Feb 17, 2023

A Condo Conundrum: Taking Stock of One’s Living Space

Why do we live where we live—and why so long?

By Ed Goldman

In the six years I’ve lived in my condo, as of this month, I’ve yet to unpack dozens of boxes and file cabinets in my garage. 

My bicycle’s tires are as flat as they were when I moved here. At least 15 paintings are still unhung, three clothing wardrobes remain unexplored and some pretty good tools sit untouched on my workbench. I can only hope that drill sets don’t erode if not frequently deployed.

Edgy Cartoon

Crate Expectations

I live in a development I call Cramps ‘r’ Common due to the chronological maturity of most of its residents, including me. Its real name is Campus Commons, owing to its proximity to Sacramento State University. 

It’s a leafy, well-tended community with connected individual neighborhoods of varying home prices, clubhouses, pools and tennis courts, as well as attached, detached and downright aloof homes whose shared trait is that they’re architecturally uninteresting—at least from the outside. I add that because I know a retired banker here who’s apparently decorated the interior of her garage as a pagoda. I haven’t been invited to see it but it’s probably because High Tea and martini times tend to overlap.

With the exception of the urban traffic noise—I live near a major intersection, by choice—I enjoy a quiet, writerly life here. (Pipes and elbow-padded sweaters are extra.)

My place has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a kitchen with an island where you can eat or which you can use to “stage” the components of elaborate meals, and a narrow dining room that perfectly suits an Italian table I keep lugging from place to place. The master bedroom and bath are in a second-story loft whose parapet doesn’t entirely meet its walls, which allowed my cat, Osborn the Magnificent, who made it to 19 years old, a commanding view of the living room below.

The place has a two-car detached garage and a small, L-shaped backyard with mature trees and a dense network of vines, making it resemble a very modest English garden. 

So why haven’t I finished unpacking?

Is it sheer laziness, psychological ennui or fear of impromptu herniation from lifting and schlepping all of those containers and memories that blocks my accepting I live here?

It’s not as though I’m peripatetic, a restless house-flipper or that I have what songwriters call a gypsy in my soul. I lived in my previous home for 20 years, the one before that for eight years and the prior one for seven years. So, if anything, I have a nail-my-feet-to-the-ground colonist in my soul.

Over the years, life changes have rattled my perception of my surroundings, but rarely motivated me to change them just for the sake of doing so. For example, a number of my friends were surprised I didn’t sell my four-story home when I was widowed in 2007; I stayed there another 10 years until sharing that expansive a space with the aforementioned Osborn began to seem silly and hopelessly bourgeoise (five Ukrainian families could have lived there and still found it comparatively palatial). I thought Osborn would miss the aerial views—with its open architecture, the place allowed him to view the world from 56 feet up—but he adjusted to loft living even more quickly than I did.

Maybe I think that if I finish unpacking, give things to Goodwill and host the expected garage sale, I’ll die. But the fact is, I’ll do that someday whether or not I unpack, and I really doubt that anyone ever breathed his last breath regretting he hadn’t sold his vinyl record collection for 50 cents per album, his complete VHS set of “The Godfather” movies for three bucks or his moth-eaten three-piece Armani suit for “best offer.”

So what’s up with this out-of-character inertia? It’s puzzling. It’s an enigma. It may even be a full-throated paradox. 

But fortunately, it’s also martini time. Some things may just be better left unpacked. 

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).