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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Shoes: before and elfa

Last week my sister-in-law tried to tell me about this great closet organization system she was thinking about getting. Elfa, elfa, elfa. I couldn't believe she had the name of the stupid closet system memorized. I couldn't believe the stupid closet system had a name. What the hell is this world coming to? Why do things that already have names now have new names? Why are shelves that live in a closet now called elfas? IKEA, you're to blame!

It took falling down on my way to the bathroom this morning for me to realize that I needed this elfa thing in a bad way. When your shoe pile starts becoming hazardous to your health, you need to do something about it. And when I write "you" I mean "me." This morning I faced the fact that I was drowning in shoes. Also, I needed to go vertical. That's a design term, people. I needed to move my lake of shoes off the floor and onto the wall; it was that simple.

Buoyed by the great time I had sheparding the kids around yesterday, I decided that an outing to San Francisco was in order. We'd park at the Fifth and Mission Street Garage, eat lunch at a nearby bistro (that's what we call Jack in the Box when we're in The City), and check out the store that sold these elfa systems. The store is appropriately named The Container Store. And let me tell you, it's an anal retentive perfectionist uber-organized mother of two's dream store, it is.

When I entered the store I was greeted by a friendly greeter person. "Can I help you find something?" she asked me. "Um, err..." I mumbled. For some reason I wasn't prepared to go straight to the area of the store that contained what I went there to check out, the elfa organizational systems. I needed to get my bearings first, needed to gather the courage necessary to commit to a made-to-order shelving unit. "Shoe racks," I mumbled. "Great!" she shouted. "They're five aisles down on your left. We have an entire aisle of shoe racks."

As I made my way to the aisle that contained the ready made solutions to the world's shoe storage problems, I felt drawn to the center of the store. As I perused the crappy, un-sturdy, unsuitable, and not exactly inexpensive out-of-the-box shoe racks, I could feel the energy of the elfa area beckoning me like a platinum shelf with birch fascia drug.

I casually rolled my double stroller over to the elfa area. There was a salesperson at the ready.

"Can I help you?" The look on her face was smug yet friendly. Her smile was confident; I could tell she had organized closets of her own.

"I'm thinking about putting one of these in my home," I ventured.

She looked me up and down

"This is my first elfa system," I confessed.

She licked her lips. "They're addicting."

She could have been talking about pumpkin spice lattes; or pints of Ben and Jerry's; or guys who ride motorcycles and call you at 1 AM just to see what you're doing; but no, she was talking about closet organization systems.

I completely understood.

Her questions started coming fast and furious:
"Do you have standard eight foot ceilings?"
"Uh, yes?"
"How deep do you want the shelves?"
"Uh, 10 inches?"
"They come in 8,12, or 20."
"Uh, 12?"
"How many shelves did you need? What are you going to store on them?"

For some reason, I was embarrassed to admit that I wanted to build an 8 ft. high shelving system to house my shoes. But when I told her, "shoes," her only reply was, "I recommend six shelves." This wonderful woman understood my needs! I started to relax and then watched mesmerized as she used her super Container Store computer to create a nifty little diagram of what I wanted. "Exactly!" I exclaimed.

At that moment, Emily and Thomas--who had been sitting quietly in their double stroller--decided that they had had enough with this store, this elfa system crap, my lame purse that had nothing good in it, and everything else in their little world at that point in the space-time continuum. I knew I had to hurry if I was going to make my dream of organized shoes a reality.

"I'll take it!"

I thought with that I'd be out of there soon, that she'd swipe my card and I would journey on, but instead she made me listen to a lecture on how to install the shelves. The lecture wasn't long--maybe three minutes--but what did I care about installation? Installation is Mike's job. But I dutifully listened and asked intelligent questions and nodded my head appropriately (Does the bracket face up in that case? Oh, I see!), while the kids drew on each other with the pens the nice salesperson gave them.

Driving out of The City with my new purchase--my elfa!--tucked into the back of our SUV like a stack of gold bullions, I got on my cel phone. I was excited; who could I call to tell what I had just done and how my life was about to change, one closet at a time? I figured Mike might care. Actually, I doubted he would care, but I didn't have anybody else to call.

"Hi, honey!"

"What's up? Are they kids okay?"

"Ya, they're fine." Whatever. "I'm calling to tell you I just got my first elfa system! And I need you to put it up for me tonight."

"Okay," he replied, "I'll get out my tools. Hehe, I just said tools."

"Great! Love you! Bye!"

The sun was shining as I drove home and I felt more alive than I had in weeks. I wasn't sure what I was most excited about: my new elfa system, my new organized shoes, what having organized shoes might mean for my future, or the fact that I had something to blog about.

Because THIS is very exciting. Without further ado, I present to you, shoes: before and elfa.