The latest weighty tome of an IKEA catalogue arrived in the mail this week with 376 pages of decorating and organizing ideas and a sobering reminder:
A Home Doesn’t Need to be Big, Just Smart.
Given the catalogue’s emphasis on small spaces (‘We love small spaces!’ IKEA US president Mike Ward enthuses on page 15), I took ‘smart’ to mean efficient and organized.
These are not my strengths when it comes to the art of keeping a home. No matter how much I vacuum, mop, wipe down surfaces using dust-repellent cleaners, the dust bunnies keep coming back. No matter how much mail I throw away, it keeps piling up. I wash a load of dishes only to discover the sink full again. I do a load of laundry and another takes it place, sometimes before the first load (or three) has seen the inside of a dresser drawer. Imagine that!
“Maybe you need a bigger house,” an acquaintance once suggested when I bemoaned my struggle to get ahead of household tasks that fail to capture my attention. As if a larger home would magically solve my problem by inspiring a fervent enthusiasm for housework.
It’s not too surprising a suggestion. Americans are known for their love of the B.I.G. Big country, big appetites, big portions, big spenders. The bigger the better. Except for supermodels and Hollywood starlets. Those we like in miniature.
On a family trip to Greece when my son was two years old, I brought a model of organization and efficiency: the Sit ‘n Stroll. This brilliant example of American ingenuity triples as a car seat, certified FAA travel seat, and stroller (courtesy of retractable handle and wheels). My son was safely and comfortably secured in his seat on our transatlantic flight and in taxis, and we wheeled effortlessly through airports.
A problem arose, however, when we were about to board an Olympic airways flight from Athens to one of the islands.
“You can’t bring that on the plane,” the gate agent told me, pointing to the stroller. I’m assuming, of course, that she meant the stroller and not the baby slumped in it, deep in sleep.
I looked at her quizzically, my reflexes somewhat dulled from travelling with a two year old for what felt like 304 hours but was probably closer to 15.
“It won’t fit on the plane,” she said.
I explained that the wheels retracted into the seat, but she shook her head primly.
“But he has a seat of his own,” I protested.
“The baby?!” She was aghast. I’d clearly irritated her with my over-the-top American ways, buying a seat for a baby who could fit perfect well on my lap. The excess!
“Here in Greece, our planes are small,” she said. “Not like your big American planes.“ I don’t think I’m being paranoid in saying I detected a hint of mocking derision in her tone.
“It’s a Boeing,” my brother pointed out. “I’m pretty sure it was made in America.”
“She can’t bring that thing on the plane,” she repeated with a note of finality.
Since there was no point in using reason and logic, I decided to apply ‘when in Rome’ a bit south-easterly. I figured I’d tell the flight attendant I was going to check the stroller/safety seat at the door then proceed onto the airplane anyway. However, I’d underestimated precisely how much I irritated her. When I got to the door of the plane, there she was waiting with a smirk and an outstretched arm. I surrendered the Sit ‘n Stroll.
I tightened the comparatively flimsy belt around my son's little waist and hoped for a smooth flight. We arrived without further incident. Our final destination was my grandmother’s four-room, 900 square foot house, where 10 of us happily co-existed for a week.
Do I need a bigger house? Not hardly. At about 2,000 square feet, my house’s size falls squarely in the range of average, by national standards. I’ve lived in smaller homes, but the problem of efficiency and organization keeps following me. The cause isn’t that my house is too small or that I don’t have enough shelving units and cunning, color-coded baskets. The best systems are only as efficient and organized as those executing them. In the end, making things work comes down to personal responsibility and commitment.
Though I will say that the EXPEDIT bookshelves with KNIPSA baskets and DRONA boxes on pages 82 and 83 look sharp.