true confessions, or will laura buy new window treatments for a house that doesn't need them

This is the other shopping story. The one in which I don't come out looking like a rational adult.

I don't care much about clothes, shoes, bags. I don't buy expensive cosmetics or skin-care products. As long as I have what I need, I'm good. It's easy to watch my spending about any of those.

But. There's always a but, right? I love home things. Towels, linens, dinnerware. Rugs. Shelves. Lamps. Organizers. (I could go on.)

And I love home-decorating. When buying clothes, I hold my nose and get it over with. But don't let me in Bed Bath and Beyond or Ikea without adult supervision.

Despite this, I still try very hard to not buy gratuitously. I won't say I never buy home things that we don't technically need. But once I've got our "needs" covered, I try to leave it there. (Scare quotes around needs, acknowledging that these are not true needs, but needs of privilege.)

Does it seem like I'm avoiding something? Not getting to the point? Window treatments. There, I said it. Window treatments. Curtains, shades, blinds.

Why window treatments? I love colour, and curtains or shades add big swaths of colour to a room, totally changing the way a space looks and feels. (I could go on.)

I've had a bad habit of spending too much money on window treatments. This goes alllll the way back to Brooklyn, the custom-cut blind for the bedroom window that had to match the lavender comforter. 

Then there were the vertical fabric blinds over the huge picture window on Bogardus Place, our first apartment in Washington Heights

I didn't feel bad about either of these, despite being relatively poor, with hand-me-down furniture and very few things to wear. It was more important to dress the apartment well. And to be fair, there was a giant window facing the street, with no covering at all, and it was an odd size. And I don't remember the cost being exorbitant. 

See what I did there? I can rationalize anything.

On Bennett Avenue, where we lived 14 years, the majority of our time in New York, I bought some inexpensive fabric and a friend made curtains for me. This was penance for the Bogardus vertical blinds (the ones I just rationalized). An apartment had become available on a nearby but much nicer street -- a bigger apartment in better condition, for much lower rent -- and we decided to move. And my custom fabric vertical blinds were now wasted.

That was my first experience with this phenomenon. I'd like to say I learned my lesson, but if I learned my lesson in 1992, would I be writing this post?

Now we fast-forward to 2005, the year "wmtc". We rented a tiny, dilapidated bungalow in the Port Credit area of Mississauga. To us, it was paradise. It was walking-distance to the Lakeshore GO train, steps from the most beautiful part of the Waterfront Trail, and for the first time in our adult lives, we had a backyard. The lake was at the end of our street! And we were in Canada! We were overjoyed. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

The house itself was dirty, cold, and not in good condition. While waiting for the moving truck to arrive with all our things, we painted. That's how it started. The painting was necessary, but it got into my head: I had a little house to decorate.

First there were the three accent walls -- in wild colours renters are not supposed to use, including one wall from which I stripped seven layers of wallpaper. None of this was expensive, and using those colours was fine, since we knew the owner would eventually sell the property for a tear-down. Now we're getting to the heart of the matter. 

"...since we knew the owner would eventually sell the property for a tear-down."

The rental wasn't long-term, and we knew it. We just didn't know how short-term it would be. After the one-year lease ran out, it might have been five years, it might have been five months.

So here we are at the real confession: the custom-made shades I bought for the living room and dining room of that house. I won't even tell you what they cost. It would have been expensive for any house. For a broken-down rental that had the potential to be short-term, it was... You can fill in the blank. I don't want to say it. 

I didn't buy them on impulse; I thought about it for a couple of weeks. My mother encouraged me to go for it, but she didn't know what they cost. Allan, who is more frugal than I am, went along without a peep. I'll never understand why.

The windows needed something, of that there is no doubt. But why didn't I buy inexpensive curtains at Ikea or Home Outfitters? That would become my default setting for "I need to fix up this rental without spending a lot of money". Yet I didn't even consider that. I just plowed ahead and bought the beautiful, two-colour, honeycomb fold, Hunter Douglas, fabric blinds.

And we lived in the house 14 months, and then had to move.

We took down the blinds. I saved the hardware and wrapped up the blinds in bubble wrap, and I've been moving them from rental to rental ever since, hoping that one day, some rental somewhere, will have the same size windows. (I've also tried -- multiple times -- to sell them on Craigslist and Kijiji, for a small fraction of their cost.)

