Living in a hotel

living room

I went to college in the nineties when “Grunge” was the height of fashion. Epitomized by baggie jeans and oversized plaid shirts, these items made it appear you were wearing someone else’s clothes, which often you were–thrifting was a mainstay of this style. Apparently many of these “looks” are back, though I have not seen as much of the actual grunge that gave Grunge its name.

It’s not that we were actually dirty (although sometimes we were) it was that these clothes ostensibly could not be bought, rather must be earned. Back then you still had to make your own cut-offs, for example. And to the best of my memory, it was not possible to purchase new jeans with factory-made holes. The one place I do remember buying this type of clothing new–Ragstock–smelled pretty weird, and well, dirty.

Eventually, I started wearing pants that stayed up without a giant belt, but I still bought most of my clothes at thrift stores, and the DIY ethos stayed with me too. Perhaps that’s why the shift to ranch hand wasn’t as difficult as it might have been. Or maybe it was some kind of ancestral memory that allowed me to lean into a lifestyle that featured a lot more literal dirt than city life usually includes. That’s also why moving into a century-old ranch house built and then owned by several generations of the same family (and thus filled with several generations worth of their memorabilia and knickknacks) was a good fit as well. Nothing in the house was new, in fact almost everything had seen better days, and that was just the way I liked it.

If you are a regular reader of this column then you know that we recently moved out of the ranch house into a new house just a few miles away. A new house that isn’t just new to us, but is actually new. (Well, 2.5 years old, but that’s pretty new for a house.)

I have never lived in a building that was less than 50 years old, so it’s been quite a shock to the system. It’s also smaller than our ranch house, which was itself a very small house by modern standards, and has required a downsizing of our personal possessions. We’ve unprecedentedly, and unexpectedly, become minimalists. Every morning I do a quick wipe down of the table and countertops, clear away a few dishes, and maybe sweep, and then the house is CLEAN. I am suddenly, with very little effort, a good housekeeper.

The final shock to the system is the new house’s decor. The interior is mostly white with gray carpet, gray faux wood floors, and bold gray accent walls. The appliances are stainless steel. The bathrooms (there are two!) have mirrors that light up on the inside. Getting out of bed is not unlike waking up in the executive suite of a Courtyard by Marriott, or some similarly well-maintained and efficiently appointed hotel.

My daughter has already spilled tea on the gray carpet leaving a surprisingly dark stain. Someone else was doing an art project and then touched a wall with ink-stained fingers. Dogs and kids regularly use the narrow hallway that runs the length of the house as a race track, galloping at full speed along the aforementioned faux wood floors that clearly were not manufactured for that level of wear. In other words, it’s not going to feel like a Marriott for much longer, and I can’t tell if I am happy or sad about that fact.

Our living situations don’t define us, but they do influence us. Maybe I was born a person who is more comfortable with manure and a subtle layer of grime than most, or maybe I’ve been secretly harboring a prim, tidy person inside all along. I am now in a position to find out the answer to that question! But either way, it is a relief to go back to the ranch and find the wind, the grass, the animals unchanged, providing the comfort of timeless things.


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