In Her Shell
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I live my life in piles. Behind me is the pile of clothing to be hung up in the closet, partially obscuring the pile of books and movies that I have borrowed and am ready to return to their owners. Next to my keyboard is the pile of mail that needs to be dealt with--bills and invitations. To my right is the pile of Christmas card envelopes, waiting for their return addresses to be entered into my new address book.

To my left is the pile of things I brought in from the living room but haven't put away.

The pile of books I'm currently reading is on my bedside table. The pile of CDs that don't fit in the CD tower is on top of my chest of drawers. On top of the TV is the pile of DVDs that I may want to watch sometime in the next... while. Through the open closet door, I can see the pile of casual shoes that don't fit on the shoe rack: flip-flops, Chucks, Tevas, slippers.

In my family's home, "straightening up" meant putting things into neat piles. Not to be confused with "cleaning up," which involved actually going through the piles, and dusting beneath them, the Straightening of the Piles happened only when company was coming over on short notice. At other times, the piles were slovenly, relaxed across tables, lounging in wicker baskets. Such is the status of my adult piles now.

The piles are comforting and suggest, at least to me, a sense of order within which exists great disorder. They reveal my deal-with-that-later laziness, but also, I hope, my good intentions to deal with things at all. If things do not find a home in a pile, they are apt to become lost things. But many of the great discoveries in my many rooms have happened while I searched for something else.

In spite of my casual approach to organization in my own space, I recoil at overt sloppiness in other people's homes. But it is possible that amidst the detrius of others' lives, I just don't recognize their piles.
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