First prize is getting your home restored. Second prize is getting both your homes restored.
I was sitting on my bed in the master bedroom at my parents’ home in Massachusetts, the only comfortable spot in the house. It was the first room to be mostly restored after the flood that damaged the second floor and destroyed the first. I absolutely love the sage-green paint; without over-thinking (because I didn’t have time), I’d picked a color that brought out the green in the draperies and in the lamps. As the contractors worked downstairs to put up walls, put in ceilings, and put down floors, the bedroom was my only oasis of calm.
My cell phone rang. It was one of the desk receptionists at my Virginia apartment building. There had been a water leak three floors above me. My apartment was damaged. Someone’s renter had somehow broken their toilet tank, panicked and didn’t report it, and as a result managed to flood two dozen apartments. There was a little moisture in my den, but most of the damage was in the master suite. A hole was cut in my bathroom ceiling; the carpet, baseboards, and paint had to be replaced in the bedroom. Since I’ve had to focus most of my domestic efforts on my parents’ house, my bedroom was the only part of my apartment that I had 90 percent finished the way I wanted it. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
It was weeks before I could get away from Massachusetts to deal with the apartment. The building manager was great, coordinating the restoration company’s work to dry out the apartment while I was away. But I had to be there to remove all the manageable items from the bedroom so that the contractors could replace the carpet and paint. So I drove down and spent the afternoon before they came hauling clothes out of both closets, pulling drawers out of the chest, safely storing my art and jewelry. At 8:00 the next morning, two of the guys who work for the building came to move the big items I couldn’t handle, the bed, the chest, my grandmother’s overstuffed swivel chair. Then the contractors came and finished their work and put the big furniture back.
Because I knew exactly where everything belonged, that took only a few minutes. Then I had to put the small items back, enjoying how much cushier the new carpet felt underfoot as I worked. And because I have a clear vision of how I organize my clothes and accessories, I could finish it all without having to stop and think where to fit what.
Here’s my system:
High-end shoes stay in their dust bags on the shelf of the gentleman’s closet. Shoes in regular rotation are hung in a shoe bag over the bedroom door. Lesser worn overflow shoes belong on a rack on the floor of the small closet. Boots stand next to the rack.
Dress clothes hang in the small closet from right to left as follows:
Oft-worn items hang similarly organized from right to left in the lady’s closet:
Long-sleeved white blouses.
Long-sleeved color blouses.
Red Sox jersey.
Jeans suitable for public wearing.
Jeans suitable only for housework.
The closet shelf holds folded items in stacks from left to right:
Short-sleeved and sleeveless tops.
Tank tops and worn-out shirts suitable only for housework.
Printed tee-shirts, for work-outs and ball games.
Sweatshirts, fleeces, and hoodies.
Hats go in hat boxes stacked on the closet floor, next to the mending basket.
Pull-overs, which I love but don’t get to wear much in Virginia, are stored in the cedar chest at the foot of my bed; the quilts my aunt made sit folded on top of the chest.
Socks, bathing suits, and unmentionables are sorted by style in shoe and boot boxes in the chest of drawers.
Work-out clothes are in a small basket next to the chest, so I can find and don them while I’m still half-asleep. The hamper is tucked out of sight in the corner on the other side of the chest.
The good jewels I inherited from my mother and grandmother go in my grandmother’s jewelry box on top of the chest. Fashion jewelry belongs in a small jewelry box on a little white table under the window next to the swivel chair; items in daily rotation go in the personalized cup and dish my grandmother gave me.
For now, I store coats, jackets, and hand- and shoulder-bags in the guest-room closet, though I plan to move them to the den closet once I get that room settled.
Gloves and aprons I keep in my great-grandmother’s vanity in the entry hall.
Not only did this system enable me quickly to restore my bedroom to order with as little marginal stress as possible, but it also allows me easily to find whatever I want to wear, suitable for the weather and my plans for the day, and efficiently to fill in gaps when I’m packing for travel. And it makes my bedroom what it should be, a peaceful place of rest from the world, surrounded by comforting mementoes of family.
Replicating my system precisely might not work for you, but I hope I’ve given you a framework you can adapt to your own space and style.
I collapsed on the bed and dreamt that the contractors at my parents’ house ran out of the tiles I chose for the kitchen floor and supplemented them with ones depicting Yosemite Sam. It was time to head back. At least I’d have a nice place to sleep.