See, I have a lot of stuff, but I long ago cleared out everything I wasn't using or wearing and, in spite of that, my place, almost every room, is piled up with papers and books and a few magazines
I get brave and throw most of them out, too, every month or so -- but it's not easy because I remember being stuck in Turkey with no TV or radio and nothing to read. I'm aware that this isn't as serious as real traumas, but for someone whose list of Things I Must Always Avoid has 'Boredom' very close to the top, it's enough to have left a mark. (On that trip I did find one copy of the New York Times Book Review and read it over and over, even writing little sermons on various sentences.)
Okay, so I have a lot of stuff but none of it can be thrown out anymore. Hardly.
So organizing is the obvious choice. But that's where I run into a huge problem. It's not that I don't like to be organized, I do. I crave it. I even have a place for everything and frequently, sometimes twice a week, put all the things that aren't part of an active project into their proper place.
And I simply hate disorder. It's not indifference to chaos that stops me. I am disturbed by chaos.
The problem, in one sentence is this: only chaos will drive me to action, precisely because it is so disturbing.
If I want to remember to take a piece of paper or a book to another room, I simply throw it on the floor near the door. There's not a chance that I'll leave it there when I leave the room because having books and papers on the floor drives me crazy.
But a perfect, peaceful, beautiful, quiet orderliness will stop all my action, precisely because it's so lovely.
Instead, I sit in front of my computer and I'm surrounded like a drummer with three drum sets, by everything I could possibly need so that's it's often difficult to find room for my mouse to move its cursor (Note: I have a mouse pad the size of a large TV screen). I do this so I never have to stand up to get anything because that would break my train of thought. I sit surrounded by noisy, ugly clutter, but I have everything at hand and only stand up when I want to stand up.
(Aside, off the subject, because it popped into my head and is too good not to share with you is my favorite quote by Mae West: A shady type of guy, sitting behind his desk with a cigar in his mouth and the phone to his ear, tells her to sit down. And she answers him - please imagine the Mae West nasal voice and that cynical smile always on her lips - "Thanks. I'll sit down when I'm through standin' up.")
Okay, that smile gave me courage to continue.
I have many kinds and colors of file folders and binders and many dividers -- numerical, alphabetical and monthly - Jan, Feb, etc. I also have different colors of paper and a fine, heavy 3-hole punch, many varieties of index cards and blank books, paper clips, staplers, the works. When I decide to set up a new organizing system I never have to go to the store because I already have everything. And I really love to sort and organize my papers.
But if I put things away that are part of an active project, I might as well throw them out the window, because once things are orderly and my desktops and table tops are visible, I feel -- deeply in my mind, heart & soul -- that my job is done. Only the oddest impulse will drive me to look at anything that's safely in its folder or binder. It's all for 'later.'
For instance, I have baskets near my computer with scraps of paper in them, notes, almost always important (I coldly, without conflict, throw out notes to myself that are no longer important), things I want to remember, things I have to do, and I've put them in this basket so I'll go through them and even do them. It's a messy little basket so I'll be motivated to look at a few scraps of paper, but most of the time, because they're so nicely in one place, those notes stay in those baskets for many months.
And the papers for my next retreat are neatly stashed in a 3-ring binder, and that's okay, because I can grab it and take it with me. Well, some of it. There's always more than there was before, and the new stuff is something I'll need. (No, I really will.)
It's not my fault that there's always more new stuff. New stuff announces itself at every retreat because each retreat designs itself to fit the people who are at it. Sometimes a great exercise just doesn't fit, you can feel it, and another one you never thought of before will do the job perfectly. Me, I'm just following orders.
So, in addition to a nice binder, there's also one huge fat sloppy file drawer full of Scanner stuff. There's another huge, fat, sloppy file drawer full of WriteSpeak stuff um, plus a line of orange binders about 5 feet long on my 'work desk. (haha) I'm in the middle of a project to organize it chronologically this time but after about 12 hours of sorting on Sunday, I got tired of the project. Oh, I even have these 'tubs' which I can label and do some quick tossing of books and sheets of papers when I run out of steam for a real organizing project.
Now, why are the file drawers sloppy? Because the notes and scraps that weren't thrown away are all different sizes. That's what happens when you write down things by hand because you're far from your computer. Ideas do not always come in 8 1/2 x 11 form.
There's a third big project and it's kept in whole bookcase full of pink binders. And that's for the next book I'm writing.
One problem is that everything always comes first and everything has to be on top. Somehow, this seems essential. Not actually doable, but completely central to the entire effort of getting things done. Sometimes I use those clever time-organizing ideas I wrote about in Refuse To Choose, and sometimes I devise new systems right in the middle of the task. (If the task takes more than one day, you can change that 'sometimes' to 'invariably.' )
All I can say in my defense is that I do a lot of pretty good organizing with some things:
1) I always know where my keys are (and most other things,too)
2) I never miss a plane and almost always go to the right place
3) I'm a great suitcase packer and always have everything I need for whatever it is I'm going to do (except a hairbrush - I always forget the hairbrush)
4) There's nothing left to give away or throw away in any of my drawers or my kitchen shelves or my closets or my bookshelves.
But if you were an organized person looking at me in my environment you'd have to feel like you were watching a drunk walking on a high wire. You would be frightened. You would turn your eyes away and try to breathe slowly.
I confess all this so you'll understand a number of things. For one, how I come up with so many useful tossing and organizing systems (Check Live the Life You Love for the best tossing ones). In addition, if you are one of the organized people I want you to understand that some of us can't ever get organized or, if we do, it's only for a little while, during which we stand around not quite knowing what to do because we don't know where everything went.
I also tell you this so you will forgive your friends who are like me and find it in your heart to avoid judging and instead, honor their courage as they go through their often productive days leaving absolutely everything out like I do, right in my face, in a ghastly disorder that makes me nervous until I'm so miserable I just do it.
Yes I do have a place for everything, but I can never put it away because I'm not done yet. Ever.