I tend to think in absolutes.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“If your lawn is the slightest bit overgrown or maybe you still need to remove the winter-themed container garden from your front steps, then definitely do not go in your yard at all this summer.”
Oh, are you not familiar with that last adage? It’s newer. And if I’m being honest, I really hope it doesn’t catch on. I know it’s kept me from enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having here in the North, and I’d hate for the same to happen to you.
You see, we’re those neighbors. The ones at least four days behind the rest of our neighborhood’s mowing schedule. We have the lilac bushes in front of our home on a fixed three-year trimming regimen. You guys, we don’t even take a leaf blower to our patio at the crack of dawn on weekends. But the people around us do. And it’s bothered me for a long time. So much so, that as the sun sets and the temperature cools, signaling it’s finally time to relax after a long day, I take the ubiquitous drink of summer and choose a comfortable seat on our … couch.
But you know what? To hell with it. We have enough to be stressed about. We have enough on our plates. Real things. Jobs. Kids. I don’t deny that it’s nice when things look nice, but I’ve decided there must be a better way. So here are a few things I’m trying this summer, some patio hacks, if you will, to get over myself and actually enjoy the privilege of even having a backyard with friends and family.
Try Some Window Dressing
This is usually a negative thing, right? People generally look down on the phrase because it signals some kind of misleading act, but that’s exactly what we’re going for. If you don’t have time for a backyard project (or let’s face it, even basic maintenance) … start with what’s easiest. A colorful or clever new doormat. An outdoor rug that covers the concrete you’ve always wanted to replace with an intricate brick inlay. Pillows for your weathered hammock or patterned cushions for your decidedly untrendy outdoor table.
Light It Up
You know what’s great about the outdoors? Eventually, it will get dark. Don’t like what you’re looking at? Great! That will change around 9:15 p.m. every night this summer. Grab some candles or votives to cast some new light on wherever you happen to make yourself comfortable come dusk—the front stoop, swing, or lounge chair. I’ve always liked the ambiance of those hanging patio lights, but somehow they never make any farther than the workbench in our garage. Hmm.
Okay, so the grass needs some attention. You’ve got a retaining wall that’s on life support. And you have zero time. You know what you need? More plants. Grab some simple terra cotta pots and hardy grasses or flowers. Like, 30 of them. Put them everywhere. The corner of your outdoor table set. Along the house. Line them down your fence. They’re easy to take care of, even easier to replace, and they’ll bring some civility to an otherwise untamed backyard.
Get On With It
You know the easiest thing to do? Nothing. Go out and enjoy whatever you have and don’t lift a single finger. Look over at your neighbors as they give you the side-eye and power wash their house for the third time in as many weeks—and wave. Toast them with an icy glass of wine and wish them the best (or good riddance). Or leave. Hit a patio at your favorite restaurant or brewery. Grab a chair at the community pool. Throw down a big blanket at the lake. Enjoy it. Because it’s your damn house. You can do whatever you want. And let the haters hate.
(Another absolute, but this one is good for us!)
H&M Textured Plant Pot • H&M • $17.99
Smith & Hawken 10CT String Lights with Copper Socket Collar with Black Wire • Smith & Hawken • $16.99
Novica Relaxation Nylon Tree Hammock • Novica • $87.99
Lemonade 17-Inch Square Outdoor Throw Pillow • $12.99
Pendleton Glacier National Park Wool Throw • Pendleton • $239
Keter Urban Cozy Knit Outdoor Poufs and Table Balcony 3 Pc Set – White/Gray • Keter • $107.99
Threshold Outdoor Throw Blanket – Black Diamond • Threshold • $34.99
Safavieh 2-piece Abstract Puzzle Outdoor Throw Pillow Set • Safavieh • $150.99
Threshold Outdoor Rug – Pattern Stripe Blue • Threshold • $20–120
Bungalow Rose Douane Fringed Cotton Tree Hammock • $52.99
Dash and Albert Rugs Catamaran Stripe Black/Off-White Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug Rug • $46–1,324
H&M Metal Plant Pot • H&M • $17.99
Kate Smith is a content producer for a beloved Minnesota retailer, wife to Fred and mother to Samson (7) and Naomi (5). With her allotted 30 seconds of daily free time, Kate likes to make a frozen Tom Collins, grab her new Romance Writer’s Phrase Book and pretend she can’t hear her family knocking on the other side of the bathroom door.
BY Kate Smith - July 10, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.