I know everyone says they need more space, but we’re different. We really do need more space. Really.
We live in a studio apartment. Two of us. And we’re not twenty-three or impoverished, so we have no excuse. Our studio was about the right size for one of us before the other of us, who shall remain nameless, moved in with the other one of us.
All right, it was me. I moved in and ruined it for everybody. Space-wise, that is. Since we’re engaged and having a baby, I’m going to be free with my assumption that I didn’t ruin everything.
Why do we stay in our too-small place? Because we live in the sunniest neighborhood of this foggy city, and our little flat gets morning light in the bedroom, evening light in the living room and has a big deck with a view of over San Francisco Bay and pots of roses and lavender. It’s a nice little oasis in a town I otherwise find pretty grim.
We’re not complete idiots: we’ve tried to move. But all the other houses, apartments, condos, tracts of land, what have you that we’ve looked at face only east, only west, or neither. The apartments don’t have decks. The houses’ yard/gardens (yardens?) are all enclosed and low-light or tiered down the side of a hill and what the hell do you do with a tiered garden? Grow rice? Display stuff? Display rice? No one can grill or play properly on a slope. Unless you’re into sledding, in which case good luck in San Francisco, you poor winter-loving bastard.
I’m getting off my point though. My point is that if you live in a space that’s about half the size of the space you need, at least twice a year, you face the music and tear the place apart, eliminating a bit of kitchenware here, boxing up a set of psychology books there. Since I’m way too organized, I can’t just toss stuff into boxes until all the clutter has been cleared to storage or Goodwill.
I clear by category. Everything in the kitchen is under review. Have we riced any potatoes lately? (Be grateful it was just Thanksgiving, potato ricer.) Cored any pineapples? (Yes.) Do we really need bowls? (Yes.) Eleven jars of mustard? (No…unless that mustard-only Christmas plan comes through.) All the books get reviewed, as does all the stuff in the bathroom, the closets and so on. Which means the place – the tiny place – is a complete shambles for however long it takes.
I agree: I’m kind of a nightmare. But it’s a really organized nightmare.
I spent this last weekend on just such a nightmare (which dragged on even longer than usual ’cause I’m also busy growing another person, which, it turns out, is tiring), and I’m a little on edge. All right, a lot on edge. I don’t like mess. And then, just as my hand grasped the air beyond the end of my rope, it happened: that perfect moment when everything around you falls into perspective. Flipping through some about-to-be-recycled magazine, I saw it: Hoarders, the new reality series from A&E.
I thought they were kidding, but they weren’t. I thought it was maybe The Onion, but it wasn’t. They’re actually producing a show on people who live in the tunnels among the back issues of National Geographic 1962-1980.
(What the hell has become of A&E, by the way? Doesn’t “A&E” stand for “arts and entertainment” not “ass-bad execution”? Their web site is one scary browsing experience.)
The Hoarders home page encouraged me to “Watch full episodes,” but I just couldn’t do it. I get the gist from the photos, and it is all-over scary: people whose perms and dental work were updated the last time they went vacuum cleaner shopping in 1971. Scanning the before/after section is no more inspiring. The houses the team uncovers under all the garbage are pretty terrible and what’s the incentive in that?
Speaking of which, it’s not technically a “hoard” when you just let the place go to hell. Merriam’s defines a hoard as “a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away.” I’m not sure dead cats qualify as a “supply” and the mountains of crap are definitely not “hidden away.” But I’m quibbling. These guys are definitely hoarding the crazy.
Here’s what I’m getting at: our place is just not that bad and your place probably isn’t either. Sure, I have too many back issues of The Believer (which I don’t even like) and the forthcoming Christmas tree is going to squash up against our DVD collection (which R refuses to watch because it’s not HD enough), but mostly we’re clean livin’. No one’s dentures have gone missing in the trash heap and we haven’t lost track of any pets in the clutter, so we’re good. Relativity to the rescue!
Now if I could just find that National Geographic from April 1969, I’d feel all safe inside.