Saturday, September 5, 2015

Livin' in a Box

The bathroom remodel is going as well as can be expected, which is to say it's been at least 36 minutes since anyone found me on the floor, curled up in the fetal position, mumbling “itwillallbeworthitwhenit'sdone, itwillallbeworthitwhenit'sdone, itwillallbeworthitwhenit'sdone...”.

Progress has been slow but steady, given the usual assortment of pre-existing plumbing, electrical and ductwork snafus that had to be corrected before new work could be started. The main contractor has choreographed an intricate Cha Cha of schedules, stepping forward with the planned jobs, backwards with emergency situations, forward with subcontractors, and backward with their emergency situations.

In the meantime, my search for a bottle of aspirin in a house full of plastic storage boxes has been equally slow but steady.

We planned this remodel partly to update our very 1970s split-foyer home, but also because we just didn't have enough room for all our stuff. Paradoxically, the act of remodeling requires us to compress our overabundance of stuff into even less space for the duration of the project.

The answer to our problem is probably that we just need to get rid of some stuff. But that's a difficult concept for a near-hoarder to grasp. And now that the bathroom and the two largest closets in the house are one cavernous, fixtureless space, it's just a little too late to back out. Hindsight is 20/20, and very much NOT appreciated, thank you.

Instead my solution has been to put everything from the bathroom and closets and much of our adjacent bedroom into plastic storage totes. The cat was nearly a casualty of this process when he – traumatized by the constant stream of strangers in and out of the house – decided to take a nap in an tote I was still packing.

There are totes in the family room, totes in the living room, totes in the (remaining) bathroom, totes in our bedroom, and totes stored off-site (and out of mind). Totes filled with clothes, totes filled with shoes, totes filled with medicine, totes filled with towels, knick-knacks, makeup, hair ties and, finally, totes filled with other totes. All this in addition to the totes we've always used to store seasonal items, craft supplies, fabrics, toys, and anything else we don't know what to do with.

Totes to store, totes to organize, totes to keep dust out and totes to keep my sanity in.

All these totes make me look organized, but it's just an illusion. In truth, I have little to no idea what specifically is in any given tote at any given time, except that it probably isn't what I'm looking for. Case in point: The Princess was suffering from a severe onset of seasonal allergies and needed antihistamines. I stared blankly at the sea of totes presumably storing the contents of the bathroom and medicine cabinet, then sighed and drove 15-minutes to the nearest drugstore.

It's not just the dizzying array of sizes, shapes and colors of the totes that drives me crazy, it's the impossibility of keeping a tote together with its matching lid. In this regard, I'm sure that somehow plastic totes and socks are genetically related.

At one time I had, in my living room, two 20-quart boxes but five lids for 20-quart boxes, as well as one lid for a 58-quart box, but no 58-quart box. This was the day after I had purchased a matching amount of boxes and lids.

After wiping the dust from my curling iron for the 20th day in a row (I'm a slow learner) I decided to give up and tote-up everything on my dresser. I managed to find three nearly identical, clear storage totes in our basement.

Each of them required a different lid. Even the two boxes which were the same brand did not use interchangeable lids.

Behind the bedroom door I discovered three lids without boxes. None of them fit the boxes in question.

While searching for lids that did match, I found 30 totes without lids – including both full (18) and empty (12) totes, clean and dirty, large, medium, small and smaller. I also found 40 lids – small, medium, large and larger.

I wish I was kidding.

Finally I admitted defeat and headed to the store to find totes that were just the right size and shape, and an equal amount of lids that fit that size and shape.

As I pondered organizational strategies for organizational strategies, I waxed philosophical: Would my life be more organized if I could put me in a tote?

At least until the remodeling is done.


  1. On the bright side - wine corks interchange with wine bottles.
    Unless they have screw on lids, and then . . . you just drink it till it's gone, and problem solved.
    Yes, next time work on the wine, you won't care about the totes.

  2. Please be clear in that I'm not judging, I'd challenge my bin collection to yours any day (and I'd win!), but I've been reading this book: "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" and the results have been amazing. I'm on an almost daily schedule to Goodwill and the consignment shop with things that no longer 'spark joy'. (Fortunately John is still around as he still 'sparks joy'.) I highly recommend it when you start pulling things from the bins. It's a quick read and I'd get the real book and not the e-book as there are pages you'll want to go back to/highlight and it's easier with a real book. You can always donate it to the library after you've tidied up.