.
Lesson: Roofs should whisper, not shout. Your roof should not be the first feature folks notice, which is why mid tones are most popular. It’s okay to be gray.
In SEPTEMBER, I revealed one simple daily habit that studies show can make you happier, more successful, better at budgeting, and more likely to exercise. Making your bed. “Bed makers are more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested,” wrote Judy Dutton in Psychology Today, “whereas more non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired. Overall, bed makers are happier and more successful.”
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says, “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” It’s a “keystone habit” that kickstarts a pattern of other good behaviors.
Lesson: Just do it.
In OCTOBER, after my daughter and her long-term boyfriend joined the millions worldwide who had become part-time innkeepers, and began renting out their guestroom on Airbnb, I looked into the brave new world that plants perfect strangers in other people’s homes for the night. Ten years ago, the idea of spending the night in a stranger’s home, or, for that matter, getting into a stranger’s car, seemed not only absurd but downright dangerous. Yet here we are in the digital age of Uber and Airbnb trading trust for savings and convenience.
Lesson: Turning an extra bedroom into extra income can be a capital idea. If you have a room sitting empty most days a year, why not? But proceed with caution. Check to make sure your community allows it, your neighbors are cool with it, and you’re up to the task of keeping your home super clean. Then vet your guests, set house boundaries, and keep it legal.
In NOVEMBER, I paid homage to a common household workhorse that I’d taken for granted all my life: The humble basket. A form of functional art that started pretty much as soon as people became people, and as long as grasses and reeds have grown alongside folks needing to gather stuff up, we’ve had baskets. Weavers have rustled cattails, wheat, prairie grass, palm branches, water hyacinth, seagrass, and jicama root to fashion into everything from bassinettes and bowls to bins and birdcages. Like the wheel, baskets are hard to improve on. They just work.
Lesson: Practice basket appreciation. Many are beautiful, functional, textural, sculptural, versatile, historical, and deserving of a place of honor in your home.
In DECEMBER, we talked about the blended Christmas tree, a common point of contention for new couples. (One partner wants colored lights; the other wants white.) Blending belongings is plenty challenging when two households become one, but blending holiday décor can be the topper on the tree. (She wants the angel. He wants the star.) When holiday visions collide, joy can flee like smoke up the chimney.
Lesson: Blending takes bending. Whether decorating a first home together, or a first tree, you can’t simply roll everything you both own together and expect it to work out. Instead, create a unified vision, and let go – both of you – of half of the past. Bring the best of you both forward, to make room for your future.
For all of you, my hope is that 2020 is full of inspiration, love, success, made beds and beautiful blends.
CAPTION: A Tisket a Tasket – Well-made baskets are unsung heroes that can easily go from room to room and work like pieces of furniture. Use them for items you need to corral or hide: firewood, toiletries, remote controls, toilet paper, mail, towels, laundry, shoes, socks and umbrellas. Photo courtesy of Mainly Baskets.