For two weeks I’ve been searching for a piece of glass for a picture frame. I know I have one somewhere. I remember buying the frame years ago and not using it right away. I stored it on a closet shelf. Recently I broke a glass and started looking for its replacement. Nowhere.
Of course, between the last time I stumbled on the glass, probably digging around for another lost item, we moved. Naturally now it’s missing. Along with the other items I’ve misplaced during the move. These include some shoes, important instructions for equipment, one year’s tax returns, and a mixing bowl.
I’ve always prided myself on being organized. Other people link this characteristic with me, too. But I’m here to tell you the reason I’m organized is because I constantly and desperately am fighting chaos. I’m not an obsessive-compulsive; I’m just panicky. I restrict my messes to specific areas—a shelf here, a drawer there, the garage storage.
Other people’s chaos is so huge, they can’t control it. I see victims of hoarding disorder on television. Garbage rots, belongings seem to multiply on their own, clothing disintegrates, piles grow higher and higher until they collapse. Health and safety are threatened.
No one thinks his own hoarding is out of control. Many of us believe our neighbors or friends accumulations are. Some consider messes to be a sign of creativity, I suppose because it shows such variety, it must indicate lots of ideas.
Others say a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. Someone, or several someones, including Einstein if you can believe a Google search, asked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
There is a real cost to clutter. We lose valued items in it. Research from Pixie, a tracker app for lost items, reveals that Americans spend an average total of 2.5 days a year looking for misplaced stuff. That’s nearly half a workweek we lose just searching for things.
Hope is in view. Advice abounds in how-to, from the Japanese expert who urges “joy” as the bottom line to advocates of discarding anything you don’t use at least every six months. You can also set your own goals such as one drawer a week, or encouraging your friends and neighbors to swoop in periodically to identify with colored tags the items they’d like to relieve you of.
Or pick a day, any day, and tell yourself you’ll start with your desk, groaning under stacks of papers. If you don’t have a particular date in mind, aim for “Clean off your desk day,” the second Monday of January. Then you’ll have a little spot of order in all your disorder. Perhaps it will grow. You can only hope.