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Column: Boxing organizational help

A segment on the morning news caught my attention today. A representative from one of those office supply companies came into a local television station to help one of the regular reporters clean and organize his desk.

I did not have time to watch the segment, having a deadline staring me full in the face and a blank screen mirroring that pitiful image. But I “Tivo’d” it. I can’t believe I wrote that. Tivo should not be a verb, no more so than impact (Look it up.) and my machine isn’t a Tivo anyway but whatever the local satellite people install so I can record stuff that’s vitally important to my understanding of the world, such as foolproof ways to clean up one’s desk.

Mine’s a mess. Always has been, probably always will be. Something in me rebels against a pristine surface with every paper clip, piece of paper and pencil placed precisely where one can reach (find) it. As the 20th Century philosopher Jimmy Buffett said: “I don’t want that much organization in my life. Whatever happened to Junior Mints?”

I’ll admit that the stacks of correspondence, jumble of business cards and scramble of ballpoint pens, pencils and vari-hued Hi-Liters occasionally create moments of near panic when a note I desperately need for a story that’s due two hours ago fails to materialize with my initial thrashing around among the detritus of weeks of accumulating. I do have a system, of sorts.

I have organizational boxes: You know the in-box, the out-box and the file box. The problem is, all three seem to be in-boxes and can’t make the transition to other functions. I put things in the out-box but they don’t leave. They accumulate. Perhaps they breed.

Once in a while, usually when I’ve torn the top of my desk apart several times in vain search for a notebook that includes information necessary for a story I’m working on and have come up empty, I methodically clean my desk. I take every pencil, every paper clip, every piece of paper and examine it to be certain the notebook is not hiding beneath it. I throw all this stuff on the floor in neat piles until the desktop is naked and then I remember that I left the notebook in my camera bag.

Most of the stuff on the floor goes into the garbage and I begin the process again. It takes about three days, whether I’m in the office or not, to accumulate enough new stuff to create another environmental hazard on my desk.

I’ve vowed to do better, hundreds of times. I used to hire my daughter, an organizational genius, to clean my office about twice a year. It was a good investment. But she grew up, married, had children and now keeps herself, her husband and two little boys well organized. I miss her!

But I have new incentive. My wife, from whom my daughter inherited her organization genes and who occasionally looks at my desk and throws up her hands, bought me a book for Christmas that should help. It’s something along the lines of organization for dummies.

And I intend to put it to good use. Just as soon as I remember where I put it.


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