Monday, February 19, 2007

The Need to Organize

When we were in Chicago we visited The Container Store. It’s Ernie’s favorite store: Al’s too. Al indoctrinated us by taking us to the store near the Clarendon Metro station. He’s done a good job with keeping his stuff organized and it paid off when he found out that his Honda was part of a class action suit. By being able to put his hands on all the necessary paper work, he has made himself eligible to recoup $5,000 worth of repair bills. Ernie has not been quite so successful. Although he has bought containers for “stuff” and then containers to organize the containers, he’s not quite got the whole thing mastered.

I have no business being critical. I’m pretty organized, but after living through a friend’s nightmare as she attempted to assemble all her treasures in a meaningful way in preparation for her move to a retirement community, I decided to spend some time thinning, organizing, labeling and reviewing my current “system. “ Because appliances have a habit of breaking down, I have been religious about keeping files with the instruction booklets and assorted literature. There were too many for one file so I divided them into “Small Appliances” and “Large Appliances.” But there were still too many, so I moved on to “Mid-Sized Appliances.” But how to classify things? Is a garage door opener a “Mid-Sized Appliance” or a “Small Appliance?” What about an electric fan?

So it isn’t so much doing the job as deciding how to classify things that’s the problem. Right now I am working on bookmarks on this computer. I had at one time made a fine—but significant—distinction between “journals” and “blogs” and had labeled folders accordingly. But then people like Eliza and John switched from their previous format to blogs. Should I leave the link where I was used to it and let the redirect take me where I wanted to go, erase the journal link and use a new one in the blog folder, keep both? You don’t really care, do you? Another computer related problem is my ability to add tags to blog entries under the new Blogger (known to Blogger users as the “bad” Blogger as opposed to the old “good” Blogger.) I’m not sure if I will ever use them: some bloggers are adding 10 or more to each post. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Of course, some things are really easy. By my sewing machine I have containers marked “Tape” and “Buttons” and “Zippers” and I have a fine old time labeling them with a splendid hand-held label maker Andrew and Marcie gave me a couple of Christmases ago. There is always the question of whether I should use different colored labels for different categories . . .

But the Container Store hasn’t given up on me. I’m on their mailing list now and they sent me a catalog with this stunning illustration. This is a garage. A garage, folks! It is cleaner and neater than any closet in my house. Cleaner and neater than any room in my house.

Maybe I need help. Organizers Anonymous. I’d like to think Organization with a capital “O” is a fad. But apparently it is not. I ran across an article citing the work of anthropologist Ashley Montagu, who advocated neotony, the idea that human beings are built to grow and develop their childhood traits rather than minimize them. He cites 26 of these traits. They include joyfulness, a sense of humor, curiosity, the need to know, the need to learn—and, surprise, surprise, the need to organize.

Of course, we must not forget the most esoteric of all organizational schemes, feng shui. Did you see what that’s being used for these days?

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