What’s the first thing you do when you move to a new home? Besides turning the key and setting down your bag and opening the windows? How do you make your very first mark on a place?
For me, it’s often swapping the light bulbs. They’re nearly always mismatched or broken or otherwise all wrong. Technically the responsibility of the landlord to keep up, I’ve found choices in bulbs to be rather personal and I’ll happily take over the responsibility if it means I get to pick. Then what? Lately, I’ve been thinking about the order of operations. What do I do first? What do I leave well enough alone? What do I intend to address but time or resources or the general will to tackle it leaves it never started?
Some of you might recall that earlier this year I swapped our old office door for this even older one. It was such a triumph for me—free, if time consuming, and a big improvement over the hollow-core door that was there before. What’s less obvious from most pictures is that the interior of the door and its trim is still currently two shades of white. I stopped painting this side of the door after just a few strokes and never decided on a color to finish it with. On the wall next to the door remains the bicentennial-era light switch cover that I first shared photos of last fall, and here we are a year later, with the eagle still lording over us and no replacement found. Next to that is an old hanger hook that we can call a valet if we’re feeling fancy. I’ve been meaning to remove it altogether but a few weeks ago Rose was over and she convinced me, maybe, not to.
In the past year I’ve tackled a hundred little projects in this apartment and there are easily three hundred still to do. Sometimes I look around and I can’t find a rhyme or reason for what I’ve done and what I haven’t. I was never very good at math, but it’s occurring to me that maybe, for this type of slow and simple stewardship, the order of operations is really besides the point.
Last week I tacked the enamel sign with tape covered edges to the back of our office door. “What good shall I do this day?” is an encouraging enough query from Benjamin Franklin and I’ve hung this little sign in each of our Brooklyn apartments, but as I hammered the sign into the back of the mismatched door and stood beside that busybody eagle, it struck me anew. I’m not interested in overly moralizing apartment progress, but tackling one good—one thing—at a time in this old place does make me generally feel happy and productive and energized, which is better for me than feeling sad or overwhelmed or sluggish, especially as we hit mid-October.
So: “What largely inconsequential but still generally satisfying household task shall I do this day?” Maybe I’ll paint the door. You?
PS. Yesterday a reader sent me this Tiktok, which made me snort and sigh.