What Lies in a Doom Box?

I’ve been cleaning lately. Digging into corners. Unearthing junk drawers. Sometimes it’s surprising what ends up in the crevices of my home. The clutter is everywhere. I grew up in clutter. My mom was once a notorious thrifter, and still remains unable to pass up a good deal. Growing up, I vowed to never have a cluttered home. But then, of course, I grew up, grew envious of what others had, and bought a lot of it for myself.

Working in a home decor store will do that. I worked at HomeSense from 2006 – 2022. Almost two decades of home decor trends were programmed into my brain. I was doomed from the start to have too much, my husband rolling his eyes every time I brought home some magic new knickknack that was going to spiff up a corner.

i bought these shelves once because my mom kept giving me plants to take care of, but now it’s repurposed and full of little memories that make me happy.

Most of those knickknacks never actually found a tabletop upon which to gather dust. Most of the artwork never found its way onto a wall. Most of of the new dishes I bought were never used. They all looked great in the store. I had big plans for the things when I held them in the store, but once they entered my home, well, all the hand-me-down staples I got from my parents were just more practical.

The “new” stuff sat in the house, price tags still attached, their dates a painful reminder.

I always get disgusted with myself when I find these things. It’s always on the verge of an existential crisis, and I always wonder why I can’t just DEVOTE THE TIME AND FIX MY FUCKING HOUSE, why I can’t just live like a minimalist. It’s supposed to be easy. Marie Kondo made it seem so easy, but then she also tried to sell me expensive organization stuff after I watched her stupid Netflix show, so like, what’s a lady to do but make excuses?

And I sure have a lot of them: I have kids. I’m too busy. I’d rather stare at my phone when I get home from work. I’m too tired. I have no inspiration. I have more important things to do. I’m too depressed.

And so, in a desperate fix to clear the negative feelings all my shit was pressing onto me, I’d dig out an empty box and fill it. A doom box. A little present for later…

Doom boxes are the real Schrodinger’s Cat solution for decluttering. Because the clutter both is and isn’t there. Sometimes I’d even buy decorative boxes, hoping to sort through the clutter, only for the the boxes to become *pretty* doom boxes, both functional in aesthetic AND in hiding my inability to manage a home.

Nobody taught me hope to clean, but I’ve always gotten a bit of joy in sorting through a mess, organizing it, putting all the things where they belong.

In the 13 years I’ve lived in my house, I’ve amassed plenty of doom boxes and doom bins. Before my husband and I had kids, we had an entire a doom room, which we then called the “shit room”. Then it became a doom corner in the basement, But then my sister moved into my basement in 2021 and I brought all the boxes upstairs. I had doom piles were all over the house, filling portions of my bedroom, corners on the stairs, corners in the dining room. Wherever the doom boxes fit, I stacked them, telling myself that it was going to be okay, it wasn’t that bad.

Most of those stacks are gone now, either sent to the thrift store or recycled or whatever else. I made a little bit of time, because that’s all I have, is a little bit of time and a little bit of energy to spend every now and then. Nobody taught me hope to clean, but I’ve always gotten a bit of joy in sorting through a mess, organizing it, putting all the things where they belong. I get immersed in it, forgetting to eat until it’s done.

And for a week or two, I tell myself that things will always be this way, that I’ll maintain things the way they are. And for a while, I do my best, but then something happens. I work too much. Chaos builds. Darkness overwhelms me. I get depressed again.

It never takes much.

Like I said before, I’ve always lived in clutter and chaos. My mom literally did everything for me. When I first moved out, I didn’t know how to cook anything other than Kraft Dinner. I often faulted her for it, but I understand now. It’s not a personal failing on her part. She was a house cleaner and spent much of her time cleaning other people’s houses, but she could never keep her own house clean. She complained about it a lot. I remember when I was a kid and sometimes she would “go over boxes”.

My childhood home was fucking full of them, just endless boxes shoved into every closet, piled up high in the basement, most of it random thrift store stuff that she must have bought thinking it was going to fix something.

I’m glad that I don’t work at HomeSense anymore. It got really hard to watch women like me endlessly buy candles and frames and shelves and mugs and tumblers. It felt kind of morally wrong to refill those empty shelves with more candles and frames and shelves and mugs and tumblers, but that was my job, was to make people want to buy stuff. I making displays out of them, making them appealing, and the women would always walk up to me and ask, “How do you not buy everything that comes in here?”

It’s a hard question to answer, honestly.

After some point, I got used to playing with the merchandise, making pretty displays with them. When I learned to merchandise, I was always told to “tell a story”, and so I’d do that with the stuff in the store. I’d make a modern dining room table setting. Or a witchy office setting. Or a cocktail bar. Or a luxurious cozy bed. I could always envision some kind of version of my house that has all that stuff, but after merchandising with it, I’d realize that some point that all I needed was the fantasy, that I could leave it on the shelf, and sadly let somebody else buy it.

I sometimes wonder what percent of the stuff I’ve carefully made displays out of now sits in some other woman’s doom box. Or maybe it’s in a shit room. A shit closet. A shit basement. A shit storage unit. It’s nothing that I can fix, though. Being a woman in the western world, this is the true pain, that idea of wanting happiness, wanting perfection, a perfect fucking Instagram photo, and then having to move a bunch of shit out of the way to make my life look like it’s good enough for a square picture.

I never fucking know what I want to write about on this blog. I was doing Substack for a while, but migrated back here. I don’t know how candid I want to be, but I desperately miss that real connection that blogs once had. Being a millennial mom is so isolating at times. The internet makes us all seem like we spray paint our kid’s toy Christmas trees to match our house’s aesthetic.

I’m sure most of us just have the aesthetic of doom-boxing everything.

It’s a slow process and it takes a lot of time to do it properly, but it always makes me feel better to organize my own chaos.

When I was a kid, my mom had a habit of “going over boxes”. It was literally just what it sounds like. She’d pull out a box, take everything out, and decide what to put back in and what to give away. She always ended up keeping most of it. I always thought going over boxes was cool, though. It was fun and meditative, and she’d tell me when she got the stuff. I have fond memories of doing it, and honestly, when I feel that I have enough energy to clean out some clutter in my house, I do enjoy digging into my doom boxes.

It’s a slow process and it takes a lot of time to do it properly, but it always makes me feel better to organize my own chaos. Enough time has passed since the stuff entered the box, and I can process my actions better in the moment, now that I’ve set aside the time to do it.

I can forgive myself for impulsively buying stuff.

I can feel relief that my daughter doesn’t make so many random paper crafts.

I can sigh in relief that I found an important document.

And some of the stuff, well, I find a spot for it, a special place on a shelf somewhere, and I realize that I have an aesthetic after all.

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