Illustrated T-shirt, socks, and sweater with numbers 7 and 2

Closet Stuffer

MONEY

His life was completely ordinary. Maybe even less than ordinary. There was no reason to have paid any attention to it, really. He was 75 years old when he died and the only reason I happened to run across his story was because I was called to officiate at his funeral.

The most remarkable thing about him was not about what he learned or what he did. It was what he had. This guy had achieved what almost everybody I’ve ever met had not: he had absolutely everything he could possibly want, stuffed into his small apartment. His family had just finished cleaning the place and were describing its contents.

As coincidences go, I had just finished a conversation with a woman who specialized in organizing storage closets for the rich and famous. She described huge, room-sized closets full of every imaginable feature to store wardrobes of gargantuan sizes. I say specialized in the past tense, because she decided to sell her business.

When I asked why, she answered, “I got tired of dealing with angry people who were told they could not fit all their stuff in a 20-foot by 30-foot closet, because they had too much.”

So now back to this guy who had managed to achieve the impossible and have absolutely everything he could ever want stuffed into his apartment. Here’s how he did it: he had exactly one chair in his living room with one side table. In the side table’s drawer he kept the remote for the 19-inch TV and one phone book. On top of the side table was a phone.

There was nothing else stuffed in that room, because he needed nothing else. His brother had asked if he could get him a bigger TV, but he refused. The one he had was the one he wanted.

His closet was stuffed full with all the shirts he wanted. All five of them. Next to them hung his four pairs of pants and two jackets. The top dresser drawer contained seven pairs of socks next to seven T-shirts and seven pairs of underwear. The other drawers were empty except for one sweater.

His bed was a thin mattress with one blanket, one pillow, and hospital corners drum tight, just like in the Army. Next to the bed was a small table cluttered with exactly one lamp. In the drawer was his dopp kit, containing his razor, deodorant and bar of soap.

The bathroom had all the towels he could ever desire, hanging on the rail. The medicine cabinet was empty.

The rest of the apartment was equally crammed with a dish, a couple of utensils, and a refrigerator bulging with neatly organized TV dinners, one for each meal of the day, one week at a time. His tiny apartment was crammed with all the things he wanted, and even though the funeral was a few years ago, I still think about him. And I’m still trying to figure out just how he was able to do it.

They’re called possessions. Is that because you own them, or because they own you?

Illustration of a Closet

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