Q: Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
A: To sort plastic beads into tiny plastic drawers.
I hate the stranglehold that clear plastic storage solutions have on the organizing and shelter media world, which is why I feel compelled to confess the deep personal satisfaction I recently got from sorting my children’s extra large mason jar of beads and pipe cleaners into the clear plastic drawers of a vintage hardware box.
I have organized a drawer for perler beads and one for tri-beads. Heart-shaped beads and star-shaped beads are mixed together in one drawer, as are an assortment of alphabet beads. I stopped short of separating the pearlescent pony beads from the solid-colored pony beads, but I did not resist the temptation to give the clear, glittery ones a drawer of their own. There are more faceted beads than any other variety and so they fill their own drawer nearly to the brim.
Generally plastic beads make their way into our apartment via daycare, where the serious work of beading is executed by my extremely prolific children. Over the past few years, one, and now another, have quite often, and sometimes daily, brought me custom bracelets. The style of their work, I’d say, has been avant-garde. The presentation, always requiring of fanfare. But the artists aren’t overly attached to the end product. I slide the fuzzy pipe cleaners over my wrist, and try not to visibly wince when the wire end scrapes my flesh. I wear the bracelets while I make dinner and read bedtime stories and when the requisite period of fawning is over, I slide the beads off their pipe cleaners and into a large mason jar that my kids can dig into when the beading urge strikes again.
A mason jar full of beads and pipe cleaners is a perfectly reasonable storage solution until someone might soon perish without the purple dolphin bead they spy at the very bottom of the jar. No amount of wriggling tiny fingers can wrest it from underneath the mass of once and future microplastics layered on top, and so the contents of the jar are dumped into a tray and across the table and onto the floor and I am forced to take some deep breaths in the kitchen, cursing a plastic dolphin and the bracelet it rode in on.
Suffice to say, I’ve spent some time looking into alternatives to the jar o’ beads. There are roughly eleventy billion sortable, close-able, stackable options on the market, many of them designed for precisely this purpose, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, I hate all of them. I briefly considered buying the steel containers with lots of little compartments of the sort electricians might use, but they’re heavy and designed with nuts and bolts in mind, not low-density polyethylene. I wondered over cheap balsa wood containers but I knew they wouldn’t hold up. I entertained the idea of folding twenty paper boxes from magazine pages, but even I am not naive enough to think paper boxes in the hands of a three-year-old would be an improvement over our particular predicament.
I lost interest. I moved onto more pressing matters. For instance, everything. And then, when I stopped looking, I spotted a vintage hardware box at the little secondhand shop around the corner. It has clear plastic drawers that I have filled with multi-colored plastic beads. If I had my druthers, I would have neither the plastic beads nor the attending plastic drawers, but my druthers have seemingly rolled off the table and onto the floor. Anyone care to make a bracelet?
Q: Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
A: Well, everything except for plastic beads, which will stick around for-just-about-ever.