Senioritis at the Guesthouse 🏡 ➡️ 🏡

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


Senioritis

Everyone knows the feeling of apathy that comes with the end of a commitment. In school we called it “senioritis”. As the end of a semester nears, the daily rituals and responsibilities that once kept everything on track take on a more onerous feel as motivation fades. A bare minimum of effort will suffice.

We are probably a couple of months from moving into the new house and a significant part of that excitement is not simply moving into the new house, but moving out of the guesthouse, which will have been our home for over 18 months. A feeling of senioritis is real and growing.

At the heart of this feeling is the contrast. For this phase of our lives, the guesthouse has been perfect and I don’t say that flippantly. I could not imagine a better situation for waiting out the construction. It’s comfortable, well-built, and close to the construction site. The owners are kind people and we are fortunate to have the opportunity.

That being said, we are both itching to get the hell out. As the new house gets closer to completion, it’s difficult not to fantasize about the future that we’ve so carefully designed. This is the contrast. Knowing that a new experience awaits, the guesthouse lifestyle grows more cumbersome every day.

There is probably no clearer picture of this than washing dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher in the guesthouse and it’s clear that I’ve been taking dishwashers for granted for too long. If I never have to wash another piece of individual silverware in my life, I’ll be just fine.

But you know what? For most of our time here, washing dishes by hand didn’t feel like an inconvenience. It was just part of our day, like homework, that needed to be done and we adapted. I am a believer that we humans are more adaptable than we realize. Time and repetition make almost any situation feel normal. Within a couple of months after moving in, we settled into the guesthouse lifestyle and never looked back, until now, when we look forward.

This quainter version has highlighted the value of the things we use every day. Our current version of a TV is an iMac computer that is so old it can’t be updated. Sometimes, the fan runs so loud we can’t have a conversation. Other times, it just stops connecting to wifi and requires a reboot. We treat it nicely and say encouraging things as we caress the top of the monitor, “just a couple of months and you can retire.”

For audio, we use USB speakers about the size of softballs. And they work amazingly well. We’ve enjoyed countless movies and shows and rarely want for more. This forces me to wonder: Is TV size or speaker fidelity proportionate to happiness or enjoyment?

USB speakers

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, where Sachi is the chef and I’m the sous chef and meat cooker. The guesthouse kitchen is not one with a great deal of finery. The electric stove is apartment-sized with an oven that sports an unreliable thermostat, which means baking is done in a toaster oven. Our drawer of tongs and spatulas is full of equipment that is becoming less useful by the day. Yet, I feel that we eat like royalty. Nearly every evening I finish dinner with a smile and remind myself how lucky I am to eat such amazing food. Do the appliances really matter? A nice oven and gas stove will be convenient and beautiful. But will the food be that much better?

electric stove

I also think about our grill. For two years now, I’ve used a Weber Smokey Joe charcoal grill. It’s tiny, cheap, and the best grill I’ve ever had. It taught me how to cook with charcoal, which has given me a great deal of satisfaction. Our new grill will have multiple burners, lights, an electric starter and more. It will feel luxurious. But will it make grilled fish taste better than the Smokey Joe?

Smoky charcoal grill

Of course, this idea is more complicated than simply boiling everything down to outcomes. We can’t discount the experience that comes with a new kitchen, especially in contrast to the guesthouse. Having a full-sized sink that’s not installed in a corner cabinet will be a revelation. The potential to have two or more people in the kitchen at the same time will feel liberating. An oven with a working thermostat, a miracle. It’s the everyday things that we will appreciate the most.

full-sized sink

On most nights, I go to bed before Sachi, who likes to stay up and watch TV. Because our bedroom shares the same space as the iMac TV, this means I usually go to sleep hearing the audio from the Great British Baking Show. I’ve grown accustomed to the situation and Sachi turns the volume low. But man, the idea that I could go to another room, close the door, and fall asleep in silence? It feels like a dream.

