We Still Have The Same Problem. But Now We Have It For A Different Reason.
Shoe-boxes are a major cause of cognitive dissonance for me. For years, I have held two parallel and perfectly opposing beliefs. Belief one: shoe-boxes are infinitely useful and can be used for all manner of amazing craft projects, ranging from the simple insertion of the soft toy du jour into the bottom and the confident statement, “Look! Now Pink Piggy has a bed!” to the feel-good manufacture of gift boxes for children in other countries. Belief two: shoe-boxes are BOXES and therefore should be disposed of at the earliest opportunity.
If Walt Whitman can contain multitudes, then so can I. I can throw away every shoe-box that comes into my house as soon as I lay eyes on it, and also sincerely lament the absence of shoe-boxes whenever a craft project comes along that requires one, and not once see the connection between Throwing All The Shoe-boxes Away, and Never Having A Shoe-box When We Need One.
But it’s only recently dawned on me that shoe-boxes have an entirely separate function, independent of any craft-based upcycling opportunities.
I’m not 100% sure why it took me so long to realise this, but I’m going to go ahead and blame my childhood. (I’ve always wanted to blame my childhood.) Like most kids of my generation, when I was growing up, shoes were a limited resource. You had school shoes, and trainers, and if you were fantastically posh or rich then you had party shoes, and that was pretty much it. At any given moment, if you weren’t actually in your shoes, you soon would be. Maximum period between wears was generally about forty-eight hours.
Also (and I’ll admit this part isn’t unique to just my generation), when you’re a kid, your feet grow. There is no real point in preserving your shoes. You’re going to grow out of them. And then they are going to be thrown away. “Getting the wear” is practically a childhood commandment.
Then you grow up. And your feet stop growing. (More or less. We’ll ignore that weird non-reversible size-larger thing that happens to your feet – and sometimes even your whole, entire body – during your first pregnancy.) And your shoe-occasions multiply. And you have disposable income. And you discover the ludicrous thrill of buying shoes purely for their utter, utter beauty, even though there’s no possible chance you’ll ever be able to actually walk anywhere in them. And before you know it, you’ve got a whole damn collection.
And if you (well, okay, me) are stupid enough to say to your husband one day, “You know, I just don’t know why men think all women are obsessed with shoes”, he will lead you to the hallway and show you why men think all women, even you (okay, me again), are obsessed with shoes.
Decades later than the average, it has finally dawned on me that, while shoes have many fine properties, they do not tessellate well. Also, they like to sleep in heaps, like puppies. Left to themselves, they will form a vast shoe mountain in which the shoes you actually want to wear will be carefully shielded at the very bottom by all the other shoes you own, and will also have been separated for their own safety.
But if you keep them in their boxes, all these problems disappear. They stay in neatly-ordered pairs. They do not get crushed out of shape by the weight of all the other shoes on top of them. Instead of lying in a promiscuous heap in the middle of the hall, they can be tidied away into virtually any space you care to name. In short, shoe-boxes are absolutely brilliant for storing your shoes in.
Sadly, this discovery of mine hasn’t improved things for my children. We have moved from a state of having-no-shoe-boxes-for-crafting-because-mummy-threw-them-all-away, to having-no-shoe-boxes-because-mummy-needs-them-to-keep-her-shoes-in. But I’ve learned something useful and interesting, and that’s always important, I think.