I got a panicked email first, and then a follow-up text when I didn’t respond instantaneously. “I need a black dress!!!” Hannah wrote. “Today!!!”
“I Kondo’ed all my black stuff,” she admitted later that afternoon while trying on half a dozen LBDs I had yanked from my closet. “Only floral patterns spark joy for me so I literally don’t have anything black any more.”
The little black dress is ubiquitous in most women’s wardrobes. So much so that we know what you’re talking about from the letters LBD alone. How was it possible she didn’t have a black dress?
Hannah and I were college roommates so we’re used to sharing our wardrobes. And it is definitely true that the girl can rock the heck out of a print. But… no black dresses? As a born and bred New Yorker I find this incomprehensible. I have many, many versions of the same dress in black, as well as shirts, pants, and skirts, the differences between which are probably perceptible only to me, and yet which bring me, it must be said, great joy.
The crisis, it turned out, was instigated by a bachelorette party. Hannah was getting on a flight to California in a few hours and the bride had just requested that everyone in the party wear a black dress on their first night out. Digging into the nuances of bachelorette sartorial dictums isn’t something I have the energy to do right now, so let’s leave that for another day. The immediate problem was that Hannah had recently discovered “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and no longer had what she needed.
I happily, and easily, came to her rescue with a black dress I have worn since the 8th grade. It was the height of the bar mitzvah years, and Betsey Johnson was the ne plus ultra of party wear brands. This particular number is stretchy and flares out in a most flattering way, hence why I (and many of my friends) have returned to it over and over again through the decades, albeit as the hemline inched closer to outrageous. It looked fabulous on Hannah, and she sighed with relief. “You’re a lifesaver,” she said, swishing out the door.
I looked around my apartment when she left, and wondered what Marie Kondo would have to say about it. I’m not claiming to be an expert on her teachings, but you’d have to have been living under a rock lately to have avoided learning its core tenets through cultural osmosis: from your closet to your kitchen and everything in between, you should really only own stuff you love. Clutter makes our lives harder in myriad ways, and sifting through it unburdens us physically and mentally. Listen, I get it. I cast a critical eye around my living room, landing on the magazine stack of shame™. At this point, the stack is making itself useful as a de facto coffee table, a fact which both delights and horrifies me. But each copy of Bon Appetit has been lovingly dog-eared with recipes I absolutely 100% am going to cook soon, and each issue of The New Yorker is full of articles that will make me smarter when I read them and thus able to hold court in a more brilliant manner at dinner parties. As for the New York Magazines, those contain the subscription code I need to link my online access, and I am eagerly looking forward to the time I do that so I can put an end to the daily scolding I get on the website telling me “You have reached your article limit!” despite the fact that I am, indeed, a paying subscriber. Sigh.
My closet is a Kondo nightmare, there’s no way around that. Rifling through it is like going on an archaeological dig through every clothing trend from Y2K onwards. Basically I was an enormous child and have been my adult height and weight practically since birth (sorry Ma). So I can wear things from middle school, like that black Betsey Johnson dress, if I so choose, although whether I really should is a question for another time. But it’s handy, I tell you! Do you know how much laundry and dry cleaning you have to do when you have years’ worth of clothing in your closet? Very little. Do I get immense satisfaction when someone compliments something I’m wearing and asks if it’s new, and I get to say that no, in fact, I bought it for my first big-girl internship a million years ago and now it’s much nicer than the clothes I wear to my actual big-girl job? Indeed.
Plus, I always have what I need on hand, or even what my friends may need, at a moment’s notice. Recently my friend Jackie got in an Uber to pick me up and take me to a colleague’s baby shower, but she’d forgotten to wrap her gift. While en route to my house, she texted me asking if I by any chance had a spare ribbon I could bring for her so she could at least tie a bow on the toy box. I came downstairs with multiple ribbon options, plus wrapping paper left over from Christmas. I myself had forgotten to buy a gift altogether, but I keep an emergency stash of all-purpose presents stocked at all times, so rustling one up wasn’t a problem. Ta-da, a photo album I got just for you… many moons ago when I saw it on sale at Anthropologie.
For me, the benefits of being able to live like this vastly outweigh the price I pay for having some clutter in the house. I am pretty good at tidying up *around* the magazine stack of shame™, for instance, and when I am done doing that, I like to have a cup of tea. You know where’s a handy place to set down my mug when I am finished? The Bon Appetit issue from December 2015. There’s a recipe in it for homemade dumplings I simply cannot wait to try.