Organized, Schmorganized: Can Disorganization Be a Virtue?

“Today I’m going to clear off my desk!” Have you ever made this promise to yourself? I have… at least a thousand times. But as I sit here now, typing this article, my desk remains comfortably cluttered. My kitchen counter is strewn with this week’s mail, including the PennySaver. Inside my media cabinet, CDs are arranged higgly piggly, with no thought to genre or artist. It has taken me a long time to admit to being a messaholic, and if there were a 12-step program for me I’d be at the next meeting. That is, if I could find the slip of paper where I wrote the date and time. It’s not that I don’t want to be neat. I envy people whose rooms look like they belong in model homes, though I am usually convinced there is a big closet where they have just stored all their clutter prior to my arrival.

Which reminds me of a funny story about a couple who received a phone call from out-of-town friends who were in the neighborhood and asked if they could stop by. With only seconds to get ready, the wife (husbands typically do not care about such things) frantically shoved all her kitchen counter clutter temporarily into the oven. As irony would have it, the friends rang the doorbell bearing a take-and-bake pizza, and the wife had to come clean with her not-so-Good Housekeeping methods.

Learning to Accept My Cluttered Existence

The fact is, I was born into a cluttered household and swore my home would be different. Which it is, but only by degree.

Over the years I have come to realize that I like having my things around me. They are things that I care about, that give my life meaning (okay, maybe not the PennySaver). They are evidence that I am living a life and not just existing.

A few years ago I was watching TV with my daughter, Laura, and in one of my got-to-get-organized moments, I sprang up from the sofa and announced that I was going to straighten the house. “What needs to be straightened,” asked my sincerely puzzled teenager.

“Are you kidding,” I replied. There’s laundry on the coffee table, dishes that need to go into the dishwasher, groceries that need to be put away. This place is a mess”

“That’s funny,” she said. “I just look at those as chores in progress.”

The moment was an epiphany of sorts, and I have had similar lightbulb moments since. Enough of which have led me closer to self-acceptance.

For, although I do believe that people can change, I also believe that they have to want to change. And the fact that I recently turned 50 and am still your garden variety clutterbug tells me I really do not want to be a neatnick, as attractive as that lifestyle may appear.

Society deems that women be trim and houses be neat, using unappealing words like obese, fat, messy, cluttered and so forth to describe their opposites. Rather than buy into these external dictates, however, from now on I will consider my house thoroughly, enjoyably and richly lived in; and the next time I can’t find my keys or an overdue library book, I’ll try not to be too hard on myself and maybe even cherish for a moment the organized chaos that makes my house a home.

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