Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Our teal living room wall and Stupidface

Yesterday we had "Company" for the first time since the move - well, Joseph and my sister had been over, but we know Joseph so well and my sister's my sister so that almost doesn't feel like company - we baked Christmas cookies, or at least started to. I should have kept it to one or two kinds and had the icing pre-made so we could complete an entire batch before people had to go. They all turned out great - some of the sugar cookies burned but we got a decent batch of decorated sugar cookies anyway, a phenomenal batch of gingerbread, some double chocolate candy cane chip, and I will probably make almond jam cookies tonight so we'll have a big Christmas batch.
Updated! Our living room, still lacking curtains.

I figured that after beginning so many posts with faffing about my new apartment, that you all deserved some pictures (especially those who know us personally but who  can't make it over to see due to being thousands of miles away and all). It's not totally done, no curtains yet, not everything is hung up, but the living room is 99% there.

What it made me realize - well, I already knew this, but what made me want to actually post it on my blog  - is that for years I kind of ignored, or willfully refused to acknowledge, how important your living space is in your overall happiness. I thought I was perfectly happy in my old apartment. Don't get me wrong, I was satisfied with life, and generally happy, and I do still miss that neighborhood, which was like a slice of living-outside-Taipei. It felt like a back alley neighborhood in Miaoli, Puli or some other small city. I miss Old Wu and my other obasan friends, and Little Gao will probably forget me.

Brendan, Hui and Sasha decorating Christmas cookies
at our new place
Showing our friends the new place, though, made me realize how much more pleasant, how much plain ol' nicer, life can be if you don't live in a sixth-floor walkup shack on the roof with a tin ceiling and a mouse problem and the worst "insulation" this side of a bunch of concrete blocks topped with metal. The dreary Taipei weather doesn't bother me as much as it used to - I was half convinced I had developed Seasonal Affective Disorder, when really I think it was the poor natural light and drafty everything (unless it was hot, then it was stifling) in the old place. I thought I had developed an inexplicable aversion to housework (beyond most people's usual dislike of it), and kind of explained it away by noting that generally speaking I work more grueling hours than Brendan, which is why I do less around the house. In actuality, I feel like the old place, because it looked a bit dingy no matter how well you cleaned it (especially the kitchen) made me averse to cleaning it, created my aversion. It felt like "why bother? It won't look any nicer". I thought I hated doing dishes for their own sake - no. I hated being in a kitchen that was either too hot, too cold, or leaking. I thought I hated laundry - not really. I hated having to go out into that gross old balcony where we once found a dead rat and hang clothes up. I hated that my clothes never felt any cleaner after being out there. I thought I was lazy because I would avoid trash detail and avoid going out after I'd come home unless I had to, or the event was too exciting to miss.

Vintage postcards in the hall
Now we have an elevator. I can run down for something without having to heave my big white butt up six flights of stairs. When it's cold out, it is somewhat warmer inside. We have to use the heater far less and have been assured that we won't need to air condition the crap out of the place, either.  It's well-seaked without dark corners and random holes, cracks and crumbly bits that tend to let in all manner of unsavory critters. The kitchen is welcoming and looks clean (if a bit crowded with all my cooking supplies) so I don't mind doing dishes. We have a dryer - a dryer! - and I don't mind laundry anymore.  I don't feel constantly too cold or too hot. When I clean, it actually looks clean.  Natural light flows in - if it's sunny you don't even need to turn on the living room lights. I drink more water because we have an in-sink water filter.

All in all it's made me realize that living somewhere nicer has truly improved not just my quality of life, but my general happiness. Quality of life improvement was to be expected, but I didn't think that moving would make me happier in such a fundamental way - because I was happy...but in a "fulfilled life" way, not in a "feel comfortable in my own home" way. Sunlight!  Chores that, when done, actually make your place look better! Furniture that doesn't look sad and decrepit!

And finally a nice place to display this fairly expensive batik door curtain!

And I no longer have to wear a sweater over my sweater just to not be freezing!

I've had fewer headaches,  been generally more upbeat, been more punctual, done more housework voluntarily and with something approaching happy acceptance (not joy - it's still not *fun*), more energetic, and less generally anxious and uncomfortable since we moved.

I had thought that these things were fine - I was punctual, so what if I took more taxis than strictly necessary to maintain that? I was upbeat, being that unusual combination of a cynic with a sunny disposition (it's true) - I didn't realize I could be that way on a deeper level. I did housework, I just thought reviling it was normal and that I was not past the point of a typical dislike. I was wrong. Life is better.

Our home office isn't that exciting, and it's not quite done yet, but I thought you'd all enjoy the Happy Beer.

Best rent increase we ever spent money on!

As one of the friends who came today said, "this is an apartment for a couple. The old one was for a poor guy or a student. This is like a real home."

I really do make tea this way.
I couldn't agree more. I don't know why we didn't do this sooner. All I can say is "priorities". We chose that 9-week trip to Turkey over a move. We chose a wedding over a move. I thought we were OK and a move didn't need to be prioritized. I was wrong.

It does make me feel bad - there are so many out there who can't afford something nicer than where they live, or who don't live anywhere at all. There are people without the means we have whose homes probably do make them less happy, less productive, less healthy - but who don't have the finances to  find something better. We're very lucky. Plenty of people in crappy homes can't make that jump. I don't believe that not having money should condemn one to a crappier existence - a simpler one, maybe, one lacking in luxuries, but not one that actually drags down your overall happiness. Maybe that makes me a socialist, but that's fine. Everyone deserves basic comfort, if you ask me.

Yet as the same friend said, when I said "we're not rich", she replied - "you are not rich but by Taiwan standards you are very upper middle class." I can live with that, but I am also acutely aware that this has made it possible for us to  live comfortably when others can't.

The cat approves of the new place, too.


Brendan said...

Get your facts straight.

We found TWO dead rats out there, on TWO separate occasions.

Jenna Cody said...

Yes, but one probably died because we poisoned him after we had that varmint problem, and the other was, as you said, probably an "ambient city rat" that had nothing to do with us and just drowned in the typhoon flooding.

Jenna Cody said...

NO VARMINTS IN THE NEW PLACE, unless you count the cat.