My friend’s mother was coming for a visit. I thought he would be excited but, instead, he just shook his head and bemoaned the fact that while he had to work from his living room, his mother would be organizing the rest of his tiny apartment.
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked. I sometimes wish I didn’t live in such a large house because I never seem to have it organized and the thought of magic elves organizing all my closets and drawers was so enticing until I realized that I would have to throw out a million and one pieces of papers, journals, books, and odds and ends and suddenly the thought of magic elves organizing my house didn’t seem quite as enticing.
When I first moved into my house, the first thing I did was organize my kitchen. It seemed like the most practical thing to do since it revolved around eating. And then, after all my pots and pans were put away, and I was busy congratulating myself for my organizational skills, I realized how stupid I was for starting on my kitchen when I didn’t know how to cook and most of my meals consisted of take-out.
Did I mention all the empty pizza boxes collecting dust in the bottom of my garbage can? I wondered if those magic elves could get rid of them in time for garbage pickup days that I keep forgetting about. The empty sushi boxes sitting in my car are another thing. Maybe his mother or those magic elves could get rid of them. I keep forgetting to put them in the garbage can when I go to fill up my car with gas.
And that got me to thinking about my friend’s tiny apartment that his mother was organizing for the tenth time since her last visit six months ago. What was there left to organize?
Curiosity got me driving over to his apartment. My friend was sitting on the couch in his living room, working industriously on his laptop. No one was allowed to talk to him when he was working so his mother and I silently went into his kitchen to assess her progress.
Did you ever see a nest of boxes on top of more nests of boxes, and compacted into almost nothingness? That was his mother’s latest project. And, of course, each nest of boxes had the contents listed on the outside in microscopic print so it could all fit on the tiny labels on the outside of the boxes.
I put on my glasses and reached for a magnifying glass, and still couldn’t read the tiny print. How in the world was my friend ever going to read what was in those boxes? My guess is that when his mother leaves, he’s going to turn those boxes upside down and put the contents of those boxes in more convenient places, like all over the counter and maybe the first shelf of the most convenient closet. And that got me to thinking. Maybe I should hire her to organize my house. What could hurt? As it stands, I have no idea where I put anything so I either wear the same two outfits every week or open up the same cans of tuna when I’m feeling industrious or order a large pizza with different toppings. I do try to alternate the toppings so that I feel as though I’m eating something different every night.
One day, my friend brought his mother to my house. She stood in the doorway and her eyes lit up. I could see her mentally organizing my entire household even before she looked into the various rooms.
“What’s that room?” she asked from twenty feet away.
“Oh, that’s my office,” I replied, not realizing that I had just opened up Pandora’s box.
“Can I see it? I love offices; they are always so interesting.”
What could I say? I couldn’t exactly tell her to keep her nose out of it and not to touch anything, could I? No, I couldn’t do that to my best friend’s mother. She walked into my office and I could see her mentally figuring out how she would rearrange my furniture and my office equipment. Then, she spotted what she called “junk” on my desk and I rolled my eyes wondering what she was going to do with it.
I didn’t have long to wait. She looked through my “junk” and started putting them in piles. How she catalogued them is anyone’s guess. She looked so pleased with herself that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that those piles of “junk” represented valuable pieces of information and my whole business would collapse without them.
When she looked up and saw my nervous expression, she said, “Why don’t the two of you go inside and visit a while? I can keep myself busy looking at all these interesting things you’ve got piled up on your desk. I bet your desk drawers have interesting things, too.”
I tried not to groan too loudly. The contents of my desk drawers are the heart of my business and, no, they are not in any particular order but I know where everything is. Or should I say, I knew where everything was.
My friend’s mother was not like the magic elves that I had visualized, creating order out of chaos. She was more like a tornado sweeping through my office creating chaos out of the chaotic order that I had. I wondered how I was going to earn a living now that all my pieces of valuable information had been disposed of. Maybe it was neatly disposed of but I’ll never know.
I didn’t want to appear too distressed and she kept reassuring me that everything was there, but now in its proper place and easy to find. In its proper place? How would she know what its proper place is and how long is it going to take me to find it?
When the two of them left, my head was spinning. How am I going to conduct my business? She even hid my appointment book so I don’t even know who is supposed to be calling me tonight or what issues we’re supposed to be discussing. I felt sick at the thought that my clients were going to think they had hired an idiot and I didn’t even know how to find the things she organized.
A short time later, my friend’s mother called me to thank me for giving her such a lovely time organizing my office and telling me that the next time she comes, she’d like to organize all my closets and drawers.
I’m giving serious thought to moving and only giving my friend a post office address so that neither he, nor his mother can find me. I’m also giving serious thought to getting several of those disposable phones so they can’t call to ask me if they can come over.
But just the thought of moving and having to go through all those closets and drawers and find new places to put everything, gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Maybe I’ll just keep this house to visit occasionally and rent a storage bin to live in.