I'm Just Saying…

April 25, 2010

Getting It Straight

Filed under: Daily Life — jillamyrosenblatt @ 4:35 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Well it’s that time of year again. The days are longer, the weather is warmer; in short, spring is springing up all over. Spring is traditionally a time for renewal, the proverbial second chance that comes every year. The thought of most people at this time of year is, of course, spring cleaning. Time to pull up the shades, let the sun shine in, and clear out the clutter.

I say most people. I am not one of those people.

Let’s face it, while we are all multi-taskers, only some of us have organizational skills. Only some of us have the knack of preventing the madness of mail, bills, and the flotsam of the papers of daily life from growing like the blob, sucking the life out of us. Then there are people like me. I prefer to organize by area. My existence is one big game of hot/cold. Where is the cable bill I forgot to pay? On the coffee table? Warm. On the dresser? Warmer. In the bill slot on my desk? Ice cold.  And if I’m driven over the precipice into the abyss of an emergency cleanup? As soon as I organize my personal space, I can’t find a thing.

To compound the issue of organizing my goods and chattel, I have the added problem of the accoutrements of the writing life. I’m floating in the detritus of books, magazines, printer cartridges, reams of paper, etc. I often ruminate on ways to Feng Shui my living area to foster the flow of positive energy. I take out the Bagua Map only to find my career area mingling in my creativity area, and both are dangerously encroaching on my relationship area. A ménage a trois of turmoil complicated by finding my love and marriage area obliterated by my computer desk billeted where my bed should be. I just discovered the reason I’m not married.

As a result of my bacchanalia of disorder, a new expression has crept into my lexicon. “I need to get myself straightened out.” This is akin to the British expression “getting oneself sorted out” except it sounds so much more adorable when they say it. Probably because of the accent.

Here’s my issue: When did having organizational skills become a life goal? Disorganization is now more than an annoying habit, it’s a character flaw. I’m not organized; obviously I have not succeeded as a human being. Isn’t organization one of the first precepts a child learns in the mind-numbing group think tank of formal education (along with time management, another hot button issue for me). I was always the kid that had paper peeking out through the lid of the desk. Then when I opened the desk a waterfall of notebooks, papers, and pencils cascaded out. I should have known then I was hopeless.

Concerns about my dysfunctional organization have burrowed themselves into my brain, infecting my psyche. I am convinced I have not successfully completed my childhood learning program. I don’t have closure. I have never gotten myself “straightened out” therefore I am not a successful adult. My belongings are not categorized, organized, and compartmentalized. My files are piles; I have failed. Needing to “get myself straightened out” has become synonymous with success by reaching a self-actualized nirvanic plateau of neatness. I’m not sure when I went off kilter and confused a higher level of self-actualization with keeping my underwear drawer neat.

I listen with envy as friends explain their intricate systems of paperwork, clothing, and shoe management. Show-offs. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve made lists. I have pads everywhere: magnetized pads, sticky pads, pads by my computer, on my nighttable, in my purse (another item that should be condemned). I have pastel colored pads, flower pads, pads with cute little dogs on them. Now if I could only find a pen, I could make use of the pads and compile the lists I need to help me “get myself straightened out.”

Next, I purchased baskets. Baskets were supposed to be the answer to everything. Have more stuff? No problem, get another basket. Square baskets, round baskets, cloth baskets, and wire baskets. I once went on a slightly unhinged spree through a department store convinced Yaffa blocks were my salvation. I combed the aisles, searched the shelves, mumbling the word “Yaffa,” my own monastic chant. People were staring.

My first stab at stemming the tide of guilt is rationalization. Why can’t clutter be good? Doesn’t clutter mean a creative, free spirit, an active mind? Should I be stifling my creative spirit? Isn’t that just wrong? Besides, I know why I can’t find what I’m looking for. It’s because I’ve put it somewhere safe, very, very, safe. I am extra careful with my paperwork and I commend myself on how responsible I am. On many occasions I’ve placed papers somewhere so safe, I’ve never seen them again.

I envy people who can actually throw something away. That’s a skill, an art, a testament to mental strength and fortitude. I get headaches, break out in a sweat, develop an eye twitch at the thought of parting with something. How can people do that? Don’t they know they’re going to need it someday? As a writer, my attention is constantly taken by books, newspapers, magazines, and internet articles. There are always inspirations for story ideas, little nuggest of detail that can be twisted and turned into fiction. And so the piles grow, and the baskets abound, and every open and available surface becomes obliterated by mounds of paper. Eventually, the books, newspapers, and magazines will get out of control and I’ll say, “I’ve got to get myself straightened out.” It’s a vicious cycle.

I think what bothers me is this: does inability to handle one’s own personal effects ultimately mean an inability to handle one’s life? I don’t mind spending time rationalizing but then I begin to ponder not on what the mess says about my organizational skills, but what it says about me. Will I always be running behind, looking for bills, looking for keys, looking for focus? What if my inability to “get myself straightened out” is an ominous foreboding for my future and any success I hope to achieve?

So what’s the answer? Perhaps none. Perhaps clutter is in the DNA, a part of the metabolic structure. Maybe it’s a characteristic of “right side of the brain” people, those taken with the arts and crafts side of life and so their work and living spaces bloom, unable to contain all the different interests, new ideas, and new projects that take our fancy. New things interest me all the time. I’ve recently thought it might be nice to learn quilting. Of course, I’d need a quilting frame for that. My only option is to hang the frame from the ceiling and lower it when I want to use it, like the lab table in Young Frankenstein. For now the quilting will have to wait. I’m sure I’ll get to it. Just as soon as I get myself straightened out.

Happy Spring Everyone!

J.

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