Everything In Its Place

10 May

There is one thing I love almost as much as my family. You wouldn’t know it to look at my house, but I love order. When I lived alone, there was a place for everything and everything was, if not in its place, then at least close. I could find anything I needed in a matter of seconds. All of my possessions had a home, a place they went to when they weren’t needed. My things were where I expected them to be when I expected them to be there. Life was peaceful.

Now that I have a family, there is still a place for (almost) everything but nothing is ever even vaguely near where it is supposed to be. This is because I am the only person who knows where everything goes. Naturally, I have told the people I live with where our things live. I believe they were listening to me when I told them. Apparently, though, my son is not the only one with ADHD.

So, I label. There are labels in the pots and pans cabinet. One for sauce pans, one for skillets, one for the colander, one for the big silver pot, one for the big blue pot. The labels are intended to ensure the item named is placed in the spot reserved for it. This ensures the cabinet is, you know, organized. But my family appears to believe the labels are suggestions.

I thought maybe they didn’t know the difference between a saucepan and a skillet, so I changed “