A PEEK IN THE CLOSET
What My Mess Says about Me
by Pesi Dinnerstein
Clutter is not a generic term. There are all types of clutterers and all types of clutter. It’s not just what we save that differentiates us, but how we store it—and why.
Some of us are neat, and some are sloppy; some find aesthetic pleasure in abundance, and others are simply too overwhelmed to dig their way out from under. There are sentimental types among us who save every card and letter they ever received and creative types who like to be surrounded by their unfinished projects; optimists who refuse to discard the clothing they haven’t fit into for years and pessimists who store duplicates and triplicates of everything, just in case; procrastinators and collectors, compulsive stockpilers and people who simply have too much to fit into their limited space.
A good first step toward a less cluttered life is an honest look in the mirror—and what better mirror is there than our own closet?
So, let me begin with mine . . . .
I have a walk-in closet in my bedroom that I can no longer walk into without climbing over stacks of newspapers and magazines waiting to be read—a clear, if unrealistic, testament to my belief that life will be less busy someday, and I’ll be able to catch up to the rest of the world.
On the other side of those piles are . . . more piles. Things to wear and things to wash; things to fold and hang and mend. To the casual observer, it might appear that what we have here is simply a mess. But there is, of course, more to the picture than meets the eye.
When I look at these piles, I see a woman who is not able to maintain her own system of order, but isn’t ready to give up the fight just yet. Above the piles are clothing on hangers—perfectly arranged by category and color—and shelves filled from top to bottom with neatly folded garments, wicker baskets, and hand-labeled plastic boxes. The walls are an organizational masterpiece, but the floor is a study in chaos, with all the unsorted piles waiting to be incorporated into the highly refined system surrounding them—a very slow process because the gap between the two is so great.
There’s obviously a lack of balance here. My standards, it would seem, need to be lowered a few notches so that my ideal vision of order and my day-to-day reality will not be quite as far apart. Perhaps, a halfway house of sorts would help—something in between the disaster on the ground and the beautifully organized structure above.
What I see in my closet is what I see everywhere in my life—an attempt to create order and harmony that results in disorder and chaos because my systems are always too complicated, too detailed, too perfect to be easily maintained. The path to simplicity, my closet seems to be telling me, needs to be simple itself—a whole lot simpler than mine currently is.
I hope I’ll remember that the next time I have to climb over all those piles.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the journey of the author. Her honest look at her quest to connect with God (and maybe even keep her keys in sight) was a powerful reminder to live in the present and appreciate the people in your life. Check out this great review on Kirkus.
About the Author:
Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories.
Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.
Insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press) is the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s quest to create a simple and orderly life—only to discover that simplicity is not so simple and what constitutes clutter is not always perfectly clear. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance reveals the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, Pesi determines to free herself, once and for all, of the excess baggage she carries with her. Along the way—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her battle with chaos is transformed into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.