by Cathy Allie
There are times in the life of each family that are so earthshaking and consequential that the best and perhaps only way to get through them is with careful planning and quite frankly, prayer. These moments come in waves, and when we crest the wave and can see the top again, we feel a relief that gives us just the energy we need to tackle the next difficult thing that comes our way.
Recently the days surrounding these times have me wishing for strength. I think back to when I was younger and more resilient and able to handle things better on my own. But I push forward with what resolve remains, and I step in to lead my family.
Lest you worry too much, and begin to organize a meal train or a Go-Fund me page for the Allies, I need to lessen your anxiety by telling you that the earthshaking and consequential event to which I refer is…rearranging the living room furniture.
I live in a house which is great for parties, because you can pretty much see all parts of the main floor at one time from a centralized point. But ill-defined shapes, no walls, and giant ceiling heights make it a furniture staging nightmare. Thus, settees and sofas, tables and trunks, arm chairs and armoires are in constant motion in my home.
In addition to a weirdly designed house, there are multiple other reasons for moving furniture, despite the fact that many people are content to just set it and forget it.
First, I cannot buy a new house. Scooting things around a bit to keep me interested is much cheaper than closing costs. I love to go to real estate open houses, honestly not because I am looking to move, but just to get ideas for furniture arranging.
Second, It saves wear and tear on the carpet from having the furniture in one place for too long. Yes, we still have some carpeted areas, and I am saving for hard wood floors (maybe that Go Fund me page is not a bad idea after all), but see my first reason as reference: I cannot buy a new house, so I am looking for ways to make this old one seem new.
Third (and this one is a little cruel), I love to watch the dog the first few days after a furniture move. He strolls through the living room, looks left and right and finally spots his bed. It’s like a man in Target. He has to acclimate himself to where he is going.
Lastly, I like to challenge myself with new schemas. Okay, this one is not exactly true. I think I read it in a Marie Condo book or a bathroom stall. Either way, change is good, right?
At the very first moment the idea of another way to arrange or place the furniture comes to me, I start my plan of attack. Multiple days ahead of the proposed move, I make a minor complaint designed to get my movers thinking.
“Wow! The summer sun kind of glinting through the window makes it hard to see the television from over here,” I might say. This is the appeal to my daughter, for whom television is a life-blood. I know she will feel bad if someone’s view is impaired.
Or maybe I will say something like, “Since we scooted the couch over there, it seems like we just sit on that one end. It’s getting really beat up looking.” This is the appeal for my husband, because the one thing he hates worse than moving our current furniture around is shopping for new stuff.
On that same day, I may just carry around a tape measure and randomly stretch it out across pieces in the room and jot it down on the notepad I have with me. Sometimes they are sitting in the spot I need to measure. I just go right over them, a lady on a mission. This is the visual aspect of my plan, as it foreshadows what may happen in the next few days.
I leave the sketch for the new layout on the table at breakfast the following morning at my husband’s place. If it has a little scrambled egg or jelly stain on it, I know he is tracking.
Then I start to follow the weather forecast. Furniture moving days need a certain kind of weather. Too sunny and it will get hot as we are working, too rainy, and it is better used as a nap day.
The night before the perfect day, I prepare the family. “Would you guys want to go out to eat lunch after we move the furniture tomorrow?” is met with both excitement and dread, but at least they know they will be fed at the end of the despised event. Death row prisoners would be jealous of some of the meals we have when I am rewarding them after a move.
My daughter, who was such a willing participant in younger days, references a vague commitment to be somewhere else. I tell her we need her around to check the extension cord and to make sure all the technology is working post move. She agrees after negotiating the suggested lunch at her favorite steak place.
My husband, who is the single most habitual and patterned man that ever existed, references a need to mow the lawn. I reply by saying we will start early, so that the dew can dry on the grass before he cuts it. He is trapped.
After I check their feet to make sure they are wearing their gripper, rubber bottomed socks so they have good traction, we assemble to begin the moving. The irony of the earlier measuring tape explanation is that my best guesstimations are done by placing my feet very close together and stepping off lengths.
I review the layout with my husband like a lawyer practices a witness’ testimony. This will go here and this will go here and this will go here, I say, pointing with emphasis. Before we move the couch, he asks multiple times if it will fit.
Smart man to ask! I nod emphatically, but behind my back I cross my fingers for luck. The only thing worse than moving a couch is moving it twice. And I know this because we have done it. Several times. Marriages and several third world countries have crumbled over lesser issues.
As we move each piece of furniture, we become a cleaning crew at a crime scene, vacuuming away any evidence of where the chair sat, cleaning under and around cushions which somehow have crumbs on them, despite my plea to just eat at the table, and furiously wiping baseboards.
It is tough being both the supervisor and one of the movers on these days. With a practiced HGTV designer stance, I stand back and look at the angle and placement of a piece we have just hoisted into place. Two or three inches to the right I say, and the exhaled sighs from my own Two Family Members and No Truck crew practically bowl me over.
I once made the mistake of just leaving instructions for the move. Imagine my horror upon returning to an altered plan. Almost every piece of furniture had to be scooted as much as three or four inches into place! They simply have no vision.
Once everything is in place, I let them pick their new landing spaces. My husband can’t stand the thought of shaping a new piece of furniture to his backside, so he lands wherever the Dad chair landed and looks for the best footstool.
My daughter is an equal opportunity lounger, so she finds the best angle for TV watching. They spend about the first two days griping about what I have personally determined is the perfect arrangement.
“Okay, okay!” I say. “Let’s just move it back,” after which the new arrangement also becomes perfect for them, as well, as they would literally rather die than move it again.
A few weeks ago, we had some friends over to visit. One of the ladies said, “Oh my gosh! You moved the furniture since I was here last! Love it!” to which I was about to reply that I really did like it, too.
But before I could jump in to accept the Decorator’s Association of America Award, my husband said, “Every once in a while I just like to change it up. I get bored with an arrangement after a time,” with no idea that I stood in the shadow of the recently relocated entertainment center hearing his whole lie.
I am letting him have the credit this time because I finally got the couch into the perfect napping alignment, so I won’t be moving it for a very long time. And…I have been secretly sitting in his chair, gradually reshaping it to fit my much more generous backside, which will surely confuse him somewhere in the near future into thinking he is getting womanly hips. The dog and I will laugh.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.