We have a ridiculous amount of mismatched furniture. The problem is, no matter how we arrange it, it still looks like mismatched furniture. Occasionally, I’ll find myself sitting on the stairs or standing in a doorway trying to envision a room that is calming rather than chaotic.
Much our furniture is pre-owned, which is to say they’re hand-me-downs. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we had kids before we had any money, so over the years, whenever anyone said, “We’re getting a new couch,” and asked us if we wanted the old one, we said yes. Second, my parents are perpetually saying, “We’re getting a new couch.”
On New Year’s Eve, we ended up hosting an impromptu party. Instead of grabbing food and sitting on the sectional by the television on the other side of our family room, people clustered near the food on the mostly unfurnished side, squeezing into a love seat and a chair and sitting on the floor. I’m an intensely casual hostess, but it seemed wrong that people didn’t even have comfortable seating. I realized that we had a full-sized couch in the adjacent, unheated sun room, so I ran out there and started shoving the couch into the family room.
My husband called, “Hon? What are you doing out there?” (which is code for, “Why is that fucking door open? It’s cold!”). I yelled that I was moving a couch so people didn’t have to sit on the floor (which is code for, “I’m moving a couch so people don’t have to sit on the floor, so don’t give me grief about the fucking door!”). Peer pressure being what it is, all the men simultaneously hopped up, shooed me away, and moved the couch into the family room. It looked stupid jutting out in the middle of the room, but people no longer had to sit on the floor, so my mission was accomplished.
After everyone left, my husband and I tidied up, but it was late and we were tired, so we left the couch where it was. Two days later, it began to bug me, but instead of just returning the couch to the sun room, I decided that there had to be a better configuration.
I am not good at visualizing things, so I no longer waste time trying to figure it out on paper. I just start shoving things around. This is no easy task. When you’re 5’2” you really have to put your whole body weight into moving couches and other large pieces of furniture.
I don’t measure conventionally, either. I use the “put one foot directly in front of the other and count how many ‘feet’ something is” method. Usually this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I do a lot of shoving.
My first combination was terrible. I tried switching the couch with the love seat, but the proportions were wrong. I thought that the bookcase, which is 2′ high, 9 “feet” long, and enormously heavy, should go on a different wall, but my first shove resulted in a cracking sound. Since I was too lazy to remove and then replace all the books, it stayed right where it was.
My second and third combinations didn’t work either, so I involved the television end of the family room in the swap, too.
In the middle of all this, my daughter came downstairs to listen to her iPod and dance around and was delighted to find that not a single piece of furniture (except the bookcase, of course) was where it had begun. Her overjoyed, “Whoa! What’re you doing?” attracted the attention of my husband who, although not overjoyed, was at least interested in participating in the shuffle.
First we had to discuss the arrangements I’d already tried.
“Nope. Looked terrible.”
“Oh. Well, what about…?”
Then, we had to kick out my daughter and her originally entertaining but eventually annoying combination of questions and narration:
“Why is the couch over there? That looks weird. Mom, doesn’t that look weird? Daddy, Mommy thinks that looks weird. Can we do my room next? Uh oh, that didn’t fit. Don’t hurt yourself, Mom. Ooooh. That looked like it hurt. Hey, the chair is by the fireplace again. It looked better before. Is dinner going to be ready soon? Did you even start cooking, yet? What? No! No! I’ll stop talking! Really! No, really! Pleeeeeease? You guys are so unfair!”
We finally settled on an arrangement that was embarrassingly close to the original. The television and big chair traded places on one side. On the other side, the love seat was demoted to the sun room in favor of the long couch. That’s it. We moved furniture and delayed dinner for over an hour to switch two minor things.
It was a fitting end for a saga that began on New Year’s Eve, a time when people examine their lives, try to make sense of the chaos, and then make plans to change themselves. Gyms and closet organizing companies make a fortune during the first week of the year, when people shell out big bucks for memberships and organizational systems that they believe will help them rearrange their lives. In the end, though, when the next New Year’s Eve rolls around, most people’s lives are still embarrassingly close to what they had been before. We are who we are, and no amount of pushing and shoving, whether we’re talking weights, the contents of our closets, or even couches, can fundamentally change that.