How My Apartment Slowly, Sneakily Transformed In 2020: A September Letter From the Editor

published Sep 8, 2020
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Credit: Bijou Karman

Those of you who read Apartment Therapy regularly might know we like to give each month a “theme” that we apply to a lot of what we write and publish on the site, whether that’s “color” or “community.” For the second year in a row, September’s theme is “transformation”, an idea that feels especially powerful in the month summer transforms into fall, with so much transition happening, from shifting leaf colors here in the Northeast, to (finally!) a dip in temperature.

As I looked around my apartment while writing this letter, I realized that I haven’t really taken on a significant project since the pandemic hit New York City in March. At first I was a little embarrassed to admit that, when it seems like the entire Internet is embarking on quaran-DIYs.

But as I kept looking and reflecting on these past few months at home, I realized that my place has actually radically transformed—just maybe not the same way I might have defined that idea in January.

Back in March, after I (along with the rest of the Internet) made all the banana bread I could fit in my freezer, I downloaded the Couch to 5k app. I have never been a runner, but three times a week I built my way up, starting with just a minute at a time. Each May, my in-laws run a 5k in honor of my father-in-law, and while this year was a virtual celebration, I was determined to join them instead of cheering from the sidelines. This concrete goal was sanity-saving in those early quarantine days—one thing I could do every day that was within my control. When I completed that 5k in May, I couldn’t believe what my body had accomplished. In eight weeks, I went from barely being able to sustain 60 seconds of running, to moving for almost 35 straight minutes. I got stronger, both physically and mentally, stretching myself to reach a goal I never imagined I could achieve just a few months ago.

That’s exactly how I feel about my apartment: I’m proud of how much it has sustained and supported this year. When the pandemic first hit, people kept texting to ask when I would leave the city. I appreciated their generous offers to house my husband and me, but we always felt strongly that we wanted to ride out this time, no matter how long it may be, in the home we love.  A year ago, I would have told you I never could work full time, exercise, socialize, host a virtual event, and more in my 700 or so square feet. But just like the 5k, my space has adapted to meet the goal. And that itself is a hell of a transformation. Sometimes I resent the yoga mat and weights piled in the entryway, or the two giant monitors that now live permanently on our dining table. But most of the time I can’t believe what this small but mighty space has been able to handle.

Of course, having a safe place to socially distance is an incredible privilege itself. For those of us lucky enough to have it, I suggest taking a moment to celebrate how your own homes have transformed during this time—it’s pretty amazing what we’ve all been able to do. Even the new clutter and messier kitchens are symbols of resilience and perseverance.

This month, the site will be full of plenty of transformation inspiration. We started this past week, with a list of 30 tiny transformations—up to one a day for the month of September if you’re feeling up for that. On Tuesday, we’ll launch our 20-day free email program for the fall, called The Decluttering Cure. If you’re familiar with the September Sweep, this is our new, fresh version, to help you kick off fall with less clutter. As with all of our Cure programs, the whole thing is created and led by our lifestyle director here at Apartment Therapy, Taryn Williford. You can sign up here. We’ll also have a really fun makeover experiment we’re calling “telephone design” (I’ll leave you in suspense for now). And of course, we’ll have tons of the before and afters so many of you write to tell us you love, including one I’m writing myself about helping my sister to makeover her home office space.

I hope there’s something in this month’s lineup that speaks to you—even if it’s just the idea that appreciating your home is plenty transformative.

Wishing all of you a safe and healthy September.



Credit: Joe Lingeman / Apartment Therapy

Our letter from the editor series appears the first Monday of every month.
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