HEADLINE NEWS: Compulsively messy desk/bussinessman becomes organized overnight!

In Thoughts on November 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm

My father is the proud owner of a chronically messy desk. He’s the type of person cartoonists take advantage of in the Sunday papers, depicting their species as hardly visible among stacks and stacks of papers, overflowing trash cans and an over-abundance of computer screens.

When I was growing up it was well known that of the available surfaces on which we could complete our homework his desk was by far the worst of the choices at hand. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t the worst location because of the quantity of papers that coated the desktop, but rather the coinciding choice to risk one’s life in exchange for an hour spent completing homework. I learned quickly that moving his papers out of the way to reveal a space was a big no-no. Harsh reprimanding followed on the heels of any homework session in which stacks of papers were moved, sticky notes were removed, favorite pens went missing or chairs were re-adjusted. It was safer to endure the teacher yelling at you tomorrow for not typing your essay, than experience my father scolding you today for typing it.

I’m an obsessive compulsive organization freak. I love organizing things. I love the process of organization. I love organization products. I love organization projects. I love the feeling of being organized, the accomplishment of becoming organized and the ability to remain organized.

As a child I kept my play kitchen organized and my dolls neatly tucked in bed. When I was a little girl I had a bedroom Martha Stewart would have been proud of. I organized my toys by shelf, separated my toys with baskets and boxes, shelved my books by size, lined up my shoes and arranged my clothing by style. Every morning I make my bed and every week I dust and vacuum my room. Needless to say I didn’t get this trait from my father’s side of the family!

Today I work with my father in our family business. At first things seemed reminiscent of childhood days. My desk was clutter free with cute accessories and a vintage calendar. I labeled everything and misplaced nothing. From my desk I could see the outline of my dad’s desk covered in stacks of papers of all shapes and sizes. If I ventured a look at his computer desktop it was strikingly similar to the desk on which it sat. Nothing was labeled and, judging from the time spent looking for items, everything appeared to be misplaced.

That was then. This is now.

The other day I arrived at my dad’s desk with four baskets preemptively labeled with different colored neon sticky notes. The first basket was labeled “Today”. The second basket was labeled “This week”. The third basket was labeled “Next week” and the fourth basket was labeled “This month & later”. He glanced at the baskets in my hands and said simply, “I’m not going to like this, am I.” I laughed and proceeded without concern for his enjoyment. Every item on his desk, I explained, was to be placed in one of the later three baskets. If it was placed in “This week”, for example, it meant that it HAD to be completed by the end of this current week. He then went through what was in the “This week” basket and pulled out the items he HAD to complete today. I implored him to be pessimistic about the time it would take him to accomplish tasks, thereby increasing the chances he would complete them on time and the feeling of accomplishment that followed. Within an hour of sorting his desk was cleared and his baskets were full.

Two weeks have passed since I handed him those baskets and his desk is still clean. (That’s a lifetime record, by the way. I’ve heard stories of his elementary desk being the only one that wouldn’t close properly because of all the junk he wouldn’t throw away.) Two weeks have passed and his “Today”, “This Week”, and “Next Week baskets have been weened to such a minimal number of papers a child could count them. Two weeks have passed and twice he’s thanked me and expressed his surprise and enthusiasm regarding the success of this simple organization system.

As my father’s organization has increased, the view from my desk has improved. Instead of staring at a paper storm, now I look out the window… who knew there was a window behind it all!?


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