Closet(ed) Conflict: Dissonance and Distress Within Highly Literate, Upwardly Mobile, and Pathologic

About Christina

First things, first: Theme music.

Kickin' ass in the mornin' and takin' names in the evenin'.

Well, friends, this week's Project Simplify task is a daunting one to even write about, and the comparison of before and after photos is going to be a disappointing one. This week's project, tackling a "Pesky Closet," includes planning and decision making so painful to confront that it's taken days of mental effort to even come to terms with the eventual need to suffer more, longer days of physical and financial effort to remedy. Quite a hook, yes? Aren't you energized and enthused about reading more? Wait. What? You ARE? You sick, schadenfreude-ridden puppies. You're my kind of people. Saddle up and ride into my vortex of confusion, insecurity, and self-doubt, also known as the closet full of books.

Oh, the shame. The horror!

So, first, the good news: All of the things that belong in the closet have been sorted through and edited down to necessities. I'm actually really good about keeping on top of closet organization because not being able to find something that I'm looking for is one of my biggest pet peeves. Bonus points there, for sure. Sadly, all of these bonus points have been eaten up by the demerits allotted for the length of time my most prized possession - our book collection - has been relegated to those sad, abandoned boxes in the master closet. The stacks on the wire shelf are my husband's prize possession - his CD's. In the closet. Hidden. Dusty. Abandoned and abused like so many Marshall Matherses. Tragic.

Of course, like Ma Mathers, our intention here was pure even if our practice was polluted. We moved from a teeny tiny starter house into our big, nice grown-up house a little over two years ago and, as a potent symbol of our dedication to updgrading to a more sophisticated and intetional (as opposed to collegiately improvisational) living environment, we gave away our Ikea Billy bookshelves. We'd had them for years and had moved with them four times, once cross-country, and, people, particle board can't handle that kind of transience. They were bowed, old, structurally unsound, and, well, cheap. Cheap can be good, but cheap is also impermanent. In our new house we are seeking permanence and longevity, two words only rarely and anomalously applied to anything from Ikea. So, we ditched the Billies with the idea that doing so would force our hand into buying bookshelves that demonstrate the value we place on our books and music. It was a great intention, and yet here we are 2 years later, with thousands of dollars and tons of love shoved deep in our closet.

The master closet is also the only location of wedding photos in our home. What is wrong with us?

The problem here (and I am fully aware that this is a very luxurious problem to have) is that my husband and I have a huge problem spending money on our home and a complete lack of confidence in our ability to do so wisely. We were itinerant students for the better part of a decade, and we prided ourselves on our thrifty ability to "make do" more than most. I find it almost decadent to own more than 2 pairs of pants, none of which are patched in any way. SLB lived for over a year with a coffee/dining table made out of an overturned moving box (It was named "Boxy," and I choked up when we finally had to recycle it.). We both slept on the cheapest Ikea twin mattress available thrown on the floor for a summer until, feeling flush, we upgraded to a queen bed so unyielding that it left bruises on my hipbones and shoulders. Yeah. We're good at being poor.

But we suck at having money. In spite of having worked hard to finally achieve some level of financial normalcy, we are just terrible at it. Aside from our little luxuries like books, booze, and babies, we just don't know how to live well, and when we tentatively begin to approach living well we instinctively recoil and retract into an ugly, desperate, miserly frugality. We're fine shelling out for experiences (food is another luxury) and for others (I'm a huge gifter who loves buying presents for others), but purchasing the personal and the tangible is a challenge around here. Thus, no bookshelves.

But it's time to invest in our home and in our love of books, especially because we want to demonstrate our value of reading to our girls. Livy has bookshelves in her room, and Maddsy has a basket of board books to paw through. But our girls only ever see us read in bed, thanks to the proximity of our bookpile to our bedroom. They just don't know that we love and value our books because they've never seen them. If we want to instill this value in our kids, we need to make it visible. It's time.

So, rather than sorting through old clothes or buying new hangers or whatever it is that other closet-cleaners are doing, instead I'm going to get quotes on building in built-ins and (God, it feels pretentious writing this), I'm going to call a fancy friend's interior decorator for a consultation. It's a more difficult and lengthier project than refolding my sweaters, but it's obviously the right project at the right time. We've got the money. We've got the books. Let's do this thing.

I did do the laundry and recycle that orange box. I want points for that, dammit.

And I promise to hang a wedding picture somewhere public in the house, too.