A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
This Christmas thing is still happening.
First it was the setting up, with the buying of the lights and the tree and the ornaments and the stars and the tree skirts and the doodads and what-have-yous. In the space of about three intensive weeks, I made an insta-Christmas. Then there came the scramble to buy gifts for everybody. Not just gifts—good gifts. Gifts people want. Gifts I didn’t already buy people last year, but in a different color. Now we’re practically halfway through January, and I just came to terms with the fact that all the seasonal decor which I worked so hard to install must come down. Already! Geesh.
I kept asking my husband, the resident Christian in our household, what a person is to do with all of the holiday supplies in the off-season. No response ever came. A shrug and a weak, “hmmm . . . I dunno” accompanied by a vague gesture over the tree and one of our tightly-packed closets was the best I got. So this weekend,
I entered the store with all sorts of wacky DIY ideas about how one might cobble together suitable storage containers for things like ornaments, wicker reindeer, and decorative pinecones. I should have known better. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I saw a huge (and largely picked-over) display of containers of all shapes and sizes, all specifically engineered to store all manner of seasonal decor. There were boxes for ornaments, six different storage solutions for wreaths, soft boxes for seasonal flatware, glassware and china, boxes with inserts to wind lights, upright tree bags, ornament pouches, gift wrap boxes, ribbon dispensers, holiday cushion keepers, packing shreds and more. As I scanned the shelves looking for what I needed, I felt both overwhelmed and deflated.
Should I have selected a holiday dinner set? Perhaps I was supposed to have purchased seasonal wine goblets! Should my ornaments be so special that they require little bubble-paper pouches within their little cardboard compartments? Should we be storing our artificial tree in a special artificial tree bag, as opposed to just hanging onto the box it came in for the last five weeks? What are holiday cushions, anyway? And more importantly, who are these city-dwellers who own so much bulk in items that are only used one month out of the year and then store them in gigantic, inflexible boxes decorated in darling red toile patterned linen?
I shoved these thoughts aside and chose a couple of modest ornament cases, plus a bag for the wreath. Feeling satisfied, I continued through the store towards the registers. My friend Clare was with me, and we decided to take a circuitous route, wandering in and out of aisles admiring all the myriad ways in which a person could be supremely organized. We stopped, slackjawed, at a display of linen shoe boxes with clear drop-front panels. I opened and closed it a few times, marveling at the ingeniousness of it and imagining myself with a perfectly organized closet stacked full of matching linen shoe boxes with clear drop-front panels.
“I will never be the sort of person who could have these,” I sighed, and I plummeted into a pit of despair. I realized that I could never by the sort of person who had any of the things in this store. I could never see myself storing my batteries in a designated battery case, but am resigned to living out my days rummaging through drawers for loose AAs. My wires will never be wound and individually labeled. Even if I could afford a closet shelving system or an apartment with a big enough closet to contain shelving, I wouldn’t be able to even get as far as figuring out what kinds of shelves would be of practical use.
I huffed through the store in a cloud of self-pity, frustration and resentment. Look how good these imaginary people were! Why can’t I be that good? I’ll never be that good. And anyway, who are they to make me feel badly for keeping my shoes strewn about my closet floor? Why shouldn’t I keep my stamps and letter-writing materials in a series of manila envelopes stashed randomly around my apartment? I started thinking that maybe if I bought some of this stuff, I’d change. Maybe all it took was one dental floss winder to change my life.
In the end, I stuck with my ornament cases and, at the last minute, snagged a self-filtering, environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottle off the impulse buy rack. It was the best I could muster. And when I got home, I felt motivated! At least, enough so that all of our Christmas supplies are neatly packed away and sitting in an unsightly stack in the corner of our living room. There is no earthly space we can store them in our apartment. We have yet to vacuum up the fake needle debris, and the dog has re-claimed his former territory by scattering around as many of his sad little scraps of torn-up toys as he could find.
I should have bought those wire organizers.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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