Now that the holidays are over, I have no more excuses. It’s time to straighten out, reorganize and clean my apartment.
She doesn’t know it yet, but Harmony the Cat, who lives with me, will be involved in this, too. She doesn’t like being brushed, but – too bad! – she’s going to have to deal with it often from now on. Like all cats, she’s very clean, but kitty saliva baths don’t do anything to keep those little shed hairs off the furniture, the floor and my clothes. I would ask her to clean up her own hairball puke, but that would be a losing battle. When you live with a cat, you take your victories where you can and cut your losses.
I am not the world’s worst housekeeper, but I am far from the world’s best. I live in a studio apartment, along with enough stuff for a place twice its size. I am not a pack rat – at least not on purpose – but things accumulate, especially for a compulsive online shopper. When I moved into this apartment, I got rid of about half the stuff I had. Since then, I have exiled even more stuff to the local thrift shop. To accommodate the things I can’t bear to part with, I have had to experiment with making the best use of space. Bookcases are my friends.* Storage ottomans hold everything from Christmas decorations to blankets to dirty laundry (Ssh!) to odds and ends. I have two closets, but I am a woman. Two closets are barely enough, especially when I have to store my vacuum cleaner and my shopping cart in one of them because I can’t think of a better place to put them. My kitchen is so full it’s in pain.
New Yorkers think of space not as something to enjoy, but as another place to put something, the more the better. That’s why we have cluttered store aisles and tiny yards – and small apartments in a lot of tall buildings. More than eight million people live here. Add to that all the people who come here just to work and all the tourists, and space becomes something to dream about. If you don’t believe me, try walking around Manhattan’s Theater District on any day of the week before curtain time. It’s like trying to walk through a solid wall of flesh, bone, purses, briefcases, cameras and backpacks. You can only move about 5 inches an hour. If you can get through that without punching someone out, you are a candidate for sainthood. The only time this congestion is good is when it’s raining. If enough people around you have opened their umbrellas, they can potentially form a tent-like barrier between you and the pennies from Heaven.
Back to my apartment – no matter how much straightening-up I do, I can’t get it to look like something out of House and Garden. The only people I know who have apartments that look like they came out of a magazine are the ones who care more about looks than comfort. These people are easy to spot. They’re thin. Their hair never moves on their head. Their clothes and shoes look uncomfortable, but they fit perfectly, with no puckers and no wrinkles. Their apartments look the same way: no puckers; no wrinkles; and furniture that looks like no human being ever sat on it or put anything on it.
My goal, should I ever have the ambition to work toward it, is to turn my little apartment into a Town and Country model where I can also sprawl out on man-eating furniture, put my feet up on an ottoman or two, play with my cat, keep my knitting, my books and my magazines at hand, and have a computer workstation with a lot of odds and ends that I might or might not need and cheap plastic storage drawers. My kitchen should be able to handle a water dispenser, a rack to store big water bottles, a bread maker, a coffeemaker with an automatic grinder, a gazillion coffee mugs, a set of knives, a set of dishes, a basket full of tea, baking products, cookies and whatever, a microwave, a broom closet, a refrigerator, a stove and a clothes rack and still look like nobody ever does anything messy in there, like prepare food and feed a hungry cat.
I won’t mention the cat litter box. That could be the subject of a whole other piece of writing.
My kind friends, who have my best interests as heart, tell me that my interior decorating dreams are impossible and that I should resign myself to being the lovable slob that I am. I’m thinking that one over.
*Famous New York proverb: Do not put things side by side when you can stack them up on top of each other.