Our apartment is a pit.
Well, that’s not entirely fair.
Our apartment is a studio.
Literally every single room in my home (except for the master bathroom) serves some kind of function for Republica Unicornia.
I do have a craft room, which is where my sewing machine, dye supplies, undyed yarn, and all the other craft supplies I have accumulated over the last twenty years: crayons, markers, paint, beading supplies, embroidery thread. But pretty early on in all of this, it became clear that no craft room could really contain all the stuff needed to make Republica Unicornia a reality.
The dining room has been commandeered for fabric cutting/storage and inventory storage. There are giant plastic bins in the corner, stacked two and three high.
I dye yarn in the kitchen, so there’s that. It pulls some hardcore double duty. Before I dye, I clear everything out and drape the counters in plastic sheeting (a la Dexter), and then afterwards, I scrub the whole kitchen down. We live in a rental with WHITE LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS, which are a terrible idea under regular kitchen situations, to say nothing of my unusual ones.
The (unused!) second bathroom is known as the Janky Ass Studio Annex: it’s where I mix up dyes, rinse and spin dry yarn, store drying yarn when it’s not on the porch, and block my knits. The bathtub is a jumble of dishwashing tubs and the pans I use for dyeing. The countertops are speckled with dye.
I store my knitting projects in the living room, so by the sofa is a giant basket stuffed with project bags, a bag with my supplies for making mini skein stitch markers, and a vintage knitting basket that is overflowing with needles, notions, and patterns.
Even our porch has yarn stuff on it—it’s where my drying racks live.
From where I sit in my favorite chair, our home looks like a well-decorated, comfy, tidy space. This is assuming I don’t turn my head.
I wasn’t always like this. While I have never been a minimalist, I used to be the kind of person who could have people drop by at a moment’s notice and not have to explain anything. I deep cleaned the whole house every week, my laundry was more or less under control, and there certainly were not giant plastic bins out in the open. I wasn’t a tidy child, but as soon as I got out on my own, I took great pride in keeping my living space spotless. I am a baseboard scrubber, if not by nature, than at least by habit.
But every time I get all wistful about how put together I used to be, I think about the darker side of all of it. There is an inverse relationship between how happy I am and how clean my house is. When I am struggling: when things are feeling out of control or when I am mired in the muck of self-loathing, scrubbing surfaces with toothbrushes and folding clean laundry is a reminder that I have some control over the world around me and I am capable of at least having a house that smells like lavender. When I have experienced bouts of depression, my living space has also been spotless.
We humans have a need to make order out of chaos, and we do it in all kinds of different ways. I’m drawn to the kind of activities that end in a finished product: a clean house, a loaf of bread, a sweater. It’s why I do the kind of things that I do: the whole arc of my creative process is about moving from chaos to order. Out of water and flour and yeast come bread, out of a tangle of yarn comes a pair of mittens, out of a yard of fabric comes a project bag with a friggin’ unicorn on it.
One of the first things to show up in the sacred text of my faith tradition is the story of creation. God breathes across the void—the deep, dark, chaos—and out of this comes creation. So much of what happens next is about the struggle between order and the chaos that is constantly threatening to overtake God’s people: the institution of complicated law codes that provide for every eventuality, the attempts to make sense of exile, Job shouting into the whirlwind being like, “WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL?” (I love Job.)
And unless you live in a bubble, I’m willing to bet that there are areas of your life that are total chaos: relationships with your family members, things that are happening at work, the state of your mental health. If (somehow) your life is all perfectly ordered, I invite you to turn your attention to current events.
But I’ve also been reconsidering my own relationship to all kinds of chaos, including the kind that has overtaken my dining room. It is anxiety-producing, to be sure, but it is also generative. If our creativity springs from a need to make order out of chaos, then without chaos, there is no creativity. Chaos isn’t the enemy: it is the foundation of what happens next.
All this shit is still driving me crazy, though.
Happy Wednesday, y’all.