The Best of Andy Rooney

It seems as though the rooms we live in are getting smaller, with fewer places to store things, and the things we have to store are getting bigger and more numerous. Take the kitchen, for example. It's OK for inventors to keep inventing gadgets, but when are they going to start inventing some new places to put them? The drip coffeemaker may be handier than the old coffee pot but it takes up twice as much room and its all counter space.

We now have, on various surfaces in our kitchen, a food processor, a toaster oven, a juice squeezer, an electric can opener, a small television set and a radio. Note that each of these six appliances has to be plugged into an electrical outlet. It's gotten so you can't find room to roll a piecrust or cut up vegetables.

There's been an explosion in the space being taken up by winter clothes in the downstairs closet, too. Yesterday, I noticed that all the hangers were taken and the coat rod was jam-packed. You could take the hanger out from under any coat in there and it wouldn't fall to the floor. I hate the job of squeezing another coat onto a coat rod that's already full.

The space revolution in the coat closet can be attributed to two causes. First, after you've lived in a house for 10 or 15 years, there are items of clothing that are fixtures in any closet. You don't wear them; you just have them. There are coats in our closet that may have been there before Columbus asked Isabella for the money to discover America. They are never worn, never thrown out. Like the closet door, they're just there.

This category of coat closet clothing also includes jackets and miscellaneous items that belonged to our children, who no longer live at home. We want to retain the affection of our kids and preserve, to some small degree, the illusion that ours is still their home, so we don't throw out their antique coats.

The second reason there's less space in the closet is that coats are taking up more room. I have a new down coat and I have a sheepskin coat and a down vest, all three of which take up as much room as six regular coats.

I also own three raincoats or trench coats. One of them is more than 20 years old and the lining is torn but it's still good enough for Saturday mornings at the grocery store. One has a lining that can be put in on cold, rainy days, and the third is one I switched with someone by accident in a restaurant one night. It's made for a man 6-feet-2 and weighing 155 pounds. This does not fit my description by 5 inches and 50 pounds so I don't wear it.

Table and bookshelf space is at a premium in the house. There are more things arriving to be read than there are places to put them. Between books, magazines, catalogues, junk mail, real mail, bills, receipts, bank statements and newspapers, there isn't a place left to put something down. Every flat surface is covered with paper with some kind of printing on it. I couldn't read it all in 10 years if I started this evening, but some of it must be interesting, important, or vital to my tax return.

There are too many items we all own that defy being neatly stored. The chief offender, the vacuum cleaner, is closely followed by such things as the wheelbarrow, the garden hose in winter, a variety of shovels and rakes, mops, brooms and brushes. Two buckets, several dozen clay pots and three large garbage pails don't get lost easily. Some nights, it would be easier to book a room in a hotel than make my way through the garage.

I fail to understand why, in this age of miniaturization and microchips, everything I own seems to take up, not less space than it used to, but more.

(This a classic Andy Rooney column originally published on March 3, 1985.)

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