Everything in Its Place

Unpacking two households after moving in with Mom

Words by Alicia Woodward

In what seems like a Jane Austen novel or a 90s sitcom, depending on the moment, my husband and I now live in the same house as my 82-year-old mother in the small town where we grew up. Deciding to move back to our hometown to care for Mom was easy. More difficult was the logistical issue of combining two very different households into one.

Imagine moving the contents of an average home and multiply that by two. For someone who values simplicity and order, as I do, it was almost too much. For a month before the move, my fitful dreams were filled with visions of multiple toasters, sofas, blenders, ironing boards, pianos, and hangers . . . so many unmatched hangers!

I made the executive decision to pack up everything from both houses and, in one fell swoop, move it all to the new house on closing day. From there, we would choose what to keep and what to donate. Since Mike and I lean toward minimalism, our mostly functional possessions took up substantially less space than my mother’s.

As box after box was unpacked, each item met its fate. What Mom lacks in simplicity, she makes up for in good taste. In nearly every case, her things trumped ours. Our bed, books, photographs, and collection of heart-shaped rocks were just about the only things that made the cut.

Once we pared down, it was time to put things away. My mantra has always been “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Houses have a way of telling their owners where things naturally belong. Pots and pans go near the stove. Hats and gloves go near the front door. Once you find a perfect home for something, that’s where it lives unless it’s in use.

Within a couple of days after moving, I took Mike and Mom on a walking tour of our house. As I opened every cabinet, closet, and drawer, I proudly waved my hand and said, “Dish towels go here, wine glasses go here, cleaning supplies go here, snacks go here, office supplies go here . . .” Their eyes glazed over after the wine glasses, but they graciously humored me.

Much like my mom, the new house is more elegant than the contemporary cabin where we used to reside. Her Royal Doulton and Hummel figurines look beautiful on the living room book case. My grandmother’s china cabinet and sparkling crystal are perfect in the traditional dining room. Most importantly, I know it all makes Mom feel happy and at home.

One evening, a week after moving into our new house, the three of us prepared for dinner as if we'd lived there for years. Mike cooked in the kitchen with ease. Mom gathered placemats and silverware to set the table. I pulled plates and glasses from their rightful spots.

We sat at the dining room table in our usual places. Mike was on one side of me, and Mom was on the other. We clinked our glasses in a toast. I looked around our new home and had no doubt everything and everyone was in exactly the right place.

Alicia Woodward

Alicia is a retired teacher, an empty-nester, and a writer. She is an optimist who tries to keep life as simple and joyful as possible. She has degrees in journalism and secondary English education and taught middle school literature and language arts for 28 years. Along the way, she worked at several newspapers as a copywriter, reporter, and columnist. She co-authored the book Lessons in Loveliness with a dear co-worker with whom she wrote a blog by the same name. She and her husband, Mike, live a simple life on a quiet lake in Brown County, Indiana. They have four grown children and a six-year-old grandson. When they aren’t enjoying family or nature, Mike is cooking something spicy while Alicia is writing something cheery.

Website
thesimpleswan.com
Twitter
@simpleswan1

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