Michelle Teheux: ‘Stuff’ is not your friend
June — the traditional month of weddings, as well as a month when many young people have just finished high school or college — seems to be a good time to offer some advice to those who are setting up their first household.
Chances are, your first place will either be a beige-carpeted, white-walled, no-personality sort of place that you’ll use as a canvas on which you’ll try to express yourself, or a funky low-rent place with loads of personality but also probably some major disadvantages — like bad appliances and layers of paint on the doorframes so thick you can leave an indentation in them with a fingernail.
I always tended to favor the funkier option, mostly because it was cheaper, but I went the boring-beige-and-white way a couple of times, too.
Whichever way you go, I have one piece of wisdom to pass on to you: Stuff is not your friend.
The more stuff you buy now, the more money you will spend, and the vast majority of stuff you buy now will be stuff you end up throwing away, donating to Goodwill, or looking at and hating for years to come. Either that, or you’ll go with the time-honored option of pretending you are doing your children a big favor by helping them set up their first place by giving them a lot of crap you’ve wanted to get rid of for years.
Yes, you do need a few basic things to get started, but purchase wisely.
If you feel you must express your personality with wild colors, do it on the wall. You can paint over the mauve walls when you’re ready to move out. But the mauve-and-blue sectional will still be with you longer than you think, and yes, I’m speaking from experience here.
Do not buy 10 orange bath towels to match the cool psychedelic shower curtain you bought for the bathroom. Those towels will still be with you 10 years later, and your future spouse will hate them. They will never again match any future bathroom decor. Go for white or cream.
Ditto for sheets. I am still using sheets my mother got sick of and unloaded on me when I went to college. Some of these sheets were manufactured in the ’70s, and they unfortunately refuse to wear out. They are ugly and I hate them, but what can you do? I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do.
I’m going to go out and buy myself some nice, plain white sheets and I’m going to give my children all the ugly sheets I inherited, plus the ugly ones that I thought were cool when I bought them 20 years ago but now just look dated. Eventually, my future grandchildren will have to deal with this problem.
Like most people, I am still hanging on to stuff from many periods in my life. Often, these things do not live happily together in one room, but when you recall how difficult it was to scrape together the money to buy them originally, it’s hard to just throw them out.
My daughter is getting her first apartment this fall, so I have high hopes of getting rid of some of this crap now. My cast-off stuff may or may not look good in her college apartment, but by the time she throws in some orange towels and her grandparents’ old sheets, she’ll be set.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.