Saturday, August 2, 2008

When did a closet become one of the most expensive rooms in the house?

I glanced through a flyer last night -- the Home Mag. The "Anything and Everything for your Home" magazine.

We are coming to the end of a major bathroom remodel in our house, so decorating, remodeling, even cleaning are on my mind. Who knew that the air conditioner would suck up that fine drywall dust and spread it through out the house? I wanted to get away from dust, so I opened the magazine. I ogled Spanish roof tile and closets by design. A chandelier in a closet? A closet bigger than my master bedroom? More cupboards, drawers, doors, than can be found in my kitchen? Just who would want to come out of that closet? The photo looks sexier than my bedroom. There is more cupboard space allocated for shoes than I have for simple storage in the attic or garage. And who has that many shoes? I know, Imelda Marcos. I haven't owned that many in a lifetime.

And don't get me started on the garage! The magazine's back page sports an ad featuring this pristine room lined with maple cabinetry, a polished tile floor and an invitation to "Win a Mercedes-Benz for your Ultimate Garage."

Do people really fall for this? When did life become a race to build the most beautiful storage area? When did hiding possessions become so important? Are we ashamed of the things we own? I can't imagine it is because Americans are humble and don't want to flaunt their possessions.

Closets -- they're a recent concept aren't they? I recall moving into a house built around the turn of the century -- the twentieth century -- and the 'master bedroom' (biggest bedroom) closet consisted of one pole hung down the middle of a room just big enough to give my clothes a hug when I shut the door. Mom said they used armoirs when she was a kid and I see they have made a comeback -- most house TV and computer equipment, but still I like that old world charm of a movable closet, so self contained and compact.

Wall to wall clothes certainly had a different meaning in that tiny space than it does in these echoing chambers. These tributes to consumerism and dare I say waste? They resemble a high-end department store showroom rather than a storage room. I think I'd be embarrassed to have a closet like that. I certainly couldn't hang my Target, Kmart, or even Sears purchases on those racks! And who would clean it? Now that I've reached a certain age and the kids are gone, so I have no slave labor, I judge acquisitions based upon 'who cleans them,' 'how hard is it to clean them,' and 'why would I want to clean them.'

I've watched my share of the HGTV shows devoted to organizing one's clutter and I should practice what they preach. When we made our latest move, we downsized a truckload of accumulated junk to the thrift shops and I felt better for it. I can't think of a thing we gave away that I have missed. Those who browsed my garage sale commented, 'Wow, three decades of stuff -- 60s, 70's, 80s...." I looked around that sale and saw my life and realized how drab it was if these 'things' were what defined me.

Some of the things cluttering my house, my life, have to do with family history. I save them for my children so they will have a sense of belonging, so they will know the line of people from whence they spring. Instead of housing these artifacts in dusty boxes, maybe I should design a closet museum in which to display them -- complete with chandelier and espresso machine. I could see a room in which my family photographs, letters from Uncle Homer in the 1940s or our ancient family tree that stops at the turn of the century (20th Century) would be displayed in splendor and beauty. There's nothing more important than family, is there? Uncle Homer would appreciate the chandelier.

But in my utilitarian life, the last thing I need is a closet showroom for my dirty sneakers and ratty sweatpants. I think it is time we all came out of the closet, stopped lusting about better storage and start jettisoning possessions. The people on the Titanic would have gladly thrown everything overboard to keep that boat afloat -- maybe we need to focus more on life and living and less upon trying to own more. It is not true, do not believe that "he who dies with the most, wins."

He who dies with the most only ensures that his progeny will fill several dumpsters before able to sell the house and get their inheritance. So give it away, throw it away, recycle it, donate it, but get it out of the house! Who wants to spend weekends dusting a chandelier in their closet?