Domestic Bliss

Every time I go to Target or any of those huge stores with enormous housewares sections, I am lured by the plethora of multi-colored, ever-so-cheerful-and-efficient storage devices. Closet organizers. Drawer trays. Stacking baskets. I will color-code my life. I will sort the mountains of junk in my house and divide it into logical categories, then store it in attractive containers, out of sight somewhere. Whenever someone needs the nail clippers, a screwdriver, batteries, I will be able to send them directly to the source.But past attempts at organization have always failed. The drawer trays end up in a box on the back porch, destined for the Goodwill dropoff box or next summer's yard sale. The kitchen drawer's willfulness prevails, and in spite of my efforts, a month later it returns to its original state of organic chaos. The current condition of that drawer is typical. A quick inventory reveals the following: a hammer, several screwdrivers, numerous extra unidentified keys, an old dental x-ray, a roll of double-stick tape, duck tape, film canisters, a baggie-ful of AAA batteries, a lipstick, a hairclip, three pairs of sunglasses, the bulb section of a dismembered flashlight, a broken ceramic collie dog and its detached leg.I'm beginning to believe that storage systems work only in certain households, that most households have minds of their own which repel the notion of color-coded containers. If I examine the seeming disorganization of the junk in my house, it actually begins to make sense.On the countertop, gathering dust, are the family's vitamin collection. If they are prominently displayed, I reason, we're more likely to remember to take them. Next to the vitamins are a camera -- you never know when you'll need to grab it and snap a shot -- the kids' school papers dating back to last September, and several decorative items, including a perfectly preserved cat skull sitting next to a perfectly preserved mouse skull. Makes sense to me.My favorite storage area is the open shelf in the dining room, beneath the candlesticks and the Japanese teapot, where all lost electronic and electric devices reside. Battery chargers, calculators, videotapes of various sizes, a pile of remote controls, their battery covers missing. Everything is black. All stray cords end up here. No matter that nothing is ever removed from this shelf to be used, we simply keep adding to the collection. At least we know where to put that kind of stuff.Our house tends toward an open storage system. The bathroom drawers and cabinets have not been opened in five years because everything one might ever need is displayed on open shelves or on the sink top. Partially used dental floss, everyone's favorite brand of toothpaste, lotions, facial potions, perfume bottles empty and full -- a drug store's worth of health and beauty aids at hand's reach.Last night as I was tucking my son into bed, he reached over and stashed the book we were reading under the bed. I asked why he didn't put the book back on the shelves, less than two feet away. "Because I know where to find it tomorrow night," he explained. I lifted the edge of the comforter and peeked beneath it. A pile of Mad magazines was topped and overflowing with every book we've read aloud in the past year. The complete Chronicles of Narnia mingled with skateboard catalogs.Perhaps he needs a set of those beneath-the-bed storage baskets -- naaaaah. I lowered the bed cover and turned off the lights. At least, I thought, it's out of sight.

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