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I Hate Rearranging Furniture — But My Partner Loves It

Just how often does your apartment need a complete overhaul?

The apartment where I live now is far and away the best I’ve ever had. It’s in a walkable neighborhood, second-floor walkup, no one above us, rent-controlled, with a nice courtyard and shade from a beautiful old pepper tree right outside our living room window. It might be a bit overcrowded with bookshelves, and it might be nice to have an extra room for office space, but it’s a lovely home. My partner Maddie and I are always quite comfortable in it. Or I am, at least.

I say this because every few months, I can feel Maddie getting restless. She paces the rooms, she frowns at this corner or that one, she takes in the overall flow of the space and sighs deeply. I know what’s coming: We’re about to spend the rest of the day rearranging all our furniture.

I can assure you that if I lived alone, I wouldn’t be reconfiguring the apartment quarterly. I don’t know if it’s laziness, a lack of vision or a talent for accepting things as they are, but I tend to get in a groove and stay there. Why bust my hump dragging that table over here, or switching the reading chairs around? It’s all the same stuff, and it functions identically wherever it happens to be. I would rather spend my free time enjoying the perfectly good setup we hit on the last time Maddie got the itch to draw up a new floorplan. It’s not like I slack off on cleaning or tidying, either — I always strive to put stuff away in the right place. Can’t I have a dang moment of peace?

No, of course not. And judging by some very similar accounts, I’m not the only one suffering.

But here’s what’s fascinating: The partner who, like me, tends to resist the apartment overhaul never denies the refreshing victory of getting it done. That’s why, though I will complain a lot early in the process, I ultimately throw my moral support (and literal back) into the effort — Maddie is an artist, and if she sees an opportunity to improve our feng shui, I ought to help her realize it, even if I have no idea what she’s aiming for. It can still be extremely stressful to see one maneuver lead to another until pretty much the whole architecture of your domestic life is in disarray, especially when you were fine with how it was, yet the promise of an upgrade is real.

Most recently, we were able to figure out how to move my desk (which was also awkwardly serving as my bedside table) to a window that faces the rear balcony, giving me a view of the many fine succulent plants we’ve acquired in the pandemic, as well as our heavily trafficked hummingbird feeder. To think I would have let inertia trap me on the other side of the apartment!

Because the rearranging instinct, or talent, remains a mystery to me, I asked Maddie to describe what runs through her head when it happens. “For me, a lot of the time, it’s contingent on furniture I’ve brought in from the street,” she says, echoing many replies on Twitter that mentioned the need to incorporate new objects as the main impetus for shifting the rest. “But I feel like the flow can always be improved, and there are areas of the home that I’m always trying to re-envision. When you see the dynamic of your home and where things get stuck over time, then you want to make a change. There are ways to arrange it all that enhance your life and happiness, and the only way to figure it out is by dumb, blind luck.”

Or, she mentions, you can seek advice from Cliff Tan, better known as @dearmodern, a TikTok design guru who uses tiny models to help followers reinvent their spaces. He can even save a depressing dorm room.

@dearmodern

#stitch with @blonderaccoon2 let’s fix this little form room! #spaceplanning #dormitory #studenthousing #smallspacesolutions #smallspace #sharedroom

♬ original sound – Mr Cliff Tan

So, exactly how often should you be drawing up new blueprints? There’s no one right answer. Some people can barely stop. (“I just have ADHD and get bored of looking at the same thing all the time!” Maddie adds.) Others can forgo the reset for years. My favorite recommendation, which I saw frequently in the Twitter replies, was to approach the task seasonally: two or four times annually, to align with cycles of light and weather. Maybe I’ll like moving our furniture more if I imagine it as part of this cosmic pattern, a way to connect exterior and interior worlds.

Or maybe I’ll never understand what the fuss is about — until we’re done for the day, that is.

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