Family ‘Savings’

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Hoarding, Holidays, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Parenting | 1 Comment »

It’s the time of year when I worry about the girls eating the poinsettias. Since someone told me once that they’re poisonous. But for all I know, it’s an urban legend.

And the thing is, Kate and Paige have heretofore expressed absolutely no interest in ingesting poinsettias, or any other house plants, flowers, or fauna. But that makes no difference in the mind of a fretful Mama. I’m convinced that they’ll suddenly find a wayward poinsettia leaf—or possibly an entire plant—mouthwateringly tempting. Like in those Looney Toons cartoons when someone who’s hungry looks at something and their pupils suddenly turn into ham hocks.

I mean, I’m just sayin’ it could happen.

And just to exacerbate my anxiety, those damn leaves seem to curl up and fall off the frickin’ plants at an alarming pace. It’s a full-time job monitoring the floor for delicious-looking dessicated poinsettia leaves.

Alas, since potentially-deadly flowers aren’t an adequate expression of my holiday spirit, I spelunked down in the basement yesterday, on a quest for our Christmas decorations. Our basement is huge, which is both a blessing and a curse for me and Mark. On accounta we like keepin’ stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, our pack-rattery hasn’t taken on epic scary call-the-doctor hoarding-esque proportions. We have lots of stuff, but we’re frighteningly organized about it all, which takes the sting out a bit. Even so, it’s bad enough that it bugs us both. Like compulsive hand washers we know our hands really aren’t dirty, but we just can’t resist the urge to wash them again.

And of course, just to make things interesting, our sickness takes different forms. Mark, for instance, has every box from every software program and gadget he’s ever owned or tested for work. (He’s the gadget guy at Wired.) This, as it turns out, happens to be a LOT. Or, as they say, a shit-ton.

Me? My brand of crazy revolves more around things like china, silverware, and table linens. Suffice it to say if you ever need a table cloth of any size, color, or fabric type, I’ve got one I could lend you. With 12 matching napkins.

I inherited this affliction from my mother, as well as her vast and magnificent table linen collection. The woman squirreled away napkin sets like alkies hide gin bottles in toilet tanks.

The preponderance of vintage, striped, square, round, rectangular, indoor, outdoor, and tiki-themed tablecloths I own is made even more shameful and absurd due to the fact that we bought a farmhouse-style dining table several years back. Not only does it not require tablecloths, but they look kinda dumb on it.

Mark and I both also like books. Very much so. We could open a library with cookbooks and back issues of cooking magazines alone. And Mark’s Shakespeare anthology from college is in the depths of our basement somewhere, along with various other textbooks that I had the good sense to throw out. If you’ve been hankering to reread an annotated version of King Lear, I’m just saying I could hook you up.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago we were watching CSI. (Don’t judge.) And the cops kicked a door in on a house. Except the door didn’t move much. Until it fell forward, and revealed a solid mass of, well… stuff. Floor to ceiling stuff packed so tight and high and deep it sealed off the home’s entire front entryway. (And, we’d later find out, concealed a couple dead bodies too.)

When the show ended it was about 10:30 or so, but I was fired up. “These magazines!” I cried to Mark, who was lying prone, half-asleep on the couch. “Did you already read this?” I bellowed, shaking a Wine Spectator in his face. “Can I recycle your college alumni newsletter?” I was in a cold sweat, pawing at the shelf under the coffee table, yanking out everything and interrogating Mark about why we still owned it.

It wasn’t pretty. But neither was the image of us sealing off the path to the front door some day with back issues of Sunset and Vanity Fair.

At the farmer’s market that weekend I bumped into my friend Shira and her adorably cute little fam. She’s a professional organizer. I mean, I’m not sure that’s what she’d actually call herself (an organizational architect? a professional neatnik?), but she helps people cull, categorize, store, and toss their crap.

Shira’s website makes me want to take a bulldozer to all the toys in my house, toss on a crisp linen dress, then place a vase of white wildflowers on an end table and become one with all that is simple, clean, and beautiful. It’s inspirational. And, for someone like me, aspirational. Like I said, I’ve got the organization part down—it’s the less-is-more mentality I’m struggling with.

Anyway, when I saw Shira I couldn’t wait to tell to tell her clients about that CSI episode. It’s good medicine.

As for y’all who live outside the Bay Area and can’t benefit from Shira’s services, check out Motherboard’s story on clutter-free livin’. After grabbing armloads of Christmas tree lights, red candles, and my Mom’s old pinecone wreaths, and staggering from the basement upstairs, it was nice to read this and see I’m not the only one who’s swept up in a holiday-induced organizational, stuff-overload panic.

Last Christmas my friend Meg reported on the under-his-breath mutterings her decidedly UN-Scrooge-like husband made as their wee ones unwrapped presents. “Where the hell are we going to PUT that thing?” he’d mouth to her over the kids’ heads.

We’re hardly Manhattanites, but us Bay Area dwellers who aren’t Rockefellers live in fairly small spaces. That huge hobby horse Grandma sent may make Junior’s eyes gleam with excitement on Christmas morn’, but I’m with Jack on this one. Where the hell do you stick the thing after the tree’s down and wreath’s off the front door?

Well, thankfully for us, we’ve got the basement.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Family ‘Savings’”

  1. 1 mcmc said at 1:56 pm on January 2nd, 2011:

    Great one!
    Not that I would know anybody like this…

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