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     Volume 7 Issue 27 | July 4, 2008 |

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A Roman Column

The Closet Philosopher

Neeman Sobhan

I am gazing at my clothes closet and completely overcome with awe. If truth be told, I am petrified to touch anything. This is not because trying to pull out my pink shirt from under the Alpine pile of unclassified apparel (which is the normal state of my wardrobe), would cause an avalanche or even a collapse of the entire mountain. No, I am proud to say, the reason for my pleasurably dazed state is exactly the opposite.

I have just finished re-organizing my wardrobe and it's such a pretty sight that I don't dare touch anything for fear of disturbing the contents. In my present infatuation, I open the closet doors a hundred times during the day and just stand there gazing in rapt adoration at the panorama of clothes neatly folded in order of light to dark colours, or hung according to lengths on hangers that all face the same directions and oh…you must see my shoes, lined up in pairs like Noah's animals.

But there is trouble in paradise: I have been wearing the same outfit for the last two days because I'm afraid to disturb the order and grace that reign inside my closet like a curfew imposed on a chaotic city. But what happens when the curfew is lifted? I dread that moment when I am too tired to put back the clothes on the hangers or fold them into their colour coordinated category. Disorder is a vicious magnet pulling further chaos into its evil field. I know how it will end; I've been there before.

So, I have finally come to a philosophic conclusion of medium to X-L dimensions. In our ongoing battle to evolve towards our ideal of perfection, or to succeed in achieving some goal, we fallible humans must include in our ambition or vision, some scope also for stumbling and falling from grace, without being hard on ourselves and letting an overwhelming sense of failure to swallow up our original efforts and intentions.

In the parlance of weight-loss doctors it would be called allowing a dieter to fall off the wagon once in a while, without giving up on the diet in a morass of hopelessness. In the more concrete case of my clothes, I realize that I just have to keep a small free-zone within the closet, say a shelf, where I am allowed to make a temporary mess, until good sense and order prevails again. Yes, I have to create a tiny area of controlled madness, where my messy side might be indulged every now and then, out of public sight.

(Isn't this true of human nature, too? Don't we also need to have a secret space inside us where we don't have to be on our guard about social realities and obligations all the time? Don't we all need a safe and controlled area in our lives, where we allow ourselves to be a bit messy, a little silly; or a network of trustworthy well wishers with whom we feel secure enough to take off our masks and armour?

The danger, of course, is that such an undisciplined or permissive zone could threaten to take over our life or personality, like weeds in a garden, if we are not constantly vigilant. We must recognize that the times we allow ourselves to take a break from a diet or a set routine or a pattern of learned behaviour, have to be off-set by a rigorous return to order. One has to learn to look at a moment of indulgence along with its price tag. Thank God for guilt! Guilt sets limits and boundaries to the instinct for disorder that we are all born with and which makes us human.)


To get back to the clothes closet, I am actually and deep-down (sometimes so deep I can't find it!) an organized person, and my home is as tidy and efficient as I need it to be. At least, since my house always looks neat, I know that the problem is not in the large visible areas, but the small hidden ones. My disorder is insidiously out of sight. It is in the drawers; the mail and paper tray; the stacks of magazines inside cupboards; the bursting shoe boxes of old photos; the baskets of old family VCR's that I have to convert to digital versions; cartons of music tapes from decades; memorabilia and letters of a life time; valuable mismatched china; linens too good to throw; ever increasing CD's and DVD's(with and without covers); books parked in double rows on shelves; nest of costume jewelry with temporarily widowed earrings and pendants divorced from their chains; the Bermuda triangle of the Tool Kit; the sewing kit whose tangled depths can provide no stitch in time; the medicine cabinet which is so outdated it is itself a hazard area………..and last but not least, my electronic files!

It's not just the sorting and ordering of these objects but the maintenance that pose a problem. Any organizing system is like a lawn which, in the absence of regular tending and grooming, goes back to its naturally wild state. When I had decided to set about organizing my clothes closet, I first underwent a few days of research, reading magazine articles and also surfing the net. Here, I was not only inspired and entertained but distracted by video clips about everything from 'how to maintain your pantry shelves' to 'how to weed out your panty drawers.' Everyone and their aunt had tips to share about de-cluttering your entire home. How about de-cluttering ones entire life? What a seductive idea, I thought as I remained glued to the screen for days. I could have spent another week, even a month just watching the video clips.

(Human nature again! Why is it so much more fun to, say, watch exercise videos than to lift a limb; more amusing to read about how writers write than to write your own novel? I know friends who are unhappy with their bodies or lives and feel inspired by reading books and articles on how to remodel your physique, reinvent yourself, make-over your house, your face, shape, personality, social life, love-life etc. And they go on reading about it. It's an addiction in itself; and the longer one waits to plunge into action the more one prepares and procrastinates and lets life pass by.)

So, on day four, while watching a riveting clip on 'how to store your silver tea service' I suddenly realized that I don't own a silver tea service (Thank God!). It was then that I realized that the time had come to leave the 'research' behind and come out of the closet, both metaphorically and literally.

Now that my clothes are done, I will dive into the fray again. While I start out untangling the threads of my sewing kit I will also sort out the tangle of ideas for the short story that has been nagging me for days to be stitched and embroidered.

But first let me change into something comfortable from my awesome closet. Now where is the pair of jeans I draped on the hanger next to the white cotton pants? Where is it? I swear it was here somewhere……. (Noise of pulling, tugging and hangers crashing to the floor……).

Human nature strikes again: one injured philosopher in the closet.


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