The secret garden

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I read something that David Sedaris wrote recently (ahhh the power of Google, here it is).  I’m a fan of his, but I have yet to read any of his books, only listening to his stories on This American Life. I must really get around to reading his books.

Anyway, I digress (as usual).

In this essay, Sedaris recalls having a friend take him on a tour of Australia, outside of Melbourne.

Pat was driving, and as we passed the turnoff for a shopping center she invited us to picture a four-burner stove.

“Gas or electric?” Hugh asked, and she said that it didn’t matter.

This was not a real stove but a symbolic one, used to prove a point at a management seminar she’d once attended. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

Pat has her own business, a good one that’s allowing her to retire at fifty-five. She owns three houses, and two cars, but, even without the stuff, she seems like a genuinely happy person. And that alone constitutes success.

I asked which two burners she had cut off, and she said that the first to go had been family. After that, she switched off her health. “How about you?”

I thought for a moment, and said that I’d cut off my friends. “It’s nothing to be proud of, but after meeting Hugh I quit making an effort.”

“And what else?” she asked.

“Health, I guess.”

Hugh’s answer was work.


“Just work,” he said. (- quoted from the article, linked to above, lest anyone think I am stealing his good words)

I think she’s wrong, actually.  She forgot a burner.  Your home.  Your home can be another burner.

So I’m attempting to keep most of the other burners lit, and they’re flickering, but the home burner is pretty damn dead.  It’s cut off, for sure.

We think we want to move. To move we need to get the house ready to put it on the market. To put it on the market we need time and money. We have saved the money but have no time with various life responsibilities, mainly being those two small children that live with us.

It’s filthy. It’s got dirt that’s been around much longer than we’ve lived here. It’s got our junk. It’s got renovation needs that we are not even going to attempt to attend do. What’s the point? Someone else will eventually move in and put their own mark on the place.

It seems insurmountable at times.  But we’ll get there eventually.  It’s seemingly harder for us to get moving as we only have a self-imposed deadline, rather than an external pressure.

The only part of this house that I feel I could show to anyone right now, pathetically, is a powder room by the side door. The least used bathroom on the main floor.  The room where the previous owners actually did some updating.  Okay, they put some nasty tiles on the floor (that inexplicably make the floor look wet when it isn’t  – whaaaaa?!) but besides that?


I like this room.  I’ve added a nice towel, the wall decals, and I keep it clean.  It’s like a little tiny peek at what pride of ownership could be like for us.  And I want to get there. To have the whole house, whatever house we live in, there.

One day.

7 Responses to “The secret garden”

  1. Lady Mama Says:

    The powder room is very nice! I hate housework too, and there are parts of my house that I probably have never cleaned since we moved here. I’m not one of those people that moves to fridge to clean underneath it. That would be the burner I would drop too – I feel like there are better things in life.

    You will get there – it just feels like a ton of work when you get started.

  2. I love that decal and that IS an interesting analogy though I’m not sure I agree completely…

    • EWiller Says:

      Yeah, that woman makes my head hurt. I guess I should have elaborated on that too – she’s a major downer! What caught my eye was that it’s another way of saying I can’t keep all the balls up in the air, I’m not juggling quickly enough or well enough, but I always say that – so this was something different.

  3. Aurelia Says:

    Have you talked to a real estate agent? Because they have stagers and they could do this for you.

    Meantime, hire a cleaning lady once or twice to help you get caught up. Think of it as an investment in your house sale. Once it’s clean, you can sort things out room by room and get it together.

    FWIW, no one with small kids ever has a clean organized house. So one room? Awesome….you are doing just great.

    • EWiller Says:

      We’ve looked into cleaners. Couldn’t afford one before. Perhaps now, as I just had a raise plus daycare fees got reduced with Oliver attending school part time. My budget is REALLY tight.

  4. kgirl Says:

    I heard that analogy at a Covey seminar I went to. I thought it was retarded. Anyway, it sounds like maybe your house has never really been your home. Hope you find one that is.

  5. 1001petals Says:

    Well if it’s any consolation, I stay at home and spend hours everyday cleaning, and still, it looks like a disaster a lot of the time. Never is the entire place clean all at once. AND I live in a condo so there isn’t even that much to maintain!

    It is tough. I second the recommendation to hire some help if you can. Just even for some basic tasks so you don’t have to pay a whole lot.

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