Containing Herself

Laura hates to be the kind of person who has to point out what a trendsetter she is, but this is one of those instances that she just can’t resist.  Or, to use the actual tag line of the retail store in question, she’s having trouble “containing herself.”


Anyone who read Laura’s last novel, Piece of Work (both of you), knows about her love of and obsession with The Container Store.  She even won a big huge travel basket on the grand opening weekend of their Chestnut Hill store a few years ago and Laura never wins anything! Well, Laura got an email from The Container Store earlier this week informing her that Oprah was doing a whole show called “Clean Up Your Messy House” in which the Container Store and their products were to be prominently featured.


It’s not just that Laura feels vindicated — if Oprah does a show featuring your favorite store then you know you’re absolutely not crazy! — it’s more that, to be completely truthful, she’s felt really conflicted about the Container Store ever since she realized that no matter how much shit she bought there and brought home, no matter how many awesomely cool neatly designed organizational items for her kitchen and her bathroom and her desk and her bedroom she wasted her hard earned money on — things were never going to change: She was always going to be a completely disorganized mess and no amount of organizational-porn was
going to save her.

Laura uses the made-up term organizationalporn here — and she does so at the huge risk of having all those disgusting spammers find her here at her new Blogspot brant — because that’s exactly what The Container Store traffics in. Enter any Container Store and you’ll be confronted with all these cool clutter-reducing toys and tools in all these cool shapes and sizes and colors; cruise the aisles and you’ll see fantasy groupings of clutter-free displays.  Which is what Laura finally realized when the opiate-effects of one of her last shopping trips burned off:

It’s not real.  It’s a fantasy.

She’s going to stop with the porn-comparison already because it’s getting a little weird and misleading — don’t misunderstand her:  The Container Store doesn’t sell anything inappropriate — but she’s going to give you an example of how incredibly tempting and overwhelming it is to shop there.

Take the Christmas Ornament Storage Box Organizer. The minute you lay eyes on one of these things you want it —  even if you’re not Christian.


I mean, look at it — it’s like candy.  It’s green and red and it’s plastic and it has flaps and it has those egg-carton-type compartments into which all your treasured tree ornaments can be safely stored and “snuggled.”  You just want to buy one. The problem is, there’s like five or six or seven or eight different kinds of Christmas Ornament Storage Box Organizers to pick from:

There’s the “Noble Ornament Storage Chest” with it’s zippered fabric construction:

There’s “Holiday Storage Boxes” with those little metal handles:

and “Jubilee Ornament Storage Chests” with their festive patterned exterior:

and “Archival Ornament Storage Boxes” which elevate the notion of storing Christmas ornaments by introducing a serious preservationistic-ideal:

Laura could go on and on — literally! — because there are more models — but the point is that not only are the amount of choices completely overwhelming (just like Staples, but don’t get her started on office-supplies-shopping again — refer instead to an earlier post she wrote about trying to decide on office supplies but being rendered completely indecisive and paralyzed by the ridiculous amount of choices available). It’s also unrealistic to think that buying one of those ornament storage boxes — whichever one she bought — would solve her problems.

What problems — deeper, emotional, existential, psychological — is Laura looking to solve which can’t be solved by one of those fabulous storage boxes? you might be wondering.  And that’s an excellent question. And it’s a question that should be asked every time she even goes near a Container Store:  What bigger problems is she trying to solve besides the obvious clutter-related problems? In the case of the Christmas Ornament Storage Organizer, the larger problem is this:  Laura is Jewish and her husband is Catholic.  Though he is non-practicing and wants to raise Ben entirely Jewish.  While most Jewish women would think, Hey! This is great!  I dodged a bullet with the inter-faith-marriage problem! — Laura is thinking something entirely different:

She’s thinking:  Hey! I didn’t marry a non-Jew to NOT have a Christmas Tree!  If I’d wanted a menorrah-only life, I would have married someone from Hebrew School! Laura’s thinking: I’m legitimately entitled to the Christmas tree and I want the Christmas tree!

There were a few years there where Brendan forewent the tree — both because of his religious ambivalence and because of something much less complicated and complex:  sheer laziness.  You see, every time Laura would mention the tree — When are we getting the tree?  Where are we putting the tree?  Don’t you think we should go ornament shopping?  Shouldn’t we start untangling the lights and popping and stringing popcorn garlands now — in August — so we’ll have them ready by December? — Brendan would roll his eyes and start bemoaning the cost, the shlepping, the mess, the fire hazard issues, the clean-up and disposal — he was almost Jewish, in fact, in his complete negativity — and Laura would realize that he was not living up to his end of the bargain as her Trophy Shiksa husband.

For the record — and this is an important distinction to Laura and part of a piece on the differences between “Real Jews” and “Fake Jews” she did last year for The Huffington Post — but Laura has never understood couples where both spouses are Jewish but they have a Christmas tree.  That to her is weird.  Very weird.  No.  What she’s talking about is the legitimacy of the inter-faith tree-entitlement.  She–I mean, Ben deserves to celebrate both holidays with all their trappings and customs and symbols and tree-related-fun-stuff.

Wow.  She really went off on a screed there — and she’s going to try to bring it back to the main issue: which is what The Container Store is actually selling and what Laura is actually craving and seeking to buy when she goes there:  control.  While she thinks she’s buying organizing solutions and systems and things that are going to help her control the madness of her life, in reality all she’s buying is the myth and the fantasy and the illusion of control.  Because no one can truly control their life, no matter how much cool stuff they buy to help them become neater and more organized.  Which means she’s just going to have to figure out a way to cope with the chaos in her life without resorting to organizational-porn.

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One thought on “Containing Herself

  1. Stephanie Green says:

    Okay that’s it: We’re starting a BC Comedy Tour and you’re the headliner. Seriously though, I—who’s never bought anything at the container store and just throws things in baskets—resolved to go to that store today. A missing software CD sent me over the edge (and to the Xanax bottle) last night. Only to figure out after my friends came over to look for the CD, that I never had the fucking CD to begin with. I didn’t go to The Container Store though, for I know that if I ever go, I’ll walk out with no money left.

    Seriously though, we all have to take control of what we can. So if containers do it for you babe, embrace it:)

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