I am not organized, and I have no particular desire to be. You can figure this out as soon as you walk into my house. Well, sometimes the downstairs looks organized, because we scoop everything up and take it upstairs if we know we are having company. This leads to some chaos in the upstairs bedrooms. Every time we entertain downstairs, the piles upstairs get larger. The problem is that our house doesn’t have an attic or a basement, so there is nowhere to stash things out of the way and forget about them, possibly for years. I’m pretty sure that’s what my mother did. Our house in New Jersey had a finished playroom in the basement, plus a laundry room and a furnace room, so we actually used that space, but the attic was mostly for storage, and there was lots of room up there for boxes and trunks and garment bags full of who knows what.
It doesn’t bother me that my house has piles of things all over the place, on coffee tables, bookcases, desks, even on the floor. Last summer my youngest daughter made me attack some of the piles on the floor in the corner of my bedroom, and sat with me while I went through them, helping me figure out what to keep and what to toss. But I got no joy out of any of it, and eventually I said okay, that’s enough, I’m finished.
However, an unmade bed is anathema to me. I make my bed perfectly every morning before breakfast. The bedspread has to hang down the same amount on both sides, all the wrinkles need to be smoothed out, the two shams and three throw pillows need to be arranged just so. If the bed is made, I find it doesn’t matter so much how the rest of the room looks, whereas if the bed is left unmade, everything seems sloppy. In contrast, my youngest daughter, who is compulsively neat about most things, and never keeps any extraneous papers or even momentos, has no interest in making her bed, and always leaves the covers all rumpled.
My dresser drawers are organized too, even though nobody else sees them. My socks are neatly lined up in one drawer, organized by color. Long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts, nightgowns. Everything has its own neatly arranged drawer. In contrast, the top of the dresser, like most other flat surfaces in the house, has old bank statements, vacation folders, photos, books, magazines,the occasional stuffed animal – you get the idea.
I have a hard time getting rid of clothing that I like, even if I haven’t worn it in a long time, because there is always a chance that it will come in handy. Consider, for example, the white hat that is on the top of the pile in the Featured Image. That was part of my bridesmaid attire at my college roommate’s wedding in 1984. It was next worn by my 7-year-old daughter Sabrina at the wedding of my husband’s twin brother in 1992. Then it lived for decades on a shelf in my closet. Last year the Harvard Club of Sacramento had a summer garden party to which people were requested to wear hats. I pulled out this hat, dusted it off, and looked smashing in it. (Didn’t get any pictures, unfortunately.) I now realize it has sat on the pile since July, but perhaps I will move it back into the closet. If I do, does that step count as getting organized?
Another example is the skirt my sister wore to be a bridesmaid in my wedding in 1983 (there does seem to be a wedding motif here, doesn’t there). She gave it to me afterwards because she knew she would never wear it again, and there was a chance I would. It hung in my closets in three different houses, possibly being worn once or twice in the ’80s and never again after that, but last month I was invited to a Jane Austen tea and needed to put together some kind of Regency outfit to wear. I was happy to pair that skirt, pulled way up underneath the bustline, with an off-white blouse and an orange scarf as a sash, for an approximation of a Regency dress. I was very glad I hadn’t given it away!
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my passion for organizing the dishwasher! I have a very definite idea of where all the dishes, glasses, and silverware belong, and while I appreciate it when other family members or friends load their dirty dishes, I invariably end up rearranging them. One of my favorite movie scenes of all time occurs in Rachel Getting Married, where Rachel’s father and her groom have a competition about who can do a better job of loading the dishwasher. Luckily for me, nobody in my family challenges my technique, because they know I can do a more efficient job of getting everything in than anybody else can. Sometimes my husband will say, oh I’ll just wash these last couple of things by hand, but I say, no, no, I can fit it all in. And I do!
So it seems that the things that I care about organizing are not the things that are visible, with the exception of my impeccably made bed. The rest of the house is just going to stay disorganized. When my daughter despairs, I tell her “When I’m gone, you can just throw everything away! But until then, leave it alone!” She probably wishes she had a Marie Kondo-style mother, but it ain’t me, babe.