Before I lived in Manhattan, I had more space than I knew what to do with. I wasn’t a clotheshorse pre-New York, but I still managed to fill every nook and cranny with furniture and flea market finds. Somehow, even in a maxed-out two-story house with just a few bare shelves in the kitchen, nesting with another person seemed easier.
Let’s face it. Living with the one you love should be effortless, but it isn’t. Tolerating their idiosyncrasies and annoying habits on a daily basis can be nerve rattling. Adding marriage and a small apartment into the equation could complicate matters more.
We all need personal space. Most married couples are able to designate a room of their own at home. Some guy somewhere invented the ‘man cave’ for this very reason. While living in a 2.5 room apartment in Manhattan, there are no designated caves. His turf is my turf and vice versa.
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I've found the secret to living in any space is staying organized, avoiding clutter, and purging several times per year. Even when strictly adhering to this philosophy, challenges still arise in smaller spaces. My packrat mentality takes over, leaving choices I struggle to make.
“I might lose those five pounds and squeeze into the red satin Catherine Malandrino pants from 2003. For now, I’ll keep them on the highest shelf so I don’t feel guilty for not wearing them.”
“I love those pointy pumps even though I can only wear them while sitting. But for nostalgia, I’ll keep the pair for another year since I got them in Florence on our honeymoon. It’s only one shoebox.”
Even the most organized may experience hoarding moments. In turn, closets are packed, drawers are stuffed, and our lives are disheveled.
Just like me, my husband likes lots of stuff---big stuff, little stuff---all kinds of stuff. He also boasts an ever-growing wardrobe since he moved to New York. It used to be tools, plus nuts and bolts cluttering our home. He no longer needs these. Now it's clothes, plus shoes and hats everywhere. I guess a man can never have too many pairs of Cole Haan’s.
In an effort to keep him organized and keep me from getting nutty, shortly after we moved into our sprawling one bedroom, I gave him a little black box to store his personal items. These things included: a wallet, keys, a pocketknife, a pair of sunglasses, and a packet of chewing gum. This little black box would stay on the buffet cabinet, which is the main piece of furniture in our living room, and four steps from the foyer. This seemed like the perfect solution.
A short time went by, and noticeably the box became overstuffed. It began to overflow onto the beautiful new buffet, or it extended onto the vintage dining table about five feet away. Frustration set in, but I was determined to fix it.
I resolved this by finding another box. The new black box is larger at approximately 8x11 inches. So for the past year, hubby has been keeping the original items and any additional things tucked away neatly in his new black box. Fabulous.
A few weeks ago, I began to notice the overflowing again. I mentioned this in passing. He resolved the issue by purging. And alas, all of his tchotchkes fit! Now just a short time later, the box is bulging and is barely able to close.
I asked nonchalantly, "What is going on with the box?"
I opened it and found the contents: three pairs of sunglasses, two watches, a battery charger, several pieces of mail, currency, two pocketknives, and a CD. This is in addition to the wallet, keys, gum, etc. from the original box! It's no surprise the box wouldn’t latch.
I admit it. I like all things in their place 24/7. I prefer our apartment to be squeaky clean, tidy, and never in disarray. I love coming home to fluffed pillows and seat cushions, and I enjoy the smell of Murphy's oil soap. These are a few of my many quirks, just like my addiction to shoes. But, I'm very honest and I communicate these quite well. Plus, after two years of cohabitation and twelve years of marriage, shouldn’t he know better?
During the discussion, Michael commented, “You have a jewelry drawer in your closet.”
My response was appropriate, "I am a woman with jewelry. What jewelry do you have besides your watches, which should stay on a shelf in your closet?"
His response was correct, "My wedding ring and a bracelet." I’d forgotten about his two-piece collection.
In order to resolve this quickly, Michael will now have a tiny black box for his ring and bracelet. Since I knew these two tiny items caused the original box to bulge, and sent the other goods over the top onto the furniture, this was an easy resolution. Now all is tucked inside again, which calms my nuttiness, until a future spillover.
We're currently on the waiting list for that in-demand storage unit in our basement. If only the wait was over, we’d have plenty of space for all of the accumulated extra belongings, just like every other forty-something New Yorker.
Until then, a spot at Manhattan Mini Storage may be in order.
When it comes to lasting relationships, they aren't all that different from the black box, or the one-bedroom apartment. Every now and then, we need to reassess. Evaluate, edit and purge. When all is said and done, those things that truly matter fit into place again.