Truth in Jest

My dad, Martin Miller, wrote a weekly column for the Canton Repository, called “Letters from Max.” Sometimes he commented on news and politics, but other times he shared amusing facts about our household. I remember his commenting, for example, that our dog Abbie made a scratchy noise when she arose from sleeping, because the burrs in her coat made her stick to the carpet. At the time, I was always torn between feeling ashamed about our housekeeping peccadilloes (which were legion) and realizing that such problems were common, humanizing, and funny.

I’m reminded of my dad’s revelations because of my essay, “You’re Already Organized!”,  just posted on The Happy Woman, an online magazine parodying the relentless self-improvement advice in women’s magazines. My piece suggests that your home’s floors, chair cushions, and stairs provide excellent storage spots for your clutter.

Like my dad, I based this piece on real life. Around the time I wrote this, I had just ended a weeks-long “experiment” (as my husband resentfully called it), in which I left a newspaper on the living room floor, instead of picking it up, as I was wont to do. After several weeks, I pointed it out to my family. Nobody believed it had lain there that long, but I probably showed them the paper’s date to support my claim.

The useful space under the cushions of chairs and couches also had its basis in real life. When, at rare intervals, I cleaned these areas, I always found a TV Guide, assorted Cheerios and other snacks, and the occasional Pop-Tarts wrapper. In fact, once I actually pulled out a pristine, wrapped Hershey bar, as I say in the piece. People might think I was kidding.

Finally, the way upstairs became, in fact, the Bermuda Triangle I describe. Once my daughter was beside herself about a lost college application. There it was, in a stack of items on the stairs, intended for family members to take up to their rooms. Who knows how long it had lain there? That’s when I got the idea. If I ever really wanted to hide something–an illicit love letter (on the off chance I ever received one) or an exorbitant department store receipt–the stairs would be the place to put them. No one ever looked there.

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