Since then, we've lived in too many places. First there was the sewage flood, then the greedy landlord, then the big move west. For each place, I bought some inexpensive curtains, or else bought fabric and had curtains made. I spent very little money and significantly changed the look of the room, exchanging ugly PVC blinds -- and in one case heavy velvet curtains with a heavy coating of dust -- with big swaths of colour that pulled together all the other colours in the room. Very little money, big results.

And now my long story finally arrives at the present: the lovely old house we are renting in Port Hardy. For the first time ever, we have moved into a house with nice window treatments: fabric vertical blinds in the kitchen, dining, and family/living rooms, and fabric black-out curtains, complete with matching and good-looking rods, in all the bedrooms. There are even nice thin blinds in all the bathrooms. All quality, all matching, all in good condition.

And all beige. Sandy. Approximately number 13 on this.

On the day we arrived -- literally on our first walk-through of the house! -- I saw the blinds and curtains and thought, beige. I thought, Those would be great if they were a better colour.

I'm know I won't do it. I'm pretty sure I won't do it.


Amy said...

LOL! I needed a good laugh, and you delivered! Thank you!

I am not a shopper at all---not for clothes, not for jewelry, not for household stuff. When we skied, I liked buying ski clothes and equipment. I used to like buying clothes for my kids when they were very little. I love buying toys for my grandsons. But otherwise? Except for books and electronics like computers and phones, I don't buy much beyond food and essential clothes. Sometimes on art. And on the furniture we needed for our house and cottage (and replacements as those wore out). My mother likes to buy us things like towels and sheets and tschotschkes for the house because she knows I don't! Instead I spend money on experiences---eating out, traveling, genealogy services, time on the Cape, classes, etc. The day I discovered online shopping was one of the happiest days in my life. I can't remember the last time I was in a mall or a department store. I do like walking in cities and towns and looking in windows, but almost never buy anything when I do.

laura k said...

I always remember you are someone who shares my distate for (most) shopping. I agree totally about online shopping!

Other than my homewares indulgences, the only things we really spend money on are travel and our dogs' health.

We love going to markets when we travel, but that's not about shopping. To me it's part of the travel and culture experience. Also the principal way I indulge my obsession with earrings. I love to find them -- but somehow that doesn't seem like shopping! :)

I'm happy the post made you laugh.

laura k said...

My mother likes to buy us things like towels and sheets and tschotschkes for the house

Random note: my idea of housewares does not include chotschkes. In fact I hate those. I only buy chotschkes when I travel -- arts or crafts from wherever we've gone. Random useless chotschkes are a definite no.

Amy said...

By tschotschkes, I meant all the vases, bowls, cake plates, glassware, serving pieces, etc., that my mother has given us over the years. Not really technically tschotschkes (if there is such a thing), but rather items that have some utility that I rarely have a need to use.

laura k said...

Ah yes, housewares. All included on the list of things I love. :)

I think of chotschke as decorative only. Or wannabe decorative in many cases.

Amy said...

And in my case---they are almost always purely decorative. Some have never, ever been used, but just sit in our breakfront or in a cabinet; some are used so infrequently that to call them anything but decorative would be misleading. :)

laura k said...

Anything my mother would buy me would be the same. I would never use a cake plate or a gravy boat or many other supposedly useful things, the kinds of items wedding registries are so full of. I love housewares, but at least I only love housewares that I use!

impudent strumpet said...

I, too, hardly ever spend any money except for the things I spend money on.

I do admire your ability to decorate though. I just can't - I don't even see it. I can't focus on the matter long enough to develop an opinion. If I walk into a store that sells housewares - even if my intention is to buy something - my brain just parses every single thing as "irrelevant". Anything I have that resembles decor comes from my mother deciding that my possessions are appalling and offering to either buy or shop for new ones for me.

(Some very vocal people in my life periodically express the opinion that I should buy a new/better/cooler something that I either don't care to spend money on or don't care to shop for, so I've taken to responding "If it's that important to you, I'd be happy to graciously accept it as a gift." So far, my mother is the only person who has ever taken me up on that offer.)

laura k said...

"If it's that important to you, I'd be happy to graciously accept it as a gift."

That's brilliant.

I use a similar line in a somewhat analogous situation. People frequently express ideas of what a group should do -- any kind of grassroots activist or volunteer group. Everyone is doing everything they can, and the work is divided amongst very few people. Someone who does no work says, "You know what you guys should do? ....."

I developed this response: "That's a really interesting idea. If you want to do that, let us know how we can support you."

End of idea.

[It's totally different if someone who actually does a lot of work suggests something.]