Jul 302007
 

I can’t say I’ve never been a slob, because small children are universally and thoroughly disgusting, and I used to be a small child.

But I’ve been fastidiously neat since about 1975. I was never the kid whose parents rode his ass all the time about keeping his room clean. I always knew where my coat was.

As a teenager, my music was always alphabetized by artist, and further organized by order of release. My class notebooks were color-coded. (History was yellow, English was blue, science was green, and math was red.) As an adult, the living room to my apartment always looked exactly the same when I came home from work, because I had put everything back in its place. You want to know what kind of mileage I got for a tank of gas two years ago? No problem; let me check my log. My first PDA magnified and dramatically enabled my tendencies. (I’d give up my cell phone before I’d give up my PDA.) You get the idea.

More than one person has half-kiddingly commented that I might have OCD. You know what? I just might. But it’s never affected my ability to lead a fruitful and productive life, so I’m not interested in a professional opinion on the subject. Just put “Died With Undiagnosed OCD” on my headstone. (Except I’m not going to have a headstone.)

Anyway, when Lea was pregnant with Nathan, several of my slobbier friends (you know who you are) delighted in informing me that I was going to have to relax my neatness standards a lot. “All kids are slobs,” they’d say, chuckling and doing a poor job of concealing their enjoyment. They were right. I knew they were right.

I’m putting up with a much messier living room and kitchen as a matter of course. It has nothing to do with Lea’s housekeeping skills, apathy on either of our parts, or anything of the sort. It has to do with the fact that young children are walking, talking entropy bombs. Most of the time, if no personal injury or property damage is occurring, then I’m good. (Sometimes I’m even all right with the latter, as long as it’s reversible. I don’t intend to systematically patch the drywall until 2010 at the very earliest.)

So far, almost six years into parenthood, my organizational appetites have been effectively sated by what I like to call “pockets of order.” I can’t do much about the living room floor consistently, but I’ve got the top of my dresser:

That’s watches to the right, the weather station in the center, and my dresser valet to the left, containing all manner of pocketables (wallet, handkerchief, pens, pocket knives, and the like). The terms “enpocket” and “depocket” are in my vocabulary. What of it?

Here is the driver drawer of my tool chest:

I’m trying to head off chaos here as the boys grow by building each of them a tool chest of their own. My dad had (maybe still has) a killer #2 Phillips stubby red-handled screwdriver that I was eternally borrowing (and not returning). It was a great tool, so he was missing it all the time, naturally. I hope to bypass that kind of thing with my plan. As the boys wish to use tools, we’ll have father-son moments at Home Depot or Sears, talking about what to look for in a tool, how to safely use it, and the like. And they’ll get another drop in each of their respective personal tool chests, courtesy Dad.

You know you’re dying to know what my fuel economy was like two years ago, as mentioned above:

I see that at that time I was even taking the extra step of noting what I paid for each tank, as well. (My truck has almost 97,000 miles on it now, by the way.)

My pockets of order have worked well for me so far. Perhaps one day even all of these will be invaded, and I’ll be reduced to enjoying the hierarchy of directories on my computer, or delighting in the a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place philosophy in force in my daily driver’s glove compartment.

But I’m delighted to report that if I were going to snap, it probably would have happened by now.

Portable and scalable affections are a blessing.

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 Posted by at 1:48 am

  8 Responses to “Pockets of order”

  1. You would implode if you had to spend anytime in any room of my home. I think my husband must take some special neat guy vaccine to help him cope.

  2. Let me add a story about Bo… when we first started dating, I was over at his place and I started messing with these magnetic marbles (the size of marbles but really round magnets with plastic coating) that he had on the coffee table. When he came back in the room I quit playing with them but had left them in a different formation and at a different location on the coffee table. Bo saw this and immediately put them back exactly where and how they were before. He did it without comment and acted as if he wasn’t even aware he was doing it. Here’s when I started my “social experiment”. Everytime he left the room, I would move or re-arrange the magnets. I wanted to see how long it would take before 1) he noticed I was messing with him and 2) he said something about it. I think it was about the third time when he realized I was moving them when he left the room and about the fourth time when he asked me if I was doing it on purpose. But we still got married and lived happily ever after even though he is (probably) OCD and I’m just mean… 🙂

  3. My sister and I would turn all the books, on one shelf in the bookcase, upside down to see how long it took my mom to notice it and turn them back.

  4. The term “social experiment” came from a friend. She had a theory about the bathrooms at work. If she picked the stall at the end, left the seat up and pulled the door to (but not quite closed), then she theorized that others would automatically leave that stall alone. So, she would essentially have her own bathroom at work. Apparently it worked pretty well. She said that very often the next time she would go “her” stall would be the way she had left it.

  5. I can’t have a messy workspace. If its messy I have to clean in up and organize it BEFORE I start working. But my artsy side doesn’t mind ordered clutter – basically because there’s no more room to store art supplies. And I really enjoy organizing and cleaning up messes. It makes me feel better – like I’m dusting off the cobwebs in my own mind.

  6. How in the world did you not end up a CS major?! 🙂

  7. ‘Seester: I’m only bothered by clutter when it’s in an environment under my control. I’m remarkably placid about others. 🙂

    Brina: I can relate. I do my best cleaning and organizing when I have a lot of work to do.

    Greg: I’ve thought about going back from time to time, but at this point I probably won’t.

    It’s funny, though–I have to talk myself out of bad practice frequently when I do have occasion to do some coding. I’m always very tempted to go with the first thing I come up with that works, whether it’s the best way to solve the problem or not. Sometimes, though, the schedule dictates it. I hate letting stuff go and thinking of a better answer a day later.

    Lea: I love you too.

  8. Nice tool box! I’d like to see you do a feature on how you have it organized.

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