Andrew and I will celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary in May. In that time, we have moved twice and welcomed one baby. I have taken on a full-time position at my parish, and Andrew has taught a total of three college classes to undergrads. Our lives have changed drastically time and again, and our homes have reflected those changes every time. When Andrew and I first got married, I had just graduated from my Master’s program, and had returned home to prepare for our wedding. We got married in New Jersey, in my childhood parish, and then we left for our honeymoon. When we returned, we came home to a mostly furnished apartment with totally bare walls and generally empty drawers. Countless appliances were still in their original boxes, and many of these boxes found homes in our hall closet, where we did not look at them for nearly two years.
Like many of our friends (though I recognize that we are not the norm), Andrew and I did not live together before we got married. In fact, during the year that we were engaged, both Andrew and I had only a single room to call our own. Andrew had enough furniture to furnish our guest bedroom, and I only had two suitcases of clothing and a few boxes of knickknacks for my contribution to our first joined home. Like every other engaged couple out there, we put together a registry during our engagement period, and after spending so many years living with our parents, in a rented room (complete with furniture in my case), or with a roommate (in Andrew’s case), we weren’t exactly sure what we would need in our new apartment. With the help of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond employee, Andrew and I put together our wedding registry, adding numerous items that would be well-used and several that would not be used at all.
During those first few weeks in our apartment, we worked hard to find a place for every item that we had been given. We stashed countless tins and pans in dresser drawers, arranged meticulously folded dishtowels in cabinets, stacked unopened appliances in our hall closet. And that’s where they stayed for the better part of two years, untouched, unopened, unused. As the months passed, we realized something that many newly married couples must come to terms with at some point during the beginning of their marriage: we had no idea what we were doing. Neither of us had ever really cooked. My baking skills were comprised of knowing how to break apart frozen cookie dough and putting it in the oven for the time indicated on the packaging. Neither of us had ever made anything completely from scratch, but our kind Bed, Bath, and Beyond employee seemed to believe that the moment we were married, all of these things would somehow become true. They didn’t.
Two years later, Andrew and I were preparing to move. We began to pack up our lives in boxes, stacking books, wrapping up wall hangings and little knickknacks that decorated our dressers, bookcases, and counter. And then we began to empty drawers, to clear out our hall closet. We pulled dusty boxes from the far corners of our closets, appliances still in their original packaging. We sorted through countless little kitchen gadgets that had been stored in our junk drawer during those first weeks in our first apartment. Without the original packaging and user manuals, we didn’t even know what some of the gadgets were, nor what they were supposed to do. As we pulled things out, faced with the possibility of packing these items just so that they could be stored in yet another apartment for an unidentified amount of time, Andrew and I decided it was time to do some de-cluttering and reorganizing in our lives.
As we packed our apartment up, we set aside a few boxes for Goodwill, and in no time at all, they were all filled. Andrew made three trips to Goodwill during those last few weeks. We tossed in clothing, toys, kitchen gadgets, baking supplies that we had never used in the two years that we had been living together. If it had not been used, and there was no good reason that it had not been used, it went in the Goodwill box. Unused items had to be justified before they were packed away to be moved into our new apartment. The rest of it was donated. Some of the appliances that had been purchased from our registry were returned, or else exchanged for more useful items. Our goal was to bring absolutely nothing unnecessary into our new apartment (which was helpful, since another goal of mine was to find a storage place for all of John’s old clothes). We wanted to start fresh, and part of that was leaving behind the excess clutter that is nearly inevitable when you’re newlyweds living in a fairly small two-bedroom apartment with your young son.
Like many newlyweds, we didn’t know much about creating a home together. We had to learn as we went, as we made mistakes and learned from our mistakes, and occasionally hid our mistakes in the back of a closet or dresser drawer. We didn’t know that we would never use our food processor or blender (our little Magic Bullet does everything we need). We didn’t know that we’d never need a million and one kitchen gadgets, or ten different sizes of baking dishes. We had to learn all these things the hard way. Fortunately, like many newlyweds, we didn’t stay in the same place long, and we were given the opportunity to right our mistakes, to pull them from the back of the closet, dust them off, and actually put them to good use. And like all married couples, we will continue to learn, and who knows what will happen the next time that we need to move.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!