For the space of nearly two decades, the space between my maple dresser and the west-facing wall of my bedroom has served as a cubbyhole, bin, repository, open air closet and erstwhile storage area for an assortment of handbags -- some commodious as duffel bags, others modest as sandwich-size baggies and every size in between.
Predominantly black, of course.
Accompanying the handbags in this pile were tote bags from such far-flung places as the Berlin film festival and a flea market in Ireland, those ubiquitous recycled shopping totes from such local emporia as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters and nearly a dozen trademark glossy black and white Sephora bags in a variety of dimensions, bearing mute witness to my consumer habits.
There were also three $12 faux fur handbags purchased from Old Navy more than a decade earlier, a set in red, black and leopard print that accompanied me to scores of parties and never failed to elicit rave reviews for their blend of whimsy and elegance. There were ironic fake vintage lunch boxes from fifties/sixties TV shows ("I Love Lucy," "Lassie" and "The Munsters") that I employed in lieu of grown-up evening bags and as repositories for my keys, lip gloss and other essentials for synagogue services on Shabbat and holidays...lest I be seen toting a regular workaday purse on the Sabbath.
There were a few actual evening bags -- the tiny silver embossed bag I saved from my mother's discard pile when she recently cleaned out her Great Neck home, a black crocodile clutch from my late mother-in-law, a velvet handbag from Nine West I swore I had never seen before and therefore must have snagged on sale at a place like Woodbury Commons in a fugue state induced by retail overload.
There were stylish bags I had utterly forgotten about -- a crazy Zebra skin satchel from Loehmann's accented with red patent leather, a microfiber backpack purchased in Paris several years earlier, a handsome Italian leather number my sister had bought in Italy and never used, a lush suede bag my mother had purchased from TJ Maxx, complete with tags, never worn.
The pile of bags has bothered me on and off but like so many other household projects, it took a backseat to other pressing items: work, family, exercise, hosting, cooking, travel, haircuts, manicures, the need to have a full extracurricular life. If our Amsterdam Avenue apartment wins praise for anything, it is for its laissez faire, eclectic style, which blends vibrant walls, artifacts of our travels, an insane amount of books, movie posters, unique (and cheap!) artwork, nutty chachkas and cool cast-off furniture with the best of Ikea and Bloomingdale's warehouse...together with the somehow charming domestic detritus of a family of five.
The west and northfacing views of the Columbia University campus also have something to do with our apartment's appeal. So do our Pomeranians, Alfie and Nala, whose sheer cuteness serves as a visual distraction.
I make no secret of the fact that though I am an avid cook and host, I consider cleaning (and most household projects that take more than, say, 10 minutes) a vast waste of my time and talents. Even when we could not afford to do so, we have had a cleaning lady in because I cannot abide a dirty home and hate doing laundry.
Though I recoil from filth (click below to read the rest of the post)...
Though I recoil from filth, I have a certain tolerance for mess and this relaxed attitude is reflected in the fact that our interestingly accessorized home often is marred by piles of stuff...on surfaces and on floors and in closets and in crevices and corners such as the one between my dresser and my bedroom wall.
And though I will go to great lengths to avoid cleaning, I will also launch focused, high-energy sifting/organizing/categorizing/tossing fests every so often because the mess just gets to me.
By which I mean that the fact that I do not know what is contained in closets, corners, piles and bags really begins to freak me out.
I am not sure why but lately I have been taking on household cleaning, sifting and organizing projects, often begun on Shabbat afternoons.
A month ago, I tackled Little Babe's room with him, a project that ate up an entire day but yielded a renovated room with a new feature: floorspace. Together, we filled five large white garbage bags worth of stuff that had no place in his adolescent lair.
Last week I decided to mate the single socks stored in two pillowcases in my closet, a project which produced more than 20 new pairs. I felt as joyous as a matchmaker, bringing two lonely souls together...again and again and again. Looking in on me, sitting cross-legged on our king-sized bed, HOBB remarked, "I hate to say it but you look as happy as a pig in..."
The result of my bag cubbyhole search, destroy and store mission produced quantifiable results: at the end of my project, not only do I have a cleaner bedroom but I scored 27 pens, 12 make-up items, many of them believed lost forever, ticket stubs, receipts and programs that provided a sweet trip down memory lane and the biggest surprise...$79.12 in coins, redeemed yesterday at the coin machine at TD Bank, where I won a prize for guessing the amount within two dollars. (I guessed $78. I don't know why.)
In the course of my mission, some bags were tossed, the rest stored in the walk-in closet in a somewhat haphazard but fully visible pile placed atop a newly empty shelf. (I had also discarded four cardboard boxes filled with clothes that I was fairly certain I would never wear again because of the extreme improbability that I will ever weigh 112 pounds again.)
Last night, just as I was pondering whether I had been too hasty to toss certain bags, I chanced upon a young guy who looked familiar as I was running into Trader Joe's on Broadway and 72nd Street. In less than half a minute we broke into smiles of recognition. "Hey, you're the guy who stood behind me at TD Bank this morning!" I blurted out.
"Yeah," he said. "You had a lot of coinage. What was your take?"
I drew myself up proudly. "$79.12," I announced. The guy's eyes widened in admiration.
"Wow," he said. "Was that money just lying around your house?"
"Nah," I said. "I found it in my old handbags. I went on a mad cleaning spree."
The guy broke into a mischievous grin. "Hey," he said. "I'm gonna offer to help my girlfriend clean out her closet. You never know what you might find."