I’ve got these–wait–I had these click-together wire mesh storage cubes in my closet. Bought them I-don’t-know-when because I didn’t have money for a chest of drawers. They’ve moved with me from place to place, and by the time I got a chest of drawers, I had too many clothes to fit in them, so they were used for things that don’t fold on a shelf, and all my folding clothes have gone in the wire cubes.
Then this guy–this amazing guy–came into my life last year and before I know it, he’s here all the time and I’ve got to find space for him to keep some clothes around because even engineers will notice if you come into work in one set of clothes and come back from lunch in another. I had no idea how. I’d combined drawers to make some room- but now I had drawers so crammed I could hardly get them opened or closed.
So a closet already over-stuffed with hanging clothes, folding clothes, shoes, bags, purses and scarves needed to hold just a little bit more… especially since I’d taken to buying him sweaters on a fairly regular basis.
The cubes are, well, were stacked about 7′ high on one wall of my closet. They’re bound together with things like hairbands and long twisty-ties. Its all very scientific and precise. High Klass. Nothing but High Klass. There’s a shoe organizer that’s more stable (slightly more) propping it all up on the door side. I know its propping it up because when I wanted to move said shoe organizer to the downstairs closet so I’d stop having pairs of shoes all over the place, the cube-topia groaned. The shoe tree is a load-bearing wall. It would have to stay, and I’d renew my vow to carry shoes upstairs every night. Again. Even if it meant two trips.
Last week, as we rushed to get out of the house before paying guests arrived, the button on the back of my jeans caught on the corner of one of the cubes. I stopped immediately, but I knew. I knew it was too late. It was. There was a groan as I turned around… it waited for me to fully turn before collapsing so that I could see it happen in play-by-play, agonizing, slow motion.
I just wanted to cry. I was stressed out. Tired. Exhausted. Had way too much to do and far too little time to do it in. I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to go to the wine-tasting event my friend was having, I just wanted to go to J’s and lay in my pajamas and watch “The Vicar of Dibley” and cry into a glass of wine.
“No. No. No. No, you can’t. You just can’t!”
J came running up the stairs to make sure I was okay. He rubbed between my shoulder blades- soothing the back door of my heart. Its what he does when I’m freaking out. He’s very good at it.
It worked. I didn’t collapse into a similar pile on the floor.
“Well. Its not going to clean itself,” I sighed.
I tried to pull it up. Tried to sort it out. We hadn’t even finished packing to spend the week at his place. I realized that there was no cleaning this up quickly. Everything would have to be toted out before any sense could be made of it.
We began pulling out the cube walls we could get to so that I could at least get at some of the clothes. They were stacked under the bed and the corner knobs tossed in the nightstand drawer. I managed to pull some clothes out and get them into my carpet bag. No matching all packed components this time. It was grab what-cha-can. I made sure I had at least one matching business-appropriate outfit for my Monday appointments and would just have to search more when I came round to scoop the cat box.
Being who I am, doing what I do, the metaphor of this collapsing closet didn’t escape me. I spent the week mulling and meditating on it… a system that was not designed to handle the load it was being asked to carry collapsed. At the worst possible time (as they do).
After the guests checked out, I went hunting for organizational systems. “This time I’ll get something more substantial. I’ll really organize it the way I’d like,” I thought. I spent time on the interwebs looking at all sorts of closet organizing ideas. Closets so cute you could live in them. Work in them. I thought I’d do something not so cute, but equally drawer-y, shelf-y, pull-out-rack-y. Til I saw that we could spend the weekend in SanFran for what that’d set me back. My vision became more minimalistic. Sturdiness was the central requirement.
Even my minimalistic revisions were further amended standing in the discount aisles looking at storage systems. I settled for two plastic 4-shelf racks intended for the garage, a clear 3-drawer caddy, 3 shower rods, and some packages of s-hooks.
Standing before the aftermath, I felt completely overwhelmed. Where to start? I started hauling clothes out of the closet and sorting them into (wrinkled, chaotic) piles on the bed. That’s all it took. Getting started. Once I started moving, the momentum kept me going. Ideas started popping. Things were shifted. Scooted. Moved. Rearranged.
By the time it was all done, all my shoes, purses, and scarves were now housed in the downstairs shower. It didn’t get used anymore since my son moved out and I converted the downstairs bedroom into my office. Perfect. Now I wouldn’t have to haul shoes, scarves & purses upstairs anymore. They could get changed and donned downstairs- which is where it always happened anyway.
The shifts opened up two racks and four drawers for J to use. My closet was so open I had room to put a folding chair in there so I wouldn’t have to sit on the bed to wriggle into hose if getting ready before J had to be up. The space! The air! Now I could organize my clothes again by type then color– as I liked to– instead of by length, which the old system had required. Did I mention that moving the shoes downstairs meant I could use the over-the-door shoe organizer for hosiery and hats? Well, I did. Also organized by type and color so that I could find what I need without turning on a light for early-morning appointments.
I’m not a clothes-hoarder if things are neat and systematically organized, right?
When J got home from work, I couldn’t wait to show him the results of my day. I wanted him to behold the order I’d shaped from the chaos. He was shown the coat closet, then the shower-now-accessory closet, then taken upstairs to see the spare drawers and racks in the armoire, to the glory of my closet. No pjs on the floor. No shoes thrown in the back. Rainbows of color. All the skirts together, all the sweaters together, all the shirts together, all the dresses together. Order.
“So it’s good it collapsed, huh?” he said, rubbing my back.
“Yes. Yes, it is.”
(There’s a metaphor in there… apply where needed.)