I’ve got things to do

When I don’t have any particular plans on a weekday night, I like to spend a portion of the day figuring out what I’m going to do with my time. Making a mental list of what I’m going to do after work helps me avoid getting on the computer or sitting in front of the TV all evening: if I tell myself, “Tonight when I get home I’m going to put my laundry away and sweep the patio,” I’m much more likely to do those things. I’ve found I can be the most productive when I pick just a few chores and intersperse them with more interesting things. No matter how many times I say, “Tonight when I get home I’m going to clean my whole apartment,” I’m probably not going to do it; it’s too big a task and it sets me up for failure.

Last Thursday I didn’t have any plans, and I’d bought an old teak bar cart and some sandpaper on my way home from work. I decided that I would unload the dishwasher and pay the electric bill, and then sand and oil the bar cart while watching “Lost.” When I got home, a friend called and asked me if I wanted to take a dance class with her that evening. I told her I couldn’t go because I had plans, and then I wondered if sanding and oiling a bar cart while watching TV really counted as plans. Was I really so nerdy and reclusive that refinishing old furniture sounded better than going out?

I know people who go out a lot on weekday nights. Hell, I used to go out a lot on weekday nights. But I’m slowly realizing that it’s all right if I’d rather stay in; just because other people want to go out every night doesn’t mean I have to want that, too. I like sanding teak and I like watching “Lost,” and it’s okay for those things to count as plans.

Here are my plans for tonight:

  1. Go to the farmers’ market.
  2. Go to Room Service and maybe Uptown Modern or Home Girls to look for a coffee table (the bar cart, though beautifully sanded and oiled, is likely too tall to be a coffee table). Uptown Modern will probably try to murder me in the wallet, though.
  3. Unload the dishwasher and vacuum the carpet.
  4. Use the iTunes gift card I got for my birthday.
  5. Finish sewing cloth napkins while watching a PBS documentary.
  6. If there’s time, finish writing my ultra-bitchy post about Iron Man.

Goodwill to my fellow residents

Sometimes when I take a big pile of stuff to Goodwill, I worry about what’s going to happen to it. I don’t worry in a warm-fuzzies sort of way, like “I hope my things find good homes!” or anything. I worry in a “I hope Goodwill won’t throw this stuff out” sort of way. Whenever I shop at Goodwill, I always marvel at the amount of absolute junk there is. They can’t possibly sell all this stuff, can they? People drop things off every day, and sometimes it looks to me like the amount of stuff people drop off is larger than the amount of stuff people actually buy. What do they do with the stuff people dropped off because they didn’t want it but none of the shoppers want it either? I give my stuff to Goodwill because I don’t likeĀ  throwing it out, and the idea of Goodwill throwing it out instead isn’t much better.

Lately I’ve been giving my apartment an overhaul. I’m gradually replacing my old (inherited, scavenged, particleboard) furniture with some vintage pieces that are more durable and suit my tastes a bit better. I bought a sofa to replace my futon, a credenza to replace my (I use the term loosely) entertainment unit, and a pair of end tables and an ottoman to replace my coffee table. My coffee table was too big for my living room and it didn’t match anymore, but it’s still perfectly good, so I stored it away in a closet for potential future use. I didn’t want my futon or entertainment unit anymore, but since neither of those things would fit in my car, I couldn’t take them to Goodwill by myself.

At my apartment complex, a lot of people put their discarded furniture next to the dumpsters to be hauled away. The discarded furniture sometimes stays there until trash day, but other times it’s gone fairly quickly because someone saw it by the dumpster and decided they wanted it.* When my new old sofa was delivered, I put my futon outside next to the dumpster. I had to carry the frame and mattress out separately (they’re heavy), but I made sure to set the frame back up and put the mattress back on it, to make it look as attractive as possible for potential takers. I left my futon outside at 9 p.m., and it was gone by seven the next morning. When I put my entertainment unit out by the dumpster, it too was gone within hours.

I’m happy about this for several reasons. It makes me feel good that other people think my stuff is worthy of owning. It entertains me to think that a nearby apartment now looks a little like mine used to. But most of all I’m really glad to know that neither Goodwill nor I had to throw my stuff away. I know that I won’t be able to do this with everything I want to get rid of (some things are impossible to display enticingly next to a dumpster), but it makes me feel good to know that at least those two pieces of furniture aren’t going to waste.

* In my apartment in Houston, I was able to make shelves in two of my closets using bookcases and magazine racks I found by the dumpster.

couched in awesomeness

I’m a late (or non-) bloomer when it comes to a lot of financial things: I’ve never purchased a car or a house, I don’t have a credit card, and I’ve never taken out a loan for anything. The good thing about this is that I don’t owe money to any individual or financial institution. I have no house payment or car payment or credit card payment, which is pretty nice. The bad thing about this is that I don’t have much in the way of good credit, so in the event that I do need to buy a house or car, it’s going to be difficult. And sometimes it’s hard to hear my friends talk about looking for houses or buying new cars and not be able to relate.

For the most part, though, I’m comfortable with my lo-fi lifestyle, with its 30-year-old bed*, its 12-year-old car, its hand-me-down furniture and electronics. The lo-fi life has freed up a lot of my money, and since I’m prone to unnecessary and debilitating worry, it’s freed up a lot of my brain power, too. It took me quite awhile to let go of the notion that owning things is what makes one an adult**, but once I did, I decided that I’m okay not being a homeowner or new car driver right now.

Or at least I was comfortable with my lo-fi lifestyle. Recently I started to become uncomfortable, particularly in my lower back, particularly while sitting or laying on the futon in my living room. I tried to make the futon more comfortable using carefully-placed throw pillows and folded blankets, but it didn’t really work. Then I thought maybe I could sew up some good pillows to help support my lower back while I sat in my living room and read a book or wrote or watched my Buffy DVDs. Neither of the two pillows I made did the job, though. I thought I was going to be stuck with my back-killing futon forever until I realized, hey! I get a steady paycheck now! I can afford to buy a couch!

Yesterday I made my most expensive furniture purchase ever, by a very large margin.*** I went to Room Service Vintage intending to buy a sofa, and walked out with an olive-green velvet couch, a blue vinyl rocking chair, and a set of two matching end tables. It’s all from the seventies, because I like things that were made in the seventies. I was made in the seventies!

my insane new vintage sofa

I realize that the color of the sofa is a bit lurid, in the burns-your-eyes-out sense. But when it comes to decorating my apartment, I’m a little like the overweight kid in school who makes fun of his own weight before anyone else can. If I make my apartment look as ridiculous as possible on purpose, I don’t have to feel bad about the fact that nothing really goes with anything else, and everything looks weird. “I like how nothing matches!” I can tell my friends. “It’s all got sentimental value!” To that end, my next step will be to hang this on my wall.

* This always requires some explanation. My parents bought it to use as a guest bed, then my sister slept on it for a few years when she was really little, then it was a guest bed again for a long time, then it became mine when I moved into my first apartment. It was in fantastic condition when I got it, and it’s still super comfortable, so I see no reason to replace it for now. It was made in the seventies!

** I believe one could argue that while ownership isn’t what makes one an adult, the financial responsibility necessary to effect said ownership is part of what makes one an adult. But, uh, I don’t really want to talk about that.

*** Which isn’t actually saying much, since my most expensive furniture purchase before yesterday was about seventy-five dollars.