Disorganized? A Word To The Whys

My venerable husband, the good Dr. DH, has one very bad habit: he loves to introduce me to total strangers as "my wife, the writer." Which leads to the universal--and dreaded--response: "Oh? What do you write?"

On the outside, I mumble something about "home management and personal goal setting." On the inside, I feel like a total fraud, thinking of my tumbled closets and unmade bed. Somehow, this simple social question blinds me to the reality: I write about home management precisely because I'm numbered among the organizationally challenged.

In other words, it takes one to know one.

But have you ever stopped to think about the Whys? What is it, exactly, that separates you and me from the rest of the world, with their made beds and alphabetized spice racks and neat stacks of color-coordinated towels?

The question's not a new one. Home management "experts"--those paragons of neat-and-tidy that make me feel so sheepish--offer many theories. Stephanie Winston thinks disorganization is rooted in childhood rebellion. Pam Young and Peggy Jones believe in a "sidetracked gene", while Sandra Felton catalogs a rogues' gallery of Messie types. Jeff Campbell asserts that it's a matter of knowledge: we just don't know how to clean and declutter.

Reading the "experts" yields only one consensus: there are as many Whys as there are disorganized people. Moreover, the CEO--an admitted non-expert--will tell you that Whys mutate over time: the young mother burdened with baby disorganization will, in 10 years' time, be the young matron dashing about in a mini-van, sandwich crusts and sports gear tumbling in her wake.

If there's no right answer, why pose the question? To paraphrase the beer commercial, "Why ask why?"

Because, CEO will tell you, there is a right answer lurking beneath the Whys: the right answer for you. Armed with a little knowledge, your solutions will hit closer to the mark. You'll be free to pick and choose from the hints, ideas, concepts and strategies laid out by all those "experts", and modify them to fit your circumstances. In Get O, as in life, there is no such thing as "One Size Fits All!"

So how do you ask the question? First, to stalk your Whys, open your eyes. Settle back in your chair and mentally review the past 24 hours to 48 hours. Where are the organizational bottlenecks? Morning rush, with children slinging back the cereal as husband slops coffee into a travel cup over last night's dirty dishes? Is clutter a constant, with at least three 10-minute hunts for needed items occurring each day? Did the home manager drift into a creative fog with a craft project or new novel, with the result that dinner is, once again, ordered from the pizza guy?

The problems point the way--and the Why. That morning mess can be chalked up to procrastination; solution: some new habits and a better routine. Clutter crises signal a pack-rat mentality or a simple failure of vision--when eyesight for out-of-place items registers 20/200--and mandates a prescription for decluttering and improved household storage. The home manager with "leveling drift" needs a short course in time management and goal-setting.

There is no right answer to the question. There is no one solution to the problem. But by asking Why, you point the way out, you draw the map to a happier, neater, less-time-stressed life.

Why ask Why? Why, to Get Organized!