Tim calls the house a cottage; I call it a shoebox. The past month has forced us to exercise areas of our brain that have laid dormant for several years. Back in October, when we first looked at the house, all we saw were the gleaming hardwood floors, sparkling white cupboards and landscaped yard. Tons of airy, light-filled space. And even after one week of camping in the empty house, it seemed the place had nooks and crannies galore. Funny how a place grows dramatically tiny with the arrival of household goods. It wasn’t the major furniture that caused problems; we knew we had enough bedrooms for the 3 beds we intended to set up. And even the 2 dining tables didn’t pose a problem; we had a breakfast nook as well as a dining area. But by noon, my standard answer to the question, “Maam, where would you like us to put this?” was an ambivalent, “I guess the garage.” And by 4pm, when the garage was busting at the seams, we started building large Tetris-like towers of boxes in the master bedroom and the living room.
Soon after the packers hit the road, the garage situation was untenable. Not only did we not have attic space to store miscellaneous boxes that have stayed sealed for the past 3 moves, the aforementioned abundant nooks and crannies had magically disappeared. Tim suggested we do a logical walk-through of the furniture situation and determine what we could donate to Goodwill. We started with the twin size bed frame and 2 mattresses that were once part of a bunk bed system that had been split up 5 years ago. It was hard to let the bed go…I remembered Will and Lauren’s shared room in our El Paso home. Lauren tucked into the top bunk because an 8 year old Will was afraid to sleep so high in the sky; and the forts created by hanging all the extra quilts we owned draped over the side to make it super dark. The bed was just the first item to make the “Donate” list. We soon added an art easel, small dresser, a bike, tons of blankets and linens, clothes and toys. Many more items that we hoped kids in the community would come to love and enjoy. An easy call to the local Goodwill brought us Reggie and a large truck and within the hour, half of the garage was empty and ready for proper use (for things like car cleaning products, sports gear and Christmas decor).
Once the garage situation was addressed, it was time to focus on the inside living space. Soon, the house started to take shape but I struggled with two pieces of furniture that just didn’t seem to fit: the large overstuffed couch and the wine riddling rack. The living room is only 15 feet x 10 feet but I managed to slide the comfy couch into new angles at least 20 times over 2 weeks trying to find the right balance for viewing the fireplace and entertainment center while enjoying casual coffee table conversation. I settled on an acceptable solution, but I have to admit that occasionally, when walking by, I nudge it just a little to see if it can be any better.
If I thought the couch was tough, the riddling rack has been the bane of my existence. If it wasn’t for our minor love affair with Chianti Classico and the great price we got on the rack, I just might have added it to the Goodwill truck. We brought 200 bottles of wine with us from Europe and didn’t give a thought to how much space we’d need for storage. The rack provides a home for 30 of those bottles and after the mysterious loss of nooks and crannies, it was absolutely necessary that it stay in the home. We settled on a sweet little corner near the piano and the other 150 or so bottles have found homes in the strangest places: some in the kitchen, many cases in the master bedroom closet and a bottom corner of the hallway linen closet tastefully hides 20 bottles. So, if you happen to drop in for a visit at Casa Rietkerk, don’t worry about the evening nightcap; smart travelers can simply step into the hallway and grab a bottle or two.