If you’re like us and you’ve lived in the same New York City apartment for over 20 years,  eventually you run out of space—especially if your adult children move back home during or after college.  It doesn’t matter how many times our family  cleans out closets and drawers, or whether the Salvation Army picks up 10 or 20 shopping bags a year,  there’s still too much stuff and too little space.  We’re not hoarders but our nest is still full to the brim and overflowing.

      There hasn’t been any space in our storage bin for years.  For those of you who live in real houses, a New York City basement storage bin is a mini-version of your attic, a giant floor-to-ceiling cage rented by tenants to store their junk. In our case, that means bicycles, luggage, paintings, old rugs and boxes of—well, who can remember what’s in there after so many years?  Even some of the stuff we’d like to finally throw out—like the kids’ collection of 328 Beanie Babies–turns out to be an overwhelming proposition. These mini-stuffed animals were once considered valuable collectors’ items. Today they are buried so deep below the many heavy mystery boxes that it would take an archaeologist  to unearth them. 

     Of course we have other childhood collections, some valuable as well as sentimental, still on display in our apartment.  In Max’s room, there’s an extensive soldier collection, featuring:  both World Wars, the Revolutionary War,  The Civil War, The Crimean War, The Napoleonic Wars and the Sudanese Wars.   We’re talking about 600 – 700 soldiers, including Hitler, Napoleon, General George Custer, General Robert Lee, General George Washington—lovingly collected by history-loving Henry and his little boy who enjoyed sharing a hobby with Dad.  Each war is crowded onto a single bookshelf, opposing armies poised for battle. The soldiers are so close together that they are practically touching.  Absurdly, I can’t help thinking, that if they ever came to life, most of them would die during battle from friendly fire, or they’d topple off the shelf like lemmings.

      On the remaining book shelves, there’s a collection of antique cars, 10-15 signed baseballs, and all of Max’s sports trophies clustered closely together in claustrophobic glory.  Where are all of the displaced books? Paperbacks and hardcovers alike are piled all over and under his desk and covered with a layer of discarded clothing.  (It almost goes without saying that the rest of Max’s wardrobe spills out of his drawers, his hamper and his closet, like Niagara Falls).

      Max’s four walls are also completely covered with a collage of sports memorabilia, including pictures of Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, and 5 signed baseball bats.   I won’t even describe what resides on the blue carpeted floor, or in the garbage overflowing with empty soda cans.  That’s old news.   Newly added to the mix is all the recently purchased film equipment and tripods.  This does NOT include ANY of the boxes the equipment came in, which it’s too soon to safely throw out.

      All of those boxes, which must be saved until we’re sure all the expensive new equipment is working, are stored in the living room behind our sofa.  Unfortunately, these boxes are visible because they are snuggled among two bicycles, two helmets, an old rug, a wine cooler, yoga mats, a large planter, and three big bags waiting to go to the Salvation Army….

                Sarah’s bedroom is not much better. There is an electric piano, draped with coats that won’t fit into our closet.  An exercise bicycle blocks the heat and air conditioning units, but the textbooks, binders and papers are neatly stacked on her desk. The desk chair is free of clothing, so it’s possible for a guest to sit down.  Thank God for the chair because a large, stuffed dog sprawls across the foot of her bed, leaving no space for a living friend.  My daughter’s closets, drawers and hampers are not yet overflowing, but it’s better NOT to search for a particular shirt or dress.  Her clothing is hung tightly together at peculiar angles and is not organized by season.  Navigating her wardrobe is like entering a labyrinth with unexpected twists and turns.  



      In the master bedroom, Henry and I have carefully managed the chaos.  The closet people came long ago to maximize and organize every inch of space to insure room for ties, belts, and shoes. The inside of each door is covered with white mesh hooks and extra shelves and drawers are built in everywhere.  Unfortunately, after 20 years, the ties and belts are doubled up and the extra shoes and boots, alas, are on the floor of our walk-in closet, leaving only a sliver of path to our clothing.   The closet people never did come up with a solution for my beloved collection of handbags, so they hang from two coat racks next to my side of the bed.

     There’s not much to say about the bathrooms except that we have pedestal sinks with no storage space.  We have our own mini-CVS with countless pill vials that have outgrown the puny space allotted them in our tiny, mirrored medicine cabinets.  Many drugs belonging to me and my kids have migrated to the kitchen counter.  As messy and unsightly as the counter now appears, at least everyone remembers to take his-and-her pills at breakfast and after dinner.  Also, I can check to see which kid needs a refill.  Max has a habit of leaving an empty vial upside down, which is a dead giveaway.

     Okay, so I’m not the neatest and best-organized person in town, and neither is my family. Four adults—two young and two older—plus an always-hungry dog whose favorite pastime is to knock over garbage cans and nose through briefcases and handbags for anything edible, creates a constant overflow.
     We don’t do much entertaining, for obvious reasons.






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