Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boxes and Boxes

Here's how I happen to be posting this entry today. It's a bit convoluted.

Someone posted a link to Blind Search, a place where you could check out different search engines, where you choose a topic on which to search and decide which search engine brings up the best results (you don't find out which is which until after you have made your choice).

I had just read Tony Kahn's latest "Chemo Chronicle" so for some reason I did my search on "Tony Kahn." Through that search I found a TransomTalk article about Tony, which led me to a set of links to recordings Tony had made. The title "Boxophobia" appealed to me and I listened to the mp3 recording about trying to help someone declutter his life.

"That would make a good journal entry," I thought, as I am in the process of trying to figure out how to pack up all the crap in our living room to put Pergo down on the floor, and am perenially in the position of wondering how to reduce (or at best hide) the clutter around here.

I decided to call the entry "Boxes and Boxes," after the old Lawsuit song and as I started composing it in my head, it was beginning to sound familiar. I went back and looked through my database and archives and found that I wrote the article in August of 2000, when I didn't have all that many readers. Since what I was in the process of composing was so eerily similar to what I published in 2000, I thought I would take the lazy way out and just reprint it here....

My friend DR is an organizer. I’ve never actually seen her house (she’s a cyber friend whom I’ve only met once face to face, though we’ve been friends for about six or seven years now). There was a time when she was convinced that with a few little pointers, I, too, could learn to be an organized person.

From conversations with her through the years, I imagine her house to be tastefully decorated, not an unnecessary thing in sight, and cleverly disguised containers hiding the clutter. Her theory of the quick clean up is: basket, boxes, other words, have lots of handy containers around that you can whisk the mess into when unexpected guests are ringing the doorbell, and nobody will ever know that you aren’t the perfect house keeper.

She really had me convinced that if I just bought enough containers, I, too, could have the appearance of being organized.

So I went out to Buy Containers.

And I came home with an interesting assortment of boxes and baskets into which I would put my clutter and make my life neat and tidy. And it really worked. I went through the kitchen counter with the ruthlessness of a drill sergeant. I tossed things, set things aside for sorting later, and got the absolute essentials containerized.

Then I went to work on the family room and even my office. It worked like a charm. Suddenly I was no longer the Queen of Clutter, but the Princess of Pristine. I called friends to my home. I gave dinner parties. I was not embarrassed to let people past the front hall. This was living. I was a born-again neatnik.

Well...there are a couple of flaws in DR’s system. First, the theory behind containerizing everything is that this is a temporary solution. Eventually you get around to going through it, tossing things away, and putting the rest in its Proper Place.

The second flaw is that the new containers are beautiful shiny new Flat Surfaces.

Something started happening after my clean up. The clutter started to reappear. Only now it was not only on the counters and coffee tables and kitchen table, it was also on top of the new containers. And because the containers were covered with clutter, that meant I never got around to opening them and sorting through them.

In a month or so, things were back where they were to begin with, only now I had double the clutter, because I had containerized clutter and uncontainerized clutter. And the containerized clutter was inaccessible. I bought this great new rolling filing system for my office, for example. It has a box for hanging files and two shelves beneath that for other stuff. Only the top is covered with stuff that has overflowed from my desk, which means I can’t open the top any more and I don’t even remember what’s inside, it’s been so long. The idea behind getting a rolling filing cabinet was that I could move it away from the cabinet where I stored paper, and assorted other things (more clutter, of course). But now that there is so much on top of the rolling cabinet, I can’t move it, so the cabinet is also inaccessible. And since I can’t put things in the cabinet, it all gets stacked on the floor.

I bought some portable file boxes--the Rubbermaid kind with covers and handles that hold hanging files. I decided that would be the easy way to take care of individual jobs. So I have one box for scrapbook material, one box for PFLAG stuff, one box for publicity material for Steve, one box for work for Citizens Who Care, and one box for all the information about Georgia Griffith, about whom I thought I’d write a book one day. The portable file boxes are nice, but now I’ve discovered that they, too, have become flat surfaces.

I’ve made some progress on the reorganization of things since Olivia was here to help set up the computer. I can almost see the kitchen table now, and several things have been moved back into my office. I actually threw away magazines and books that I don’t need (actually, I didn’t really throw them away. They are in boxes in the family room waiting until I get around to finding out if the local library wants them--whenever I get time to do that).

But there is still a long way to go.

Walt and I went to Home Depot today. We were ordering vertical blinds for the Pepto Room (our PeptoBismol-colored guest room). As we were standing in line for the cashier, I saw that they had a sale on huge plastic boxes. These are the kind with red tops that kind of go together like puzzle pieces. I stood there for a long time imagining how wonderful it would be to get ALL the junk out of the way once and for all and in a box like that. I hemmed and hawed and argued with myself. I finally decided they were only $5.75 and so it was worth a shot. Then, on an impulse, I decided to buy two.

We brought them home and they are now sitting in the family room next to the two boxes of magazines I’m eventually going to take to the library if I get around to it, and the box of books that I set aside to sell at the used book store two years ago.

I looked at the stuff that needs to go off the kitchen table and don’t know if it’s the sort of stuff that will do well inside a big box (a printer, for example). I may end up taking the boxes upstairs and tackling my bedroom instead.

Of course then I have the problem of where to put the boxes after I finish filling them.

It would be easier just to blow up the house.

Or invite DR to come for a visit.

2009 update. The boxes did finally get filled and are still sitting in the same corner, awaiting the day when I will organize the junk in them (note that I bought the boxes nine years ago). I can't get to them, though, because they are piled high with more junk. I did finally get rid of that particular box of magazines and books, but now, of course, there is a new one.

All the stuff that I put into decorative boxes and drawers is still there, untouched, but the flat surfaces are still cluttered with new stuff. I'm wondering if there is a point at which you no longer have room for decorative boxes and are still drowning in clutter. I may be close to that point!


Mary Z said...

This is why I try to never have anything with a flat surface. I know ME! And why I insisted on an upright freezer. I knew if I got a chest freezer, I'd never be able to get in it. My front-loader washer was wonderful, but (sob) it died, and now I have a top-loader, with a very uncharacteristically clear top (except for the laundry basket, of course).

bonnie said...

You could try calling Clean House except they make you have a yard sale and what is left goes on the Charity truck.

The local jail would probably like the magazines. Make sure no name is on them though.

Sherrie said...

I personally think while we are sleeping all the clutter gets together and populates like bunnies. I'm here to mingle. Have a great day!