The minutiae and me

Am I organized?

I could claim to be. I don’t drop the ball on too many things. Library books are almost always renewed or returned on time. I check the kids’ backpacks and agendas every night before bed. Each child has a file folder for projects that are keepers. I know where my chequebook is. I write down reminders on my desk datebook, on the big calendar by the telephone, in the google calendar I share with Kevin, and the weekly family schedule you see on the chalkboard above is currently accurate.


I also keep several stacks of paper on the kitchen counter. The one beside the toaster is current-and-important. It contains information like this: “On Wednesday, your child needs to bring in materials for a science project. The list of materials is written in your child’s agenda. Please inform the teacher if you need help finding any of these materials.” Message sent home well in advance to assist parents in finding materials and asking for help. Great. Thanks, school. I’ll just put the message into my current-and-important messages pile. And then I’ll forget its existence. And then I’ll find it, when looking for something else, on Tuesday night. “What? You need six jagged rocks? For tomorrow??” Child puts on coat: “I’ll just go look in the back yard.” “It’s two degress and pitch black. How are you going to find anything?” Etc. There goes half an hour and bedtime is deferred and the dishes still aren’t done.

On the same stretch of counter, I have a second pile of papers stacked beside the radio. Because one pile is not enough. This is my to-be-filed pile. When it gets so tall that it blocks the electrical outlet things get filed. Some stuff goes into a shoebox in which I store my special keepsakes. I have five shoeboxes in the basement, stacked on top of a filing cabinet. I never look in those shoeboxes, or that filing cabinet. But they’re full of special keepsake memories.

In my office, stored out of sight, I have a plastic container to keep Juliet-related papers and documents. So far, so good. I have another container in which to keep copies of articles I’ve published. Not bad. But it occurs to me that no articles published online are in there. I never print them for my records. Should I? Additionally, my current-projects-and-ideas add up to yet another stack. I want to keep it visible because otherwise it gets forgotten. But it looks messy.

How to keep the minutiae contained yet accessible?

In our front hall stands an Ikea unit with bins for seasonal accessories. This is an example of good organization, if only I could convince the kids to return their seasonal accessories — yes, I’m talking about you, mittens! — to their bins. The unit also has file folders screwed to the side, and a key basket on top. The file folders have over the years organized themselves thusly: Top file is Kevin’s papers. He periodically empties his folder into another folder. Middle folder is take-out menus and letters from charities I intend to donate to. Bottom folder is info on upcoming school trips. Except I’ve started hanging that info on the fridge using a handy clip magnet. So the papers remaining in that folder are completely out of date. I should empty it.

Just think what it could hold.

Oh God.

I am swimming in a sea of papers and dates and out-of-dates.

In my head, I am calmly and steadily working my way through each section of the house, each pile, each shelf, each drawer, each box in the attic, and I am making sense of it all. I am throwing out and giving away and cleaning and recycling and we only have what we need. Only that.

In reality, I can barely get the dishes done before bed, and my kid is hunting for jagged rocks in the dark back yard. You know?

"You're always grumpy in the morning, Mom"


  1. Tricia Orchard

    Oh I know! Did you read my post today? My pile of papers get put in the top drawer of my desk, so that I don’t have to look at it. Except then I never see the papers and don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. Bills don’t get paid, forms don’t get returned…I don’t know what the solution is!

    But I have to say that your piles of paper make me feel better! 🙂

  2. Carrie Snyder

    We are on the same wave length! Except it sounds like you’re actually getting organizing done and I’m not, not at all.

    Obviously, I have no solution for your pile of papers in a drawer. There are are these levels of urgency for the papers that come home: needs-to-be-done immediately usually does get done immediately. But what to do with the stuff that’s ongoing or upcoming or soon? How to keep it somewhat in mind, without being overwhelmed?

    You’re welcome to use my piles-on-the-counter method. 🙂

  3. leah

    In my home this syndrome has led to the related syndrome – you’re always grumpy in the morning Mom. 🙂

    I wish I had a solution for you. One thought I’ve been having is that teachers could help me by posting all these important notes online/by email as opposed to physically. Surely other schools must take this approach? I’d be so much less likely to loose the notes etc!

  4. Margo

    My daughter just started kindergarten this year and I am DELUGED in paper. What the HECK?! So I thought I was fairly organized, but I’ve got piles of her school crap all over the place now.

    We keep things in a storage garage my dad has, and I have fantasies of going through all that stuff and paring it down to the absolute keepsakes. But I never do it. Think how light I would feel!

  5. Carrie Snyder

    Leah, I’ve actually used Albus’s teacher’s website to print things like dictees so we can be sure he’s studying the right words. Online would be useful.

    Margo, I think just like you do — how light would I feel if I could just pare it down to the minimum. But I also wondering whether something deeper is going on, and maybe it’s harder to get rid of our stuff than we recognize. Maybe it’s not just disorganization. Maybe we’re hanging on for some other reasons. Maybe it makes us feel safer to have stuff.

  6. katie

    I am so glad you’ve made me laugh about your piles, because it makes me feel like my piles are in good company. When I go to people’s houses, and they don’t have piles, I always feel like I’m missing out on some magical solution to the piles.

  7. Carrie Snyder

    Ask them — those people with no piles — and then report back, please! I want in on their secret.


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