Monday, April 2, 2012

Chapstick For The Soul

Since I replaced the wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom last Fall with wood-like flooring, I've been struggling to keep that room free of clutter. While I've been mostly successful, I realize all I've really done is concentrate the clutter in the remaining rooms of the house.

Now I'm not pointing fingers. There's plenty of blame to go around. Being ADD, I know my shortcomings in this regard. And as an engineer, my instinctive solution is to implement procedures and processes designed to organize our space and streamline our daily routines. Procedures and processes which the JB blithely ignores.

For example, I designated the side table in the foyer to the processing of incoming mail. All mail which comes into the house goes into the classy leather "in" tray I picked up at Pottery Barn specifically for this purpose. Under the side table there's a small matching leather trash bin and a shredder. No mail should pass the foyer unopened and unprocessed.

In reality I find piles of unopened mail, discount flyers and Martha Steward's Living on dining room chairs, between sofa cushions, in the closet, and on the tank behind the toilet. My classy leather tray next to the front door is filled with mittens and chapstick. Don't ask me who wears mittens in Atlanta, because I don't know.

And the chapstick. Not Chapstick brand chapstick mind you, but generic sticks of lip balm. Something else I almost never use yet can't seem to escape. They're everywhere. I used to put the chapstick I'd find into JB's nightstand drawer until I realized after it filled up that he doesn't know he has a drawer in his nightstand.

Where does this perpetual supply of mouth wax come from?

See, JB is a flight attendant. I'm convinced there's an employee lip balm dispensary at the airport, every flight attendant's first stop when checking in. Every time JB comes home from a trip, he's carrying at least two more chapsticks than he had when he left. I guarantee it.

And it's not just chapstick. Beyond all logic or reason, JB feels the need to bring home all the toiletries he encounters in every hotel room in which he ever stays. I've never in my life used a shower cap, and I've never seen JB use a shower cap. Why for the love of Jesus do we have a cabinet full of shower caps?

Looking back, I now recall what triggered this hoarding spree. A friend was doing volunteer work at a women's shelter and asked JB to collect these hotel toiletry items for her cause. That was eight years ago and our friend has since transitioned from social warrior to soccer mom. Yet the teeny-tiny toiletries keep rolling in.

A few years ago, after a fit of Spring cleaning, I tried to find a women's shelter which I expected to gladly accept my Hefty bag of miniature soaps, shampoos and lotions. I quickly learned such facilities are naturally skittish of strange men calling to ask where they're located. It's like calling Alfred to say I baked Batman a bundt cake, would it be okay if I dropped it by the Cave while running errands in the neighborhood? Now I know how the Joker feels.

So last week when I saw the donation barrel du jour in the office lobby was asking for toiletry items for a women's shelter, I was ecstatic. This weekend I gathered up all the soaps, shampoos, tooth brushes, moisturizers, eye shades and chapsticks I could find into two large shopping bags. I threw in a couple dozen shower caps for good measure. I even tossed in a stack of hotel notepads and a two handfuls of matching pens. On the way out the door, I topped off my sack o' loot with a couple pairs of mittens.

When I got to the office this morning, I found last week's barrel was gone. In it's place was a new barrel asking for "gently worn" shoes. What the...? I scratched my head for a minute. Fuck it. I looked both ways and dropped both sacks in the barrel.

Waiting nonchalantly for the elevator, I felt a twinge of guilt imagining someday passing a down-on-his-luck person wearing mittens, shiny lips and two shower caps on his feet.

I think I have a couple pairs of shoes I can spare. In fact, I know I do.


  1. I suggest you make little gift bags for folks holding up signs at highway off ramps. A whole trend of homeless with supple lips and manageable hair. Just wait for the ATL new story about the squeaky clean homeless.

  2. Being folically challenged, I too could not figure out why I continue to take every shampoo, soap and lotion from the hotels I stay in - and i stay at a LOT of hotels. I never too the conditioner, bc my lack of hair is already soft enough, I suppose.

    But upon early spring cleaning, I took got THREE full bags of this stuff (shower caps, sewing kits, shoe polishers, etc) loaded them up and drove them to a women's shelter. ....three bags....and i still have a bag at home of 'the good stuff'. {sigh}

  3. I am not sure what city you are in...I am in Toronto Canada. I own a mens clothing store called Theodore 1922 and I am doing a Mothers Day Beauty Drive. I will be asking my clients to dig through their drawers and get rid of all their travel toiletries. I found your blog because I was searching for pics to put in the Theodore 1922 Newsletter. I hope that people are as psyched as you were to donate.
    If you have any fans of your blog in Toronto, please pass it on!
    Miranda Black