Unexpected Book Club: Apartment Therapy


What Drew Barrymore is to relationships, I think I am to houses. My husband and I have had 16 houses since we got married.   I fall madly in love with every one of them and then fall into a crying jag every time we PCS.

Seriously, David Letterman should call me.

So is it any wonder that I think the most necessary military spouse book  is Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan’s Apartment Therapy?

Apartment Therapy isn’t some crazy decorating book telling you to run out and buy every apple green thing you can find.

Gillingham-Ryan’s theory is that our homes are meant to support our lives.  He writes, “When you get your house in order, other parts of your life just start to follow.”

UnknownThat’s milspouse gospel, man. Every time we PCS, military couples have to set up a new house to support a new life in a new place. We don’t have a history in the new location to keep us grounded. We don’t have friends yet. At first, we pretty much just have the house.

And I really depend on my house to keep me feeling happy. I like that feeling when my washer, dryer, dishwasher and oven are all busy doing their jobs. I like the sun falling on my clean kitchen counter.  I love the pillows on my bed to the point of naming them.

So when I am feeling disgrunteled and unhappy, I know something is probably wrong with the way my house is working. Not the way it looks. There is probably something wrong with the way it works.

Gillingham-Ryan says that you have to listen to what your house is trying to tell you.  (Which sounds a little froufrou, but there really isn’t a better way to put it.)

I like to go through his three questions every time Brad deploys. Gillingham-Ryan asks clients:

1.What is the problem with your apartment (three words).

2.If your apartment could speak, what would it say was the problem?

3.What is the one thing you would like to do more of in your apartment?

When I did these questions at the beginning of this deployment, the three words that described my house were empty, stale, and dusty.  If my house could talk it would say, “How can this be a home without Brad in it!??” The one thing I wanted to do more of was read at night with my fifth grader instead of watching so many murder shows and eating lots of corn chips.

Going through each chapter of the book, I was suddenly inspired to wax my floors and clean out the fridge and buy some flowers.  This is nothing short of miraculous.

I even got a little drastic this time.  All the sudden I noticed how my loneliness was triggered when the dogs or a visitor sat in Brad’s chair.  So I moved my husband’s favorite wing chair to my office.  I love it. It is like sitting in his lap when I work.

Then I shifted the rest of the furniture and lamps around so that the  living room is set up for my fifth grader to do his reading time for school — which forces me to turn off the TV.

Ever since I did the therapy, we have lived a little easier at our house. The three words that describe my house now are cheerful, comfy, and sheltering. The one thing I want to do in my house is to be there more often. And the thing my house would say if it could talk would be I still miss Brad.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • Jacey,
    Now that you mention it, I do tend to rearrange the furniture when my spouse is deployed. I started with the breakfast nook already (better lighting for the food photography course I’m taking) and I know what I’m doing with the living room furniture next month.
    I think we set up the place pretty cozily, but he hasn’t left since we moved in, so we’ll see.
    For #3, part of me is tempted to haul my giant exercise machine from the basement to our bedroom, but besides the fact that it’s too heavy for me and the staircase is too narrow, there’s probably not enough room. And, as it gets warm out, I like to work out in the basement.
    Very clever of you to move his chair. It gets me thinking about the dining room table . . .

  • rquick

    haha I love this! My home is really important to me to. Being functional as well as stylish. Its amazing what a few small tweaks can do!