By Rivka Perlman

February 8, 2015

What it Feels Like to Paint the House.

As we sat around the Shabbos table this Friday night it was like sitting in a new home. A wave of gratitude washed over me. The walls were freshly painted and all the corners of clutter cleared out.

It’s actually been months now that we’ve been doing this painting. We thought it would take much shorter but instead it turned out to be a major life stage in itself.

Sitting with Gavriel in the Dining Room after Shabbos
Sitting with Gavriel in the Dining Room after Shabbos

Our painter ( more on him in ¬†my next post) is moving steadily through each room of the first floor. As he gets ready to paint each room we need to move all the furniture out. With that, we end up ¬†sorting through old books throwing out cabinets that we really don’t need and generally getting things into order like they’ve never been before. It’s tremendously cleansing. And then as he finishes each room, the color begins to sing, we put back our newly organized items and the room is transformed.

There’s color and there’s space.

Our Living Room - nice and neat:)
Our Living Room – nice and neat:)

You know, if you visit ancient temples and palaces in different countries they’re full of¬†woodwork and artistry. I remember when we went¬†¬†Venice on our honeymoon. We walked into one of the palaces and just stood¬†¬†there in the center of the room trying to figure out how they painted the ceiling.( We were young and dumb and spent all our money on an unplanned trip through Europe lugging around 30 lb of kosher food ¬†– crazy!¬†)
Our Holy Temple was very different. It had in it the Menorah, the Ark, the Alter and only one or two other items. Most of the central part of the Temple was empty space. Clean and simple. Space for Godliness and space for the priests to move throughout doing their job.

Cleaned up Piano
Cleaned up Piano

Our home is a mini Temple, a place where God lives. And there needs to be space for that Godliness. In the same way as a cluttered mind can’t hold fresh ideas, a cluttered house also blocks you up. There needs to be space for ideas, space to move freely. There’s a weight and guilt, like unfinished business that comes with walking by a cluttered corner again and again and not addressing it. You can get numb to it, but¬†it’s eating at you even when you’re not aware.

A while ago a friend of ours gave me $100 gift certificate. It was for session with this woman who is part of a popular program in Israel called Megirot ( Drawers.)
The idea is to go through your drawers, with her as your coach, and to see what’s inside. For example I would open up my phone book drawer¬†in the kitchen¬†and notice, what else do I keep in there and why? Her work went far beyond simply organizing and into ¬†the character traits and paradigms which led to the drawer¬†being like that. Essentially as you move through your house clearing out different areas, you also cleanup house, so to speak inside of yourself.

But I wasn’t ready. I had one session with her and dropped the ball. It wasn’t that I was the worst housekeeper, I just couldn’t commit. Read this blog post to find out more about my ever changing relationship to housework.

Peaceful Reading Corner
Peaceful Reading Corner

But now, that’s exactly the work that I’m doing. I’m taking a look at our life space and what will support it and letting go of everything else. It’s incredible!
It’s literally like getting a new lease on life. For the kids too.
As always I’m reminded that these little people ( and even my teenagers) are essentially victims of me. For better of for worse, their life circumstance is largely dependent on what I as a parent do¬†. It’s a huge responsibility and it makes “The Year of the Painted House” even more weighty. Because we are all changing – for the better. This is big for them too. They need me to be invested in our home ( and by extension, in their well being.)

I feel in love with this at a thrift shop and I had it for a while knowing that one day we would have a special place to put it.
I feel in love with this at a thrift shop and I had it for a while knowing that one day we would have a special place to put it.

I decorated the house with a kind of wild abandon mixed with deliberate obsession. I know – ¬†that’s an oxymoron. The wild abandon was just giving in to all the colors I wanted to see, and the obsession was keeping at it until they were all there. So now we have, just on the first floor( !) ; red, brown, yellow, green, orange, burgundy, coral, beige, white and tan. Thank G-d, by a miracle it’s all working.

You're looking at Sundance Yellow, Red, Brown, Orange and Green!!!
You’re looking at Sundance Yellow, Red, Brown, Orange and Green!!!

Zany but cheerful. I have so much more to say on this topic, I may make a video about it. In the meantime it’s already Sunday and I hope you get to use part of this day for organizing. Doesn’t it feel great when you get things in order?

Do you want to contact Rivka Malka about coaching school?