By KIMBERLY MAYER
Two books are before me on my writing table: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo and Mess, by Barry Yourgrau. Two drastically different books on decluttering—one, so Zen, and the other, well, messy. I have browsed, pondered, read reviews on each, but haven’t dove into either yet. Instead I seem to be writing my own: a case for baskets.
A long time ago in what seems like another life, I lived on St. Thomas USVI and my passion for baskets started there, at The Shipwreck Shop in Charlotte Amalie. Moving from one rental to another, I furnished my homes with straw rugs and tropical trees standing about in baskets, dined on mahogany plates from down island, and donned straw hats as protection from the Caribbean sun. I practically lived out of The Shipwreck Shop and the look has been with me ever since, even now, on San Juan Island in the Puget Sound.
Baskets, I have found, pretty much work with any type of décor. Lately, what I like is juxtaposing baskets with the industrial. A winning combination: rustic and industrial.
In my house what goes into baskets is extensive: scarves and gloves on an upper shelf in the mud room–called an “Alaska room” in the Pacific Northwest. Hats in a wall-hung basket. Two large baskets contain gifts ready for giving when the occasions roll around. I store stationery, greeting cards, and candles in baskets. Folded dining linens in baskets. In bathrooms, extra hand towels are rolled into a wire basket, and a collection of European soaps in another.
The list goes on and on, and with that I need to confess to a few little hoarding habits of my own. Nothing compared to Mr. Yourgrau’s stuff, but still… I “collect,” as I like to call it, “affordable luxuries,” all of which are stored in baskets. Oh, and in the process I collect baskets.
“Finders need keepers,” states House Beautiful’s Sensational Storage Solutions. Marie Kondo, the Japanese cleaning consultant and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, would disagree. “A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage,'” she writes. Purging of belongings is Ms. Kondo’s modus operandi.
Mr. Yourgrau, on the other hand, author of Mess, accumulated everything of meaning, and if it didn’t have any, he gave it meaning. What began with gathering mementos such as cocktail napkins and coasters from well-loved restaurant experiences around the world, degenerated into hoarding plastic bags and cardboard boxes in his apartment in Queens.
“I looked like a storage help center,” he said on interview with NPR. “I thought they’d be useful when I eventually sort of tidied up my place.”
It can be a slippery slope. I confess to keeping packing peanuts for reuse as well as folded sheets of bubble packing plastic for the shipping of gifts. I keep them in baskets of course, out in the garage. Mr. Yourgrau lives in NYC and doesn’t have a garage. I don’t know what I’d do there; I would have to change my ways.
And seriously, Ms. Kondo, would you send me out for supplies each time I had to ship a gift? Perhaps your family lives within walking distance in Tokyo, but my family is all over the map.
Although Mr. Yourgrau has tidied up his place tremendously, his display of miscellany from table to table as seen in “A Hoarder’s Tale of Redemption,” The New York Times August 19, looks to me like Ye Olde Curiousity Shop down on Pier 54 in Seattle.
What started on an island for me, a passion for baskets, finds itself on an island once again. All my favorite things, close at hand yet out of sight. Call me a basketcase, but it’s working.