Thursday, March 22, 2007

Such a Pretty Mess

A lot of people are writing about A Perfect Mess, a new book by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman. Okay, I should probably read the book, but I'm not actually writing about the book, here. I'd like to hold forth a bit on general tidiness.

I used to to say this indifferent housekeeper. Before we moved out west, we lived in a fairly decrepit row house in Baltimore that vigorously resisted all attempts to clean -- elderly wood floors, terrible linoleum, original fixtures in the bathrooms all conspired to look dingy without regard for the bleach, oil soap, or other medicaments that I might apply. This was compounded by the fact that we had vastly more room than we needed, and could thus fill rooms with assorted detritus that was of no further use to the family. And we went thrifting. A lot.

Since moving into a home that is at least 1500 square feet smaller than the old joint, I've turned into a bit of a Stepford Wife, I'm afraid. In part it's because in a small house there is no room for detritus -- we're just a few pairs of shoes in the living room away from complete chaos. And, in part it's because the house reacts well to my ministrations -- the floors actually shine when steamed with the steamer. The bathrooms can be perceptibly cleaned. I'm a little obsessed, because as Marge Simpson notes: I spend 23 hours a day in this house. I need to be able to concentrate, and It's Hard For Me when there is disorderly conduct in my environment.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not spending my time lining my pencils up and sharpening them until they're all the same length. But for me and my working style, it's important that I have the stuff that I'm currently working on out, and the rest of it hidden away where it doesn't trouble me.

I've got a junk drawer in my office, and we have a couple of junk drawers in the house. Don't get me started on our garage, which, needless to say, does not contain the car. But pockets of mayhem aside, we can put everything we own away, and we don't buy a lot of new stuff, so there isn't this inflow of crap that takes up space.

Look, you keep your desk as messy as you like, but I think that overall the benefits of knowing where the things you're working on right now are, being able to put your hands on things that you did last year, and not having to fight your way through stacks of clothes you can't or don't wear in order to get dressed in the morning are worth the time and effort it takes to get your stuff-universe in some kind of order.

I'm coming down anti-Messy Desk. Will wonders never cease?


Jeri Dansky said...

Exactly! Professional organizers (and I'm one) know that being organized is all about having an environment that supports you in what you want to do in the world.

(And I've joined the masses writing about A Perfect Mess - or, more accurately, about the coverage of the book.)

Stella Commute said...

Thanks for writing Jeri. I read another interesting article that noted how we're spending too much time organizing and not enough time actually working. I think there has to be a happy medium.