This is my hall bench. It’s not in a hall, because my front door opens directly into one of our rooms. We call this the front room, though it may easily also be called a living or family room. It is a piece of furniture that we use to create the idea of an entryway. We needed something more aesthetically pleasing for our shoe storage and something less likely to tip over than a coat rack (sigh…cats and drunk people who are not us).
The hall bench is where the coats go. It’s where we keep our shoes out of sight; they go inside the bench. You can glance into its divided mirror before you leave and make sure your face makes sense. It is even okay for outgoing mail to sit on it, provided of course that it does go out in a timely fashion. I recently took it with me when I went to the library. I would say the hall bench has admirably served its purpose – though not entirely to our original intention.
Unfortunately, even as we have successfully removed furniture and other unnecessary items from the front room, the hall bench has expanded its cache and lost some of its utility. It is harder to put shoes inside the bench, you cannot really sit on it to put shoes on and sometimes items fall on you during use. The diagnosis goes something like, “you know you have problems with hoarding when…” you clean one space and another becomes unusable. Let’s say, for example, that my kitchen is more usable because the dishes I couldn’t clean in one go are now blocking the stairs to the loft because no one besides us will see them there. Pretend my example is pretend – it’s the principle of the thing.
I thought that I would try, in order to illuminate the situation, to make a complete list of what is on or in or immediately around the hall bench (visible and invisible in the above photo):
- stack of large paper grocery bags
- CFL light bulb in a plastic bag
- a few bundles of wadded up plastic bags
- my husband’s winter coat
- my winter coat
- one lightweight and two heavy baby boy coats
- my husband’s flannel shirt
- gift bags
- my lightweight jacket
- grey child carrier
- yellow and brown child carrier
- washbasin full of various breast pump attachments and parts
- insulated car seat cover
- insulated Whole Foods bag with three other reusable shopping bags in it
- plastic shape templates from a family business
- two ribbon cat toys
- folding picnic blanket
- photocopies of office lottery pool tickets dated 3/7/2014
- four Poetry on Record discs inside of their case
- adult eye patch
- leak inspection notice dated 6/12/14
- brush cutting notice from AEP from probably around that same time
- plastic tarp
- pair of old Adidas sandals
- one new Adidas sandal
- receipt for the new sandals
- pair of leather thong sandals
- my old tennis shoes
- Hubbs’s old work shoes
- rainbow umbrella
- wooden prize cane
- cat and baby toys
- current work shoes for Hubbs and I
To make this list, I took almost everything off of the hall bench, but the only thing I immediately took care of were the lottery photocopies, which I recycled. Everything else was confusing and I didn’t really know what I could do with them besides put it all back. Real action would have taken longer than five minutes, but putting it back felt very strange and wrong suddenly. I was surprised how many things were there, even knowing it was cluttered, and I found some things that I did not know were there. That is probably the strangest part – that despite sitting on the couch and facing the hall bench every day, I didn’t really know what was on or in it.
It is a problem in general to be moving things around rather than letting them go, but I’m not sure to what extent that applies here, because I have stories about a lot of these items that I would like to share. I also either currently use or would like to keep most of the items. I did try to think of a home location for these objects at various points, but several do not yet have one. Scrabble, for instance, belongs on a shelf with other games we own, but this shelf does not exist. The flannel shirt needs to be mended, the paper bags need to be donated to the local cat shelter, my jacket cannot be worn until I brush the cat hair off, etc.
I called this post vexatious concatenations because the problem is not being able to clear off the bench without triggering a chain of other unrelated activities. I would need to drive around town or clean another area of my house first, in order to establish a suitable home location, and cleaning out that area would engender the same problem all over again, because the new objects also probably belong somewhere else (outside of the house included) that is unreachable in five minutes or that does not yet exist.