There are also a host of small annoyances that seem to grow more annoying the closer we get to moving. We have a small Ikea drawer that holds our socks and underwear. It lives inside a small, unlit closet by our bed because we have no other place for it. Outside the closet door is a dog bed. This means that getting ready for a shower entails stepping onto the dog bed, opening the closet door into the dog bed and reaching blindly into a dark closet to retrieve underwear. It’s a small inconvenience, but I think about it every single time.

closet door

Speaking of the bedroom. The space we have to move around is the defining characteristic of the room. To get to the bathroom (which thankfully has a pocket door), we must walk around the bed. But there is only room for almost one person at a time. This means that the entire bedroom side of the guesthouse, including the bathroom, is blocked if someone is there. We’ learned to move through it like passengers passing in an airplane aisle.

I now see that space, the ability to move freely in a room, is a kind of luxury that is worth its weight in gold. I look forward to adapting to it.

Looking around the guesthouse as I write this, it’s clear that we’ve made a number of decisions that were always meant to be temporary. The guesthouse has only four drawers in the entire living space and most are full of silverware and other kitchen tools. In this way, our storage for everyday items is mostly made of the finest material of all: cardboard.

While the impossible skyscraper is made of cardboard, it abounds in other places. My “office” requires cords, headphones, thumb drives, and general office paraphernalia. Because I have no drawers, these currently live in a cardboard box with an Amazon logo. Little did I know, when we moved in, that the random box I put on the desk would become so useful. The same is true for boxes that hold dog toys, hats, keys, and more. Cardboard does the job just fine, for now.

cardboard

We were always at a loss for coat storage, in part because our current pantry was placed in front of the only coat hooks. So, we decided to use disposable hooks that adhere to the wall. It turns out that these hooks can only hold so many coats before breaking. We started with three and are now down to one. There is some chance, by January, that our coats will live in a pile on the floor. Then, soon after, coat hook camelot!

coat hook camelot

As the move approaches, we’re trying to make old, worn-out items last just a bit longer. One of our pillow cases is ripping in two places. Most of our towels are over ten years old and look it. Our hand vacuum only works in short 2-second bursts because the battery has issues. We wear the same few clothes every day. These things have made it sixteen months, what’s two more? Soon they will be gone, perhaps in a ceremonial fire.

Another class of senioritis is true apathy. When we moved in, we used carpet squares from the Hunter House to cover the linoleum floor. The squares will not make the jump to the new house and you know what that means? Those carpet squares don’t matter anymore. Two weeks ago, the dogs found a printer cartridge and spilled printer ink on one of the squares. We shrugged. It was liberating not to care.

I’m thankful to have had the guesthouse experience, with its eccentricities and all, because it serves as contrast. In the beginning it challenged us to find new and temporary ways to live. Now, some of those things are becoming more grating by the minute.

Just as we’re ready to throw our hands up and refuse to do homework, we’ll move and be able to appreciate the luxury of space, convenience, and quality from a healthier perspective.

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I Can Recommend…

Peaky Blinders (Netflix) – An all-time favorite on our house. Cillian Murphy plays the badass leader of the Shelby family gang (the Peaky Blinders) in Birmingham, England, just after WWI. Awesome style, great storytelling, and fitting music. Turn on subtitles if you can’t understand the dialog.

The Crown – Season 4 (Netflix) The new season just arrived and covers the Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher period. It’s hard to believe a show can be so good retelling stories we’ve all heard so many times.

Dawes (band) – Sometimes we get stuck on a band and play them over and over. Dawes has been that for us lately. They have a folk rock sound and great songwriting that feels easy and nostalgic to me. A couple of good songs to get started: When My Time Comes and All Your Favorite bands.

Everything is Alive (podcast) – If you’re looking for a very odd and sometimes hilarious podcast series, take a listen. The show is unscripted interviews with inanimate objects, often voiced by comedians. It’s as weird as it sounds and you should listen.

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