Moving boxes

I hate moving. Aside from the stress of packing and starting a new life, there are always casualties.

When my family moved to Los Angeles from Ohio two years ago, “professional” movers managed to knock off my car’s side mirror, shatter glasswear, reduce my son’s handmade rocking motorcycle to splinters, destroy an armoire and damage my wife’s precious piano.

In the Garden of Beasts

Ryan Smith

Then the news got worse: They forgot some of our stuff. So although they delivered my beloved plasma TV, they left behind its cord. We had the tops of our tables, but no legs. The movers didn’t return with any of this for another week.

Something good came from all of this, though. Moving to a new house forced us to start from scratch in terms of putting these puzzle pieces of our lives together again. If interior design is a tiny act of Creation, then this was another opportunity to get things right.

I need every chance I can get. My first attempt after college was a spartan apartment furnished with a mud-brown couch and matching folding chairs. A state of Ohio flag hung above my bed to remind me of my roots, and a “Planet of the Apes” poster decorated my living room to remind me of the dangers of talking apes — or maybe nuclear weapons, I can’t remember.

It was a rough, unrefined reflection of me at the time. It was pragmatic — couch here, TV there — but perfect it was not.

The bigger problem was that nothing ever changed. Instead, I became the victim of inertia. Perhaps I picked up this comfort in a stable environment from my parents. Visit my mom’s house now and you’ll see the same piano in the same place it’s always been — and she doesn’t even play anymore.

Yet this inertia represents a lost opportunity. Although the spatial limitations of our homes and apartments may not change, we do. As our intimate refuges, living spaces should grow with us and not be left to fend for themselves, as we figuratively leave them in the dust.

This is not to say that there is a right way to redecorate, some Jewish form of feng shui. No singular philosophy advocated by one of the interior designers featured in this month’s TRIBE cover story would work for everyone at all times.

Rather, in thinking about how we might improve our living spaces, I suggest we take a cue from our Jewish calendar, which is full of annual opportunities to reflect on change we would like to effect in ourselves and our world. Whether moving to a new house or redecorating an old one, we should embrace the same sense of new possibilities.

Which brings me to this summer, when my family moved once again, this time locally. As we walked into what was to be our new home, my wife and I saw both what was and what could be — long, wide hallways perfect for chasing our toddler; giant windows to bathe us in sunlight as we read books; a place where we could make our dreams come true. I hope that initial view won’t be the last time it opens our eyes to potential.

I’m still not sure where everything needs to go. Configuring our existing furniture is like playing a game of Tetris, and we have hard decisions to make about what old items to keep. But the process is exhilarating, as it forces me to reflect upon myself. Do I still connect with my kitschy Elvis Presley cardboard cutout? (Yes, thank you very much.) What about the hand-me-down leather chair that’s sort of falling apart? (No, it’s finally time to give up bachelor-chic.)

All of this is difficult for me. I hate change. I hate moving. But everything in this world changes; everything moves forward, so I might as well, too. Where better to start than at home?


Editor’s note: The article “Continental Drift” (Dining Out, October 2012), about Cafe 14 in Agoura Hills, unintentionally implied that members of the nearby Chabad of the Conejo and Center for Jewish Life patronize the restaurant. Cafe 14 is not a kosher restaurant and is therefore not frequented by Chabad members. TRIBE magazine highlights both kosher and nonkosher restaurants in our Dining Out section.