I was incredibly aroused by my new boyfriend’s socks. The clean ones, that is. They were organized by function and color, folded in identical little rectangles and placed in perfect rows in his closet drawers. On his shelves were clear plastic bins that contained accessories like collar stays, braces for his elegant suits, man-jewelry, coins, journals, and other items that I would ordinarily have strewn all over my personal space. If I’d been on the fence about whether or not he was “the one,” that first gander at his closet erased any doubts.
Most of my life I’ve been a mess. As a child, I would try on outfits and reject them, heaping them into a pile on my desk chair. Dirty clothes were shed onto the wall-to-wall shag carpet. Eventually, the clean castoffs would merge with the soiled laundry. Only my discerning eye could tell them apart. Homework, letters from friends, record albums, and books all became part of the bedroom décor. Only my diary was tucked safely out of sight.
Although I improved with age, no one ever accused me of being a compulsive organizer. I knew where everything was but coworkers and roommates were skeptical. By the time I turned 50, even I was exasperated.
Then I met Randy. Of the tidily rolled socks. I had immediate neatness envy. When, after a couple of months of dating, he made room for three of my t-shirts and a tennis outfit in his closet I didn’t dare disrupt the sense of order he so meticulously maintained. I folded my meager wardrobe with military precision and kept it in the back corner of the drawer he’d offered.
Several more months passed and we decided to cohabitate. Randy announced he had to make a trip to The Container Store. Did I want to come?
“What’s The Container Store?” I asked. I’d been living in the Florida Keys and on Martha’s Vineyard where shopping choices were limited at best.
“You’ve never been to a Container Store?” he replied, looking alarmed.
“We had K-Mart in the Keys and our shops on the Vineyard aren’t much bigger than your master bathroom,” I countered.
Off we went to a nearby Container Store that, I could only assume, contained containers. The automatic doors parted and we walked into 25,000 square feet of container nirvana.
There were baskets, buckets, and bins for laundry, earrings, napkins, shoes, toiletries, fruit, papers, giftwrap, silverware, dishes, spices and toys. There were containers for containers. And they came in a rainbow of pleasing colors and patterns: teal, citron, yellow, crimson, white, black, plaid, paisley, and so on.
Suddenly, I, the lifelong queen of disarray, was filled with a sense of optimism that was nearly uncontainable. The old adage, “There’s a place for everything and everything in its place,” resonated with me for the first time. Confronted by row upon row of empty containers, I envisioned my future decluttered. The mess on my desk a distant memory. My shoes recoupled. Makeup sorted and stored in acrylic cubbies atop my bathroom vanity.
I raced to fetch my own gargantuan shopping cart. The Container Store had obviously planned for overzealous converts like me. I flew through the aisles, plucking items that I was sure would transform my life. Randy looked on, beaming his approval. Even the salespeople seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my potential.
Some three hundred dollars poorer, we piled my oversized shopping bags into Randy’s SUV. I couldn’t wait to get started! But by the time we got home, adrenaline abated, I decided that one more day as the slovenly old me wouldn’t hurt anyone. I stuffed The Container Store bags into my office closet and, sadly, that’s where they remained until we married and moved to Southwest Florida two years later.
Our new home presented a perfect opportunity to once again re-create myself. I unpacked my virgin containers and set to work, organizing bathrooms, my new office, the kitchen, and closets. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment until I ran out of containers.
Googling “The Container Store, Naples, FL,” I came up with crushing news: the closest location was 125 miles away. How could this be? The Container Store was my lifeline to transmutation. Was I destined to remain suspended in a state of semi-organization?
While the local Bed, Bath & Beyond has stepped up to partially fill the chasm left by The Container Store, I admit I’m still bereft. I cling to the hope that some day my savior will come to Naples. Until then, I can only fantasize about the exceptionally tidy person I might have been.