I hired a professional organizer.
I have admitted that so many areas of my life had become unmanageable, and then asked for help. So why not here? I’m tired of the stacks and stacks of paper that have no home.
I am, as Maggie – the professional organizer – said, “the tidiest, unorganized person” she has ever met.
We met last week for a consultation. My assignment prior to our first paid meeting, this coming Tuesday, was to go to The Container Store and “just browse.” My only guidance was to think of “boxes” – four of them. In. Out. To Be Dealt With. Want to Keep – Just Because.
We agreed I would take photographs of items that interested me, but that I would buy nothing. It seemed like an easy Artist Date – Number 34.
I was mistaken.
I rode my bike over to The Container Store this afternoon. Tossed my basket in a cart and began my work. Up and down every aisle.
Almost immediately, I was overcome with sadness. All around me, groups of people. Couples shopping together. Roommates shopping together. Moms and dads and bound-for-college kids shopping together. Together.
I remembered shopping here with my ex – when we moved to Chicago for his residency. I felt wistful stumbling over the collapsible mesh cubes – the kind we bought to store our record albums. He didn’t think they would work well, but I knew better. Three of them sat under the Parson’s table, holding our music collection – his and mine. I left them in Seattle.
Albums I bought in high school at Sam’s Jams in Ferndale. The Specials, debut album of the same name. Elvis Costello, “Punch the Clock.” Howard Jones, “Human’s Lib.” My mother’s copy of the original Broadway production of “Hair.” My brother’s copy of Queen, “A Night at the Opera.” There is a piece of masking tape on the front cover with his name and our telephone number written in magic marker. I’m not sure how I ended up with it.
I knew every word to every song, having spent hours on my blue-shag carpeting, in my bedroom, singing along with the words printed on the album sleeves.
I don’t have a record player, so I left them. Plus, they were too cumbersome to pack. Funny thing is, it’s not the lost records that choked me up. It was the damn mesh cubes.
And the laundry aisle. I remember spending hours trying to find just the right laundry bin to collect my massage sheets and take them back and forth from my office to home, to be washed and folded. First I bought a cart with the idea that I would take the train to and from my office. With sheets. In the winter. I quickly gave up this environmentally-conscious fantasy and started driving to work.
I found a lot where they cut me a deal because I was a local business owner – $14 a day. A steal, considering I was right off of Michigan Avenue.
Tony, the Palestinian kid who hooked me up, got fired right before I moved away. I always felt badly about it – even though I hadn’t done anything wrong. I used a red, collapsible “laundry” backpack to haul my sheets the six blocks from the lot to my office.
I missed having someone to discuss options with today. I suppose that is why I took photographs, to discuss them with Maggie.
I looked at fabric bins. Metal bins. Cardboard bins – some made of bright, solid colors, others printed with flowers and graphic designs. Bins made of recycled paper. I snapped photographs of each product and its accompanying card, describing the item and listing its price.
I got distracted by travel supplies. Luggage tags. Hanging dop kits. (I need a new one. Mine is torn.) And Ziploc bags for creating more packing space – like the space bags I used when moving cross-country. I stacked my dresses and trousers inside, while Michael used a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out. We were giddy when the first was complete. Shrink wrapped clothes.
I remembered that I needed hooks for hand-towels in my bathroom. Milk crates for my prayer and meditation nook – to lift my deities and ritual items off of the floor, and to be covered with a piece of fabric I bought in the market in Kigali.
I also remembered that Maggie and I discussed finding a solution that didn’t involve putting anything else on the dining table – which is also my writing desk, my art table, and where I spend about 80 percent of my time when I am home.
I looked at hanging solutions. There weren’t many. A few different kinds of folders that hang from the wall. Some painted metal. Some plastic.
Then I wandered into the Elfa department – custom solutions for the closet. So complex there are employees specific to just this department. I know people go wild for the yearly Elfa sale, as it is pricey.
And yet, open, wire drawers on casters seemed to make sense. With a top to hold my printer. I looked at other shelving units as well. I remembered our conversation about rethinking how I consider my dining area. That is it really more multi-purpose. Think function rather than fois gras or fondue. I serve neither. But I do throw a hell of a dinner party. And it needs to work for those occasions too – especially as Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner and for the past 19 years I have, more often than not, hosted a holiday meal for stray Jews and others.
I thought about my friend Tom who is going to string two lines of wire across the wall opposite the windows so I can hang photographs, cards and collages with metal clips – slightly reminiscent of the drying lines in the darkroom I once inhabited.
I picked up several catalogs, tucked them into my bike basket, and did a final sweep of the store.
I felt myself welling up the entire ride home. I wanted to be excited but I wasn’t. I was sad. Acutely aware that this was yet another step in creating my home, my life, without my ex. Acutely aware that we don’t talk much lately – my choice, to save both my heart and my sanity. All of this necessary, but still painful – nearly a year after our divorce was final. Time takes time.
I thought about something Maggie said. That there is always something more under the disorganization – something else going on. She believed the stacks of paper, the lack of “home” for my things, was me being afraid I couldn’t put my hands on something when I needed it. A need to keep all of my things near.
My friend Kevin refers to this as my issue with object impermanence. The notion that until a certain age, children do not believe in that which they cannot see. Put a towel over your hand, et voila, you have no hand. At least in their minds.
It’s like that with me and people sometimes. If I can’t put my hands on them – see them, feel them, hear them – it is as if they were never there. It’s better than it used to be. At least to me. I’m not sure what Kevin would say.
So this organizing business – finding a home for my things, learning to be ok with them in their proper place – maybe it will spill over into the other areas of my life. That the people I can’t put my hands on anymore – for a variety of reasons –perhaps they too will find new homes. Tucked away in my heart. Never gone. But in their proper place.