A Justification of Stuff.
This is definitely genetic. I don’t know why I do it. My closet is pristine. Throwing things away gives me a roller coasteresque thrill. So why do I still have a nesting doll measuring cup under my bathroom sink????? Why did I at some point think ‘oh this can go there!’?
I try to blame my friends, it’s a trend. My sister does it. Both my parents do it. Maybe it’s genetic. But as I pull a box of Kool-aid watches from 1993 and gift cards to STERNS (anyone remember STERNS?) from a slowly emptying dresser I am given a simple answer from my father, “it’s a New York thing.”
Everyone knows about New York’s infamously small living spaces. Most fail to appreciate that Monica’s apartment on Friends (in the Village I think?) was probably at least $2,500 a month (I know, superfans, it was rent controlled) and don’t even get my started on the apartment from 27 dresses! (A supposedly underpaid assistant gets that mega apartment AND can afford to be a bridesmaid 27 times?! I think not.) Also these sizes persist at all pay levels. I once went to a dinner party at the home of someone I will describe as well-off, which means door man building and ivy league educations, the bedrooms were still the size of walk-in closets and the dining room nothing more than a nook. I say all this to try and explain away what I say next.
Carrie Bradshaw kept sweaters in her oven. Everyone in NY keeps something in their oven, be it pans, shoes, jewelry they fear will be stolen. You know your rich when your oven is empty. There is never a nook left unabused, so once these Manhattanites move into a bigger place or the suburbs their hoard just grows because there is the appearance of room.
I made rules for this. I said I wasn’t allowed to put things under my bed (failed), and I wasn’t allowed to keep empty frames (failed), nor could I put things where they obviously didn’t belong such as nesting dolls under the sink (opps). I failed on all of these accounts because sometimes you just want things. Even if you only kind of sort of know you have them. It’s the label on the depths of your soul and you’re waiting for someone to eventually say “hey! You have guitar? I didn’t know you played.” Then you can brag about your mastery of three chords. Or maybe they’ll say “you own every book by Stephen Hawking?” *impressed nodding. And you’ll sigh and pretend it was nothing and you can happily go on watching nothing but Fashion Star re-runs because you know somewhere in your apartment is proof you read some books once and they were really smart ones. But let’s not get hasty here, you’re not gonna give up prime real estate for a hobby of your past, not when you could fill it with shoes.
A popular lament of anthropologists is the death of the bookshelf. They bemoan it like some old quirky friend who used to raise alligators in Brooklyn or like some idyllic notion of how life should be. Really they like to snoop. Has so-and-so ever read Kafka? Dr. XYZ doesn’t own Art and Agency?! Laugh, scoff, howl. The eradication of the bookshelf has forced us to show off in other ways, which means after we stuff every nook and cranny with junk we then buy a ton more things to display. These display items represent us and now we have even more stuff! A friend of mine keeps every single textbook from college, forgoing the space and the cash she could get in sell-back, simply because she wants people to know she majored in biology. Not that I should took, I can see a forensic anthropology textbook from where I’m typing this. I can also see two expensive books on fashion technology – a subject I almost but didn’t write my thesis on.
New Yorkers don’t cook, they don’t stay at home (it is just too darn claustrophobic), and they aren’t known for the subtle brag (we’re kind of obnoxious… jk) so why are our apartments the visualization of our lives? Because all we want is everything.