You guys know we live in a tiny apartment, right? Perhaps you’ve also gathered that there are, at last count, four of us in here–and two of us are kids!
And of course, all of us have stuff. Some of that stuff is toys. And clothes. And food. And books. And wine. So, we have the essentials. And there’s also an extra lampshade, with no lamp–don’t ask. And a sewing machine, giant volcano, tin can robot, postage scale, a basket full of rocks, a cordless drill, and several thousand of the Mister’s random bags of crap.
As you might imagine, the Fun Apartment can feel pretty crowded. Keeping a clear path requires constant vigilance and many executive decisions made while everyone else is at school or work. (And no, I haven’t seen your bag with the old lock parts in it. Stop asking.)
Have I read the book? Well, no, not the whole thing. But it is in the bathroom, and I’ve flipped through it. And yes, parts of it make plenty of sense to me. But not all the parts. “One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.”** Yeah, I really can’t see that happening around here.
So we’re not totally converting to this new religion. But, like I said, it takes constant vigilance to keep the producers of Hoarders at bay. So I thought we’d just try to do some magic tidying and see how that worked out for us.
I’m not sure why I chose to take my organizational stand in the bathroom, with the wash cloths. But there they were: a bin overflowing with washcloths. Some of you may remember this pile of washcloths as the sea monkey mass grave. “Perhaps I could tidy those,” I suggested to myself. But there were a lot of them and rearranging them in the bin didn’t really produce the promised life-changing magic. So, I asked the man of my dreams about getting some of those tall odd-shaped drawers to curb the washcloths.*** But instead of agreeing to drawers, he suggested we just go through the washcloths and get rid of a bunch, until we came to a manageable quantity. Now, I am not one to quash the Mister’s purging urge, as he is only seized by this urge . . . Umm is there a word that means “every five years”? Quintennially? Maybe he has been reading in the bathroom, as well. Anyway, we dutifully went through our washcloth collection and decluttered. We were joining the choir. We were one step closer to a home filled with “pure energy.”
At least, we were, until the kids came down with pink eye.
(I will pause here so you can reassure yourselves that your eyes are not really itchy, but perhaps you should wipe down your screened devices anyway.)
That’s right, we suddenly found that what we needed were washcloths. Lots. Of Washcloths. Approximately the same number we had just unloaded. And we needed them right away. Suddenly, that decluttering urge seemed more like hubris or idiocy.
So we had not nearly enough washcloths to gt us through the pink eye. But we did have protective eye gear! A few years ago, some well-intentioned soul gave me a pair of goggles to wear while chopping onions, to prevent one from crying. While I have cried in the kitchen, it is usually for reasons pertaining to the presence of a large mountain of dishes and the absence of a dishwasher. I didn’t really need the goggles, but we held on to them, because well, I guess they just became part of the landscape. Maybe they’d be useful someday?
And sure enough: their time came! When your kid has pink eye and isn’t allowed to touch his eyes, it turns out that onion chopping goggles are exactly what you need. Pretty smart holding on to them all this time, wasn’t I?
I’m sure that this whole life-changing magic is great for a lot of people. It’s probably perfect for real grown-ups, people better at adulting. But it seems like it’s not for us. Pink eye has taught me that I am not all that interested in having a home full of pure energy. I’d rather have a home full of people I love, the things we need, the things we love, and a pair of onion chopping goggles.
Sure, I’ll still man the guns at clean-up time, but it turns out I actually like living with a bunch of interesting, useful stuff. Would it change my life to simply toss out a bunch of this stuff? Sure, but not necessarily for the better. Here at the Fun Apartment, life is magical enough.
*Martha Stewart’s last email was downright bossy about it: “Eliminate clutter.” Anytime a subject line includes the word “eliminate,” it just gives off a sinister tone.I begin to think about the clutter taking its family, assuming a new identity, and going into hiding until the reign of terror has ended.
**p. 161. I can’t make this stuff up.
***I do realize that her method is not to buy more storage space (That is the job of the Container Store’s marketing department) but I thought even just trying to wrangle some of the chaos into tidiness might help with the magic and pure energy business.