A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Diggin’ Your Digs

by Marie Doyon

In 1912, textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts staged a three-month picket, to protest for fair pay, tolerable working conditions, and good quality of life. One young woman in the picket line carried a sign that read “We Want Bread, but We Want Roses Too.” The protest came to be called the “Bread and Roses Strike,” a term now synonymous with the attitude that a fulfilled life requires more than just the bare minimum for survival.

I am what friends would affectionately call a “nester.” When I move into a new space, whether it is for a couple weeks or couple years, and whether it is a closet under the stairs or a big fancy house, I immediately get busy making myself at home. I hang tapestries, put up photos of friends, buy/borrow/barter houseplants, set up lamps. I realize I am at the risk of sounding like a self-righteous domestic (cough, Martha Stewart), so I will also divulge that I am messy, super low strung, and out of the house a lot.

So why then, you ask, is it worth it for me to build such a nest? Why not just live with the stained white walls and fluorescent lights? I am an extrovert almost to my own detriment. I will stay amongst people long after my body and subconscious mind have agreed that it is high time for my precious few moments alone.

My nesting habits developed when I was just a wee little tween. I believe the new behavior sprang from the need for a restful and nourishing space of solace, so that when I finally did retreat from company I could be rejuvenated. I found that I was more willing to spend time on my own if the lighting was pleasant and my bed was comfortable. The beauty of the space was a reward for me.

I have no doubts that individuals have varying levels of desire to put a bit of themselves into their living space, and just as much variation in how much they notice what is around them. But I have to think that even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, and you have to force yourself to do it, and you can’t tell the difference, and what’s the point, you will experience a change over time.


I recently moved house to High Falls, after many months of anticipation, impatience, and isolated mountain living. I thought I would be so excited to leave the old house—and I was—but as my boyfriend and I began to pack up I became very sad. We had made this tiny, remote cabin in the woods so much ours. We painted the walls (toooooo many times) and put up shelves, displayed trinkets. Every little change, every action was a way of taking ownership of the space so that by the time we left it felt like we were leaving a little piece of us behind.

But enough of the sob story. I encourage you make a couple changes in your home, no matter how mini or major. Move things around. By a plant at the supermarket. If you like what that does, spend a little time thinking what you want to get out of your house, what you want to feel when you’re home. Then, little by little the house will become a reflection of you.
As Oppenheim reminds us in his poem “Bread and Roses,” hearts starve as well as bodies. We need beauty, we need rest, we need comfort and solace—all of these nourish our hearts, and all of these can be cultivated in our homes.