Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Parable of the Button

Ever seen one of those crime tv shows, where someone opens a door and there's a reverse shot of the shocked faces then they cut back to the room and it is a total disaster zone?
"Some one's trashed the place!"
Well ... my place kinda looks like that all the time. Minus broken stuff and any bodies that you might see on the tv, but papers everywhere and so on - yup that's how it is. I don't invite people round because they just won't fit, plus there's no where for them to sit. It has been a lot worse since I moved into living on my own - no more guilt-driven clean-ups. But there's a reason, and just in case anyone drops over unannounced, I want to have put my justifications on the record.

All you clean, happy, clutter-free folk need to understand something about us OCD (Obsessive Clutter Disorder) sufferers - we're victims in this. Find your compassion for us. We wade through decades of accumulated cruft and kilos day to day, but we're not necessarily weak-willed, stupid or just lazy. We are in complex relationships with our possessions that are governed by a web of interacting issues often-times beyond our control. So you may understand a little of this world, I shall share with you the marvelous moment I had today when I was finally able to take a bag of 6 shirts to the donation box. This is the Parable of the Button.

All stories start at the beginning. This work shirt was purchased in 2004 from a one-step-up-from-a-generic-chain-store—clothing-for-women. In plain black and a very hard-wearing cotton-viscose mix, it featured a collar (the mandatory element), buttons up the front (initially benign, but leading to later complications), a generous V-neckline (keeping things interesting, but not saucy) and a roomy fit (essential in a job with regular lifting and shelving of arm loads of books). The very bottom button never suited the casual look I embody and was removed early on and placed in the button compartment of the sewing box. Time passed. Work happened. The shirt did what it needed to do. It featured in the seminal photo-op with Neil Gaiman in July of 05 (ah - happy, hopeful days!), it was there when the crew went for karaoke after work, it was there for my nadir(s) of customer service and the odd scream in the "on-hold" cupboard. The new lowest button took a fair bit of abuse during the normal working tasks and increasingly as my love of veggo Laksa for lunch took the inevitable toll on my never-svelte waistline.

A Shirt Shifts
Working opportunities came and went, changes in jobs, changes in health, changes in cities and houses and the shirt went unused, unrequired, unnoticed.

The Dilemma
An overdue audit of the surviving wardrobe items in 2008 uncovers a limp black shirt, badly in need of an iron (a household drudgery I have now forever forsworn) and missing the essential second-bottom button. The bottom button could be of no consequence to anyone - either hidden by the tuck-in or too formal for the out-hanger. I don't really want to wear such an obviously creased shirt in my workplace and the need to use a safety pin to secure it is pathetic. The saved button is missing and no other one available matches. I can't throw the shirt out, for someone with an iron and a need for it, it would be an op-shop gem, but it cannot be gifted without the button replaced. This is obvious.

The Dance
Over the next 18 months an elaborate and complex dance takes place. The shirt is placed in a public position in the house to remind me to buy a button. The shirt is eventually overwhelmed by cruft and goes back into the 'wash and hide' cycle of laundry. A button is purchased ... and lost. This repeats. I neither want to re-neg on my earlier decision to not throw the thing away, nor to donate it in such poor condition. Yet through the competing demands on my time and energy I cannot for the life of me seem to align the button and the shirt in the same time-space long enough to achieve the desired outcome, which is to mend it and get it out of the house. Complicated further now by needing my glasses, and a threaded needle. This multiple planetary alignment of tools, time and purpose is needed for every single object that is waiting to leave the house. Effectively hundreds of decisions and actions waiting to be completed. No wonder I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Today, in a triumphant act of will, in about 3 minutes total I completed the attachment of the replacement button to the patient shirt (and that included a complimentary armpit reinforcement). With joy and satisfaction I showed it to Riley who remained unimpressed by what a feat this truly was. I tried the shirt on one more time, just to be certain I was ready to give it up. Then I placed the shirt next to the computer to remind me that I wanted to write this post about it but now, NOW it is next to the door and this afternoon will join the bag of 5 other equally heartrendingly culled and removed shirts and they will be sent on their way into a big blue box on the side of the road.
One less object in the house!

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