Every once in awhile I wonder what it would feel like to live my life by putting everything in its proper place. Junk mail in the garbage, bills to be paid in tidy file folders or Martha-Stewart-obsessed organizing bins, dirty clothes in the hamper, bath towels folded and stacked so that they fit in the shallow-shelved laundry closet, jewelry tucked away in organized pockets sorted by color and occasion, and books that sit on the shelf rather than precariously stacked on my nightstand and dresser waiting to be read or returned. My computer would magically sort all the random files and neatly put them into folders that would make sense for more than the day-long frenzy of organizing and I would no longer go through laborious date and/or name searches to put my hands on that certain email or document. As I glean through the stuff that refuses to be sorted, I would put everything in its proper place or relegate the unwanted to the trash; I would return those items that don’t belong to me including the gifts I never should have accepted to their rightful owners hoping they can determine place, value and a proper final destination better than I did. I would apologize for being an unreliable archivist and for holding onto items longer than I should have and I would explain that I had good intentions, really I did. I thought I could read everything, do everything I promised, or follow through sooner when asked for advice. I would explain that I should have never accepted a gift or borrowed an object knowing I could not do so without attaching sentimentality to the lending and/or the receiving. I would hope the generous souls that put their trust in me haven’t harbored hateful thoughts as I was slow, too slow, to acknowledge, return or thank that which was entrusted to me.
If I was to live in a house or work in an office where desks were tidy without piles of projects beckoning to be noticed or counters cleared of any evidence of living would I still enjoy my corner of serenity or window seat of calmness that currently allows me a fabricated escape from the chaos and clutter that I pretend is the after-effect of a creative mind? What if I adopted the “touch it and deal with it” philosophy that demands you decide what to do with each piece of paper the moment you first touch it; no procrastinating and no leaving it for another day? What if I did that with every emotion that came to the surface or with every person that I came into contact with? Would my world suddenly become not only tactile, but manageable? I could file away every interaction and be done with it and face each day with a clean desk, a counter cleared of messy living, and how would that change anything or everything?
I continue to drag files to the trash and sort paper into the recycling bin and I wait to feel some sort of transcendence. I rub my nose as the dust tickles, my throat closes and I cough. My eyes water from looking at a screen with naturally aligned yellow file folders blinking at me and I wonder if I had programmed cheering sounds to play every time I dragged and dropped a file into its proper place if this would be any more pleasurable. I think about all the other things I could be doing rather than making arbitrary decisions about this or that and wonder if I would be better to just throw everything out, deal with the consequences and start anew. I wonder what it says about a person when they hang on to things too long confusing sentiment with meaning or push things to the side because they would rather be living than organizing, tidying, or archiving? I’m afraid it comes down to the same fear that I live with on a daily basis: perhaps all this clutter of disorganized details is nothing more than the output of a chaotic mind. That’s enough to stifle the creativity in anyone.
If you search for evidence that being organized is the secret to happiness you will find a preponderance of theories (all written by people that I am sure have perfectly labeled file folders) that organization is the path to success. They taut the ability to reduce stress in one’s life, how order battles uncertainty and anxiety, and how living a systematic and predictable life opens all types of new horizons. The proselytization seems to be coming from those who seek to find a proper place for everything and find great joy in such pursuits. I can only wonder if that was my life if I would die from boredom or be murdered by the mundane? I also looked for research on the creative mind and whether propriety and order played a necessary role. The evidence for order and discipline again seems to be put forward by those who gain great pleasure from being organized and proper. I guess the messy, undisciplined, iconic, unpredictable subjects were out living life, too busy or too distracted to answer the survey. At least that is what I would like to think. Perhaps I’ll continue to research the topic and leave my desk and computer to their familiar place of neglect. Because, I’d like to think that is what a creative mind would do.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2013