I left the screening of the documentary, "Iris" (directed by the late Albert Maysles) with mixed feelings. Mrs. Apfel is a direct, charming, iron-fist-in-heavily-embroidered-velvet-glove, blessed with a fearless and diverse talent for adornment. She owns a staggering amount of clothing and accessories, and is shown acquiring ever more, even as she tours a storage facility and murmurs, "I must do something about this."
Buying more and more is a way of denying our mortality, and I am not referring only to octogenarians like Apfel. If there is always more to chase, acquire, and cram into already overflowing homes, we can pretend there is also always more time. It's as if the possessions were magical talismans, promising an endless path strewn with baubles.
Around the same time, I watched an episode of "Hoarders"; the differentiating characteristics between the two inveterate collectors were price point and public acceptance of the habit. The Apfel's apartment, cluttered with permanent holiday decor and stuffed animals, was uncannily like one "Hoarders" woman's, but the Apfels have a doorman.
Have you read Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"? Several friends have adopted her KonMari method for simplifying, organizing and storing. Kondo starts from the question, What would an uncluttered living space do for you? (Apfel would likely retort, "Sweet f-all.")
Should you find that future compelling, Kondo prescribes several clear steps: Beginning with clothes (but eventually dealing with everything), reduce your number of belongings, keeping only things that "spark joy". Divest everything not fulfilling the criterion, and devise a specific storage place for what is left.
There is more; she is a master of folding; if you adopt her methods, you will feel as if you live at Muji.
But what about the chipped mug that your roommates gave you that summer you waitressed at a resort hotel? Your friend's Manolos that didn't fit her, so she gave them to you, except they don't fit you either, but you loved her gesture? Before they leave, photograph these objects and slip a print into your journal or add the shots to your screensavers.
I wondered, gifted with an eclectic eye like Iris Apfel's, does one inevitably become a magpie? ("More is more, and less is a bore", she says.) Could you deck yourself in enough jewelry to stock a shop, then throw on a '70s couture brocade coat and a big fur vest—and move around in comfort for a full day?
She is remarkable, and knows it. For the rest of us, Iris advises, "If your hair is done properly and you're wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything."
Even a Kondo closet?