This is the kitchen in the house where we used to live. You'll note that there's nothing on the fridge -- not because we wanted to show off the stainless steel doors, but because when you are staging and selling a house, any and all signs of the habitants' lives need to be erased.
To be honest, we haven't had anything on the fridge since mid-2011, when we put the house on the market the first time. I like a naked fridge. I find it soothing.
Once the fridge was off the table as a vertical filing cabinet, all that seemingly essential crap had to go somewhere, so I grabbed six free hours over three days and refitted a former ironing board closet as the catch-all for papers and other reminders. I painted the inside door with chalkboard paint (for writing due dates on bills), then attached these small file pockets for holding our bills, things to be shredded, and coupons or gift cards to redeem later. In the main closet -- which was made for holding an ironing board and therefore had no depth whatsoever -- I painted the whole thing a glossy white so it looked pretty, then mounted bigger file pockets to hold our stationary and other office supplies, then stuck a tray on the bottom that held a few small storage boxes in place. I liked having everything in the tidy little closet; not only was all the pesky paper ephemera in one place, I could close the freakin' door and not have to look at the to-dos and soon-to-be-dues.
I find my own clutter stressful, but other people's riveting, which is why I cannot wait until we are permanently settled in our new place and I can justify buying new books,. Then I can goggle at other people's stuff in Life At Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors.
The book is the result of research from UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families, and when the book dropped, a lot of reporters picked up on a magnet metric. As the NYT had noted two years prior, "The clutter on the fridge door tended to predict the clutter elsewhere." ("Every Hug, Every Fuss," NYT, May 22, 10)
Today, the NYT is back with the magnet metric and providing its readers an opportunity to trot out their class anxieties in the comments. In the blog post "What Does Your Fridge Door Say About You?" KJ Dell'Antonia writes about her efforts to turn her fridge into an embodiment of what she'd like her family life to be versus the sad reality that no matter how many fridge frames you buy, clutter is clutter and indicative of a larger issue. As she writes:
Material things, from magnets to toys to gadgets, cost far less in adjusted dollars than they ever did before, while time remains nearly as tightly budgeted as it ever was. The newest new thing is easy to get. Time to take care of the old thing, to put it away or give it away or even throw it away, is harder to come be, even when it’s as dumb as a refrigerator magnet.
That mentality — the desire to buy a solution, or just treat yourself to a little material reward, instead of taking the time to do something more difficult or thoughtful, is reflected across many of our houses, including mine.
One of the features of modern life is this: the less likely you are to be living paycheck-to-paycheck, the more control you have over your time. When you have money, public transit is optional, not mandatory, so your activities are not circumscribed by transit schedules. You're not scrambling to pick up your kid before the daycare center begins levying late fees because you have a nanny you pay to hang around on your say-so. You can inconvenience other people for your convenience. You have the kind of life where you have time to do things like sit and ponder some items' place in your world.
This is why I was so amused by the tenor of the comments accompanying the blog post. Many of the correspondents took care to detail the exquisite curation of the items on their fridge, or to detail how their specific refrigerator choices (stainless steel or wood inlays) precluded tacky, chaotic fridge displays. I have a lot of control over my life and my stuff, people were saying. I'm not one of those people who can't afford to keep things clean and serene.
As of now, there's nobody commenting on Dell'Antonia's very good point about people's attempts to buy more money by buying organizational stuff. Nobody's commented on the luxury of time.