Messed up

We who work at home face one ongoing struggle day in and day out -- getting organized.

If only we could get organized, we say, we could find things when we need them. Our offices would be tidy, streamlined spaces where actual work could be accomplished. Our homes would be so clean, you not only could eat off the floors, you could eat the floors themselves. For dessert.

In truth, of course, most of us are woefully disorganized. Our home offices are rabbit warrens of piled paperwork and moldy coffee cups and misplaced invoices and random socks. Our houses are so covered in clutter and dust and cobwebs, people think we're The Munsters.

We have good intentions. It's not like we WANT to live this way. It's just that we're very busy, and getting organized falls way down on our "Things to Do" list, right after "toenail maintenance" and "napping."

We make occasional attempts at getting organized, but they usually fall short and they never last. If we ever get all our stuff exactly where we want it, we immediately receive a whole bunch more stuff to pile up on our desks. Or, we don't put a few things away when we're done with them and, whoops, before you know it, the place is a wreck again. Or, the kids come home from school and race shrieking through the house like a tornado, disorganizing everything in sight.

Many home-office workers buy books on getting organized, which immediately vanish into the packrat middens of their offices, never to be seen again. Some even go so far as to hire experts, organization "consultants" who come to the home and declare that everything should be thrown out or at least put away. For this advice, the consultants are paid big bucks. (Note: Many people get their Moms to do this service for free.)

The problem with all these approaches is that they ignore the central issue: We are lazy.
We don't want to admit it, of course. We want to blame the disorganization for our lack of productivity, but it's really the other way around. The mess is a symptom of our larger disease -- sloth.

Once we accept our own laziness, we find there are many shortcuts, ways to give our offices and our homes the appearance of tidiness. And for a lazy person, that's enough.

Here, then, is:


--Hide stuff. What do you think closets are for? People who urge you to "organize" your closets are missing the point. We have closets so we can stow stuff out of sight. The same goes for garages. And desk drawers. However, this technique requires that you be prepared to tackle any guest who mistakenly tries to open a closet door.

--Some home furnishings help the lazy person camouflage the general disorder and filth. Patterned countertops, for instance, will hide an abundance of spills. Desks with many pigeonholes can make it appear there's a place for everything, even if you just cram in stuff haphazardly. Someone could make a fortune if he invented a carpet the color and texture of dust bunnies.

--You can incorporate your mess into your home decorating scheme. A jumble of pizza boxes and Chinese takeout containers, arranged properly, qualifies as Art. A two-foot stack of unread paperwork makes a dandy, absorbent end table.

--Shelves are an often-overlooked organizational tool. Have shelves installed everywhere in your home and garage. Cover every wall with shelves. Put your stuff on the shelves. You still won't be able to find anything, but at least you'll be able to walk around without tripping over stuff all the time. Sturdy shelves also make it easier to climb the walls when you can't stand the mess anymore.

--Live neat or die. Once you've surrendered, once you've decided you'll never get your stuff organized, you can simply start over. Pretend you died. Put up signs that say, "Estate Sale." Unload all your material possessions on unwitting passers-by. After you've emptied the place, you can slowly, meticulously refurnish, putting everything where it belongs. And when you're done, you'll have the same old mess stacked to the ceiling.

--You can always change your name to Munster.

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