Tips and musings on organizing your way from chaos to calm

Archive for August, 2010

The “Gazebo Convo-Resolve” Mystery

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I love The Onion, (okay, my husband loves it and sends me funny links every so often). You know, the satirical newspaper founded at the University of Wisconsin – Madison that pokes fun at everything from politics to sports.   Recently, they featured the following article: “Area Man Has No Idea Why He Wrote ‘Gazebo Convo-Resolve/Tues (!?)’ in Planner Six Weeks Ago.” LOL.   With my poor  hand-writing (I tend to think faster than I write) and my, let’s say, “creative” note-jotting in my planner, I can relate.  It’s not that I’m disorganized.  It’s more that I tend to toward impatience and distraction, so I don’t take the time to worry about neatness or clarity when I write things down.  I think I sometimes even secretly look forward to playing investigator later and deciphering my scribbles.  So The Onion’s piece totally hits home.  I mean how many of you relate to this?

“I was flipping through my planner for a phone number I wrote down a while back, and this mysterious gazebo-convo-Tuesday message turned up,” the 42-year-old Woller said. “I had absolutely no clue what it meant.”

“Convo… convo…,” Woller said. “Conversation? Convention? Convocation? Convoy? It’s got to be convention. But I haven’t been at a convention since last fall, and it had nothing to do with gazebos.”

“Woller’s confusion and dismay over the note has been exacerbated by the presence of a small, unchecked box beside it, suggesting that the task, whatever it is, remains uncompleted.”

“Directly adjacent to the note, in the page’s margin, is a small doodle of a fish and a series of interconnected diamonds. Woller said he has carefully analyzed the drawings for clues that may help him solve the riddle.”

“The fish leads me to believe that the gazebo could be near a lake or river. Or possibly a seafood restaurant,” Woller said. “Or it could just be a random doodle. I don’t know.”

After a frustrating day in which he completed little work, Woller continued his investigation at home Monday evening.

Bolting awake at 4 a.m. Tuesday, Woller theorized that “Gazebo” could be the name of a business and resolved to pore over the yellow pages first thing in the morning.”

In the scheme of things though, I mean in the scheme of life, such investigations and anxieties serve no real purpose.  Sure, it would be nice if I could keep my planner perfectly pristine – with no cross-outs or scribbles or half-legible phone numbers filling the margins.  But at 36, I’m coming to realize that’s just kind of the way I function.  My hand-writing could be mistaken for an adolescent’s and my tendency to do things quickly, with enthusiasm, and while I’m doing at least one other thing, results in these gazebo-like mysteries every now and again.   Occasionally, I beat myself up about it (“You really should be more neat and organized with your notes and planner given that you’re an organizer, Eve!).  Mostly though, I laugh,  knowing that the value of my life has nothing to do with the state of my day-planner.   And a little imperfection just means I’m human.   The world won’t stop if the mystery of “Gazebo Convo-Resolve/Tues (!?)’” is not solved.   Anyway, a little mystery keeps life interesting, don’t you think?

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I live in a pretty small house (1170 square feet to be exact).  It’s one of those 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath post-WWII ranches, perfect for the nuclear family and a relatively simple mid-twentieth century lifestyle.   It’s got lots of windows and bright light but not much storage space.  Frankly, I kinda like it that way.  It keeps me honest.  It prevents me from holding on to stuff that I don’t love and serves no meaningful purpose in my life.  I prefer less stuff to bigger closets.

When my house was built in 1955, people  didn’t have so much stuff, although that soon began to change.  So how did stuff happen to us? The 1950′s was a  time of great innovation and transformation.  New appliances drastically reduced the time and effort home tasks liking cooking and laundry required, plastic vastly increased what was available to the average consumer, and a strong post-war economy encouraged Americans to spend, buy, and be happy.  Open up any magazine from that era and advertisements boast of new gadgets and products that promise to make life easier.  “If you use this detergent, then your husband’s collars will be white,  he will be successful in his job, and a happy husband is a happy marriage” type advertising was the norm.  And so you bought the detergent because of the dream.

In 2010 this seductive consumerism is out of control.  The other day I stood in a room full of clutter with a client.  She was befuddled by why she keeps buying objects that, when she brings them home, make no real sense in her house.  I told her that recently I had been flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog, attracted to this one particular image of a beautifully made bed presented in front of a large window, with transparent curtains gently blowing in the background.  A part of me thought to myself, “Ooh, I should go to Pottery Barn and see what they have .”  Then a new thought occurred to me, “You want the lifestyle but all you get is a  pillow.” Marketing gurus get paid big bucks to figure out how to appeal to consumers and tap into our wants and fears.  And consumers rationalize,   “Life is short, what’s the harm,”  “It’s on sale!”  “I had a hard day and deserve this,”  “I can always bring it back.”  So we buy the pillow or the purse but our life doesn’t change.  We just have one more thing to find a place for (or hide in the junk room).

When I work with people who severely hoard I often find all kinds of objects that seem to have no relationship to each other located in a pile.  One client of mine had everything from garden hoses to nail polish to stuffed animals to frying pans in a large, messy pile on her bed.  As she and I worked to eliminate this pile from her bed, I realized that what all of these different things had in common was that they were bought as part of a fantasy.  The perfect hose that wouldn’t kink up and leak, the “right” shade of nail polish, etc.  Out of context they served no real purpose and, in the home of someone who already struggled with managing stuff, they simply became more things to deal with “later.”  That’s the tragic side of stuff – when the stuff becomes a project, a burden, or even a source of shame. When the fantasy becomes a nightmare.

So after a long day at work I happily return home to my tiny house with the mindset of keeping only what I need or love, and nothing more.   I tap into that satisfying feeling I get when I clear a space in a client’s house and a room opens up.  It has taught me to value space more than stuff and be mindful of the role things play in my life.  I shop with a different perspective now.  Oh, and I removed myself from Pottery Barn’s mailing list.  If I want a good fantasy, I’ll watch one of my favorite episodes of Dallas :)