I live in a messy house. Not, like, hoarder messy, but clothes on the floor, unmade bed, craft stuff all over the living room, I could stand to do the dishes more often messy. I feel a little weird admitting this, because I’m sure some pop-psych frauds would love to theorize that my house is messy because two fat people live in it, and we are lazy and can’t take care of ourselves or our surroundings. In fact, the house is messy for several reasons, none of which are that we’re too busy shoveling donuts in our faces. One, I tend to spend so much time fretting about the state of the house that I have no time left for cleaning. Two, we both have other things that take priority. Three, I’m kind of lazy (I didn’t say the theoretical therapist was all wrong).
But the most important reason is this: I love my house, but I don’t expect to be there long. My boyfriend is finishing his doctorate, so at some point soon we’ll be clearing out for somewhere that he can do a postdoc. This means that, aside from the amazing-looking chunk of hollow tree trunk that I desperately want to go steal from the park even though it weighs 600 pounds, we try very hard not to acquire bulky possessions. For people like us, who have a lot of projects and no great facility for organization, the secret to basic neatness is to find all the places where stuff accumulates, and stick a container under them. But this requires a trip to IKEA to buy heavy, space-consuming shelves and bins and whatnot that we’d just have to move in a year, not to mention requiring us to completely overhaul a space we don’t intend to occupy for that much longer. And the more work we put into it, the more likely it is that I’ll get attached, making it difficult to leave — and while there are things about where we live that are perfect (we’re right next to the bike path!), I truly don’t want to stay in this area for the rest of my days, let alone in this house.
It’s not that I’m not excited by the idea of a moderately non-chaotic household, maybe even one with such things as art and decor and matching blankets that actually fit our bed instead of six different twin- and full-size comforters. It’s just that I want to feather a different nest. I know there’s a theory saying that effort you put into your living area is rewarded even if it’s temporary. People who say that kind of thing unpack their clothes in hotel rooms. I am not those people.
I don’t find this attitude particularly troubling, because it’s true — I really am in this house temporarily, and it’s worthwhile to think about the eventual move and plan around it. But I think a lot of people treat their bodies the same way, and that is a problem. It’s part of the Fantasy of Being Thin: “I may be fat now, but when I get my real body, then my life will begin. Then I’ll exercise and dance and dress beautifully and buy myself that fancy shampoo I like.” When I was younger, I even used to fantasize that I’d get sick and lose a bunch of weight, because I couldn’t imagine any other way to transition between my temporary body and my real one. I thought I could get a clean slate if I dropped catastrophic amounts instantly — and after that I’d have do-overs, and I could do things right this time. Meanwhile it didn’t matter what I did. I was just here to go.
But if you’re just marking time in your body until your new, perfect one comes along, through luck or dieting or illness or whatever, then you’re going to be terrifically disappointed — and worse, your metaphorical house is going to be a mess. You may think, “I’ll get those storage bins and put things in order when I make it to the new place.” You may think, “I’ll ditch this furniture and buy new beautiful stuff after the move.” You may not see the point in fixing the dripping faucet or the creaky stairs, or getting regular checks for termites and radon, or grounding the electrical system; surely none of that will matter when you move into your real, permanent home.
Of course you can’t actually break the lease. At some point you need to get over it, take your stuff out of boxes, and hang some art on the walls, because you’re not going anywhere. The metaphor’s getting strained, but here’s my point: You live in this body for good, so don’t treat it like a squat. Maybe it’s not your dream home, but it’s your home, and that will count for more the more love and effort you put into it. The environment you make there is the environment you’ll have to live in, so give it the care it needs and deck it out in your personal style.
You live in this body. Time to decorate.