Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Order, order!

Better Homes and Gardens is as predictable as the proverbial taxman. January's issue appears, clad usually in blue and white, with crates and baskets artfully arranged. With evangelical fervor, we are encouraged not to "REPENT" but to "REORGANIZE!" Pick up, clean up, throw out, head right on down to whatever your favorite source of tubs or containers, whether WalMart or Pottery Barn or Office Max, and buy some stuff to hide your stuff in. When you're all done, you will be able to tear down those closet doors, just like the Berlin Wall, and all that has been hidden will be clear to you. Can I get an amen from those folks with the bulging file boxes, with the prospect of finding a space for 2010 among 2009s statements and Christmas greetings?
There is no doubt that New Year's does usher in yet another opportunity to organize, among other choices for self improvement. What's easier: throw out the Christmas tree, write thank you notes, lose ten pounds, or clean up the office? Surely its enough to bat .500? No? I guess not. However, I can work on my diet while hauling bag after bag out of the office, down to the burn pile. What a prospect.
Its not that I am by nature a slob....my good German forebears ensure that I straighten, I tidy, I pile. I can't really do serious bookwork without sweeping the worst of the debris from the office floor. This is not just my human nature; its also necessity. If I don't pay that bill today, then maybe the next gust of wind will pick it up like a dry leaf and waft it out the door, or under the desk. So, clean I will, clean I must.
But I hate it. Unlike the home magazines, the inside of my desk or closet will not be painted as a still life when I'm through. I'll sift through all the invoices, old bills, tickets, with high anxiety. My inclination is to throw away! But what if Blake wants that address? What if he needs to know where we got that switch? The manual for the sprayer? The date we bought the dirt machine? Sure, most of our sales are now safely ensconced on the computer and backed up to boot. But what, shudder, if the tax man needs something? I look at the stacked file boxes in the closet; I look at the new black file cabinet. I shrug, get yet another hanging file, and stick the greenhouse construction file that dates back to 1992 behind the one from 2001 behind the one from 2005 behind 2007...well, you get the picture. How much information will I need someday? I guess I never know and my natural urge to clean 'em up and throw em' out is tempered by the need to be prepared for any eventuality. At least that's how the "system" has worked for the last thirty years!!
I've made the new folders; I've consulted with the family, just in case hell freezes over and someone else decides to file this year. I think, hope, pray, that I've made logical choices about the organization of our business papers. I know what I do now will be writ in stone until the system changes...which judging from my own past performance, won't be for several years. And I know, sinking feeling in gut, that my effectiveness as a finder of lost things, is about to take a serious plunge as the learning curve for the new files commences. Self inflicted frustration. What kind of fool am I.
Ah well, the task is about done. I came, I saw, I hung new files. The piles on the floor are diminishing; the top of the desk is visible. The rented farm settlement sheets are indeed settling into their new drawer with just a touch of orange Playdoh courtesy of Abbie. Tomorrow its time to plant geranium cuttings, sweep the front room, order more plugs, print off the price sheets. Today's feeling of helplessness and inadequacy will diminish and dissipate over the spring. Eventually, we'll get so busy that filing's priority will fall off the map. And, maybe, just maybe, when I get around to the task again, the hanging files will actually slide on the runners, the drawers will open and shut. It won't be pretty and it won't burn calories, but I'll have beaten back entropy for another year

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