Albert Einstein once asked “if a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what then is an empty desk the sign of?” I don’t know that he ever resolved that particular conundrum but I’ve always liked the quote, mainly because I’ve always had a cluttered desk. It goes without saying that I also have a cluttered mind at times, in fact all the time, but after 36 years on the planet I’ve learned to deal with that.
At least I thought I had. Then I decided that today would be the day I cleaned my car, a noteworthy activity as it’s the first time I’ve cleaned my car since I bought it five years ago. To say it needed attention is an understatement; it was what my mother would refer to as a ‘flea pit’, but even I wasn’t prepared for the haul of treasures I pulled from its depths. By the time I’d finished I’d amassed a mountain of crap that included:
Two pairs of shoes with broken heels; a pair of white sunglasses I’ve never seen before and certainly did not buy; several parking tickets, the interest on which is probably now higher than the original fines; a push-up bra; four books; a clutch purse I’d forgotten I owned and could have used innumerable times in the last few years; pens; six lipsticks that were beyond salvation; three earrings, none of which matched; a dog brush; hair from at least three ex-girlfriends and bobby pins from a…whatever she was; a mop, which I know sounds like bullshit but I swear it’s true; a pair of pants I wore three years ago & meant to take to the drycleaners three years ago; a beach towel ; a bottle opener; more pens; a Corona Lager truckers cap, the origin of which I am completely at a loss to explain; a CD belonging to an ex that I swore I’d never borrowed; a bazillion empty water bottles; something that may once have been a mandarin; three umbrellas; a screw driver and measuring tape; a Panama hat that’s now more of a pancake; notebooks and, lastly, even more pens.
Two things occurred to me as I surveyed the mess. Firstly, how pleased I am that I drive a 4WD and not a Barina otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to see out the windows; and secondly – I really need to get my shit together and organise my life. If anything screams ‘disorganised mess of a human being’ it’s a pile of stuff that includes a bra, a dog brush and three umbrellas.
Nothing I’m writing here will come as a surprise to my mother. She has long bemoaned the fact that I was born without the ‘organisation’ valve, a real snag in our otherwise harmonious mother/daughter relationship. Tidiness is a religion for mum. On more than one occasion I’ve caught her refolding the tea towels I’d just put away because they weren’t all facing the same direction. Everyone else would just be stoked somebody was doing the mundane jobs around the house, amiright? Sadly for her no one else in the family meets her standards either, but then few can.She met her match in my ex though, a truly terrifying person when it came to neatness. Beds were made so tight you could bounce a coin off them, our linen cupboard was so neat and perfectly folded that when you threw the doors open all the towels and sheets looked like they’d just jumped back in fright, and our kitchen pantry was organised alphabetically and by size. I’m not kidding. She bought storage containers and a labeller so that everything could be matching. Like, everything. Even the cans of tomatoes got put into big versions of the little containers she bought for the herbs so that the pantry was uniform. The day Howard’s Storage World discontinued her preferred line of containers was a very dark day. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. Needless to say, our priorities were not aligned and we eventually went our separate ways, though not before witnessing the bloody aftermath of my father’s practical joke when he got in the pantry one night and rearranged it all. Ugh, there’s a memory I’d rather forget. Who knew misplaced flour could cause such angst?
Anyway, back to my disorganised self. I try to be systematic. I really do. I start off with a colour coded wardrobe and a bookshelf arranged thematically, but somewhere along the line these systems fall apart. Things don’t go pear shaped in my world, so much as turn into that pear puree babies eat. I am quite literally unable to sustain tidiness for more than a month at a time. In fact, that’s probably overstating it.
I can’t even call the way I live organised chaos, because sometimes it’s just chaos, but I’m not a hoarder either. I would also stress that I am fastidiously clean. I’m just not a very active discarder of stuff. And I’m easily distracted, so I may not even finish this piece of writing let alone finish putting my toys away, you know? I really have to push myself to complete things because I’m easily bored, and one random thought can send me off on a mind adventure I’m likely never to return from. I drive myself crazy, but that’s just the way my brain works. I’m sure if you were to look inside my head, you’d find one big file full of tatty scraps of paper covered in hastily scribbled notes and ideas. Come to think of it, that sounds like my handbag. Alternatively you could call me a procrastinator, although that actually makes me sound lazy – which I’m not. I’d call myself a scatterbrain, but that’s not it either. Let’s call it ‘clutterbrain’ instead.
So where do I start? Do I hire a life coach to kick my arse into gear even though I find that whole line of work suspicious (this is bound to be controversial – several of my friends are life coaches and motivators. How did that happen?) Or should I book in with a hypnotherapist to rid me of my tendency to dillydally? Maybe I should throw out everything I own and start all over again.
Or maybe, just maybe, I should give myself a kick in the arse and grow up. Finish a few jobs, complete what needs doing, and accept that driving around in a car that looks like a family of six lives in it is really not appropriate for a gal my age.
Einstein may not have found a solution to that initial question, but I think I might have. Yes, I think I’m ready to unclutter my desk now.