Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Caught an interesting show about “Hoarders” just now. Lots of anxiety and catastrophizing. “I feel like just leaving and never coming back.” Yeah, sure, you’re going to go kill yourself because people are exasperated with all your mess and crap. You’ll just disappear from the planet. It’s not the hoarding of course. It’s the mess. If it were organized it wouldn’t be hoarding. It would be collecting. As it is, it's just a reluctance to throw out anything that might possibly someday be somehow useful.

But really, it’s not the stuff. It’s the mess. That’s something I know how to deal with too. I had a household, once, sort of full of kids, so I know about mess. It’s really important to stay on top of it. Especially with boys. Two rules. First, have a place for everything. All the papers -- work, academic, finance -- all the books, dishes, jackets, shoes, toys, games -- they all have a place. Boxes, chests, closets, hampers, drawers, cupboards, cabinets, shelves -- these are places, for things. Armoires. Credenzas. Highboys. Whatever. They don’t have to be neat in their place, but they have to be in their place, and out of sight. Their place is not on tabletops, chairs, beds, floors, floors under beds. Their place is not, ever, on a surface. Surfaces do not count as places. Things are either out of sight, or on display. It’s more a matter of judgment than of taste. And when they get messy in their place, out of sight, well, once a week, places get a going over. Sunday evening, after dinner and before family time. It's a part of family time.

Second rule, no mess at bedtime. Never let it get out of control. You do that by having a procedure. Whose ever bedtime it is, there’s a few minutes before that, for spot check. You know what you’ve been doing. If it’s kids, they don’t know what they’ve been doing. So there’s a checklist, formal or informal. I used to put it on them -- go take a look, and anything that’s yours and out, take care of it. Of course they wanted to do a sloppy job. It’s not bad, it’s human. But there’s accountability too. After they got used to the rules, they’d know that any toy they left lying around, I’d keep for a while. Put it up high, where they could see it but not have it. Mean? I smile with thin lips, and call it justice.

Too much stuff? Not enough places? Really, that's not hard. Decide if you want to be a hoarder. Keep what you need, keep what you like, but don't keep what you might perhaps someday maybe have a use for possibly. It's like paint cans. When you repaint, many years from now, is it going to be the same color? Really? Liar. Buy less than you want. It's more than you need. I knew a fellow who had a rule. Anything that wouldn't fit on the one shelf in his garage, had to go. Severe, but it worked. He had one big place, rather than a lot of more specific ones. It worked for him.

Too much mess? There's the Mount Vernon technique of housekeeping. It's such a big place, how do you clean it? Start in a corner, and work out. It's a system, and systems get things done. Doesn't have to be the best system ever, or the most efficient. Just effective. No search-and-rescue grids required. Overwhelmed? Schedule time. Do it in pieces. Make it a project. Ask for help. Hire someone. Just get it done.

It's important because people form judgments. Family overlooks it. Friends make allowances. Strangers don't care, or shouldn't. Social workers write reports. But everyone has opinions. And if there are kids, well, there it is. We want them to benefit from our excellence. Sadly, they have to deal with it all.

That’s it. Two rules. Have a place, and use it. But that's how it is with everything. A few rules, just common sense, and chaos becomes cosmos. I'm sure this is how God created the universe. With a rule, a unified field. Light. Then a lot of separating.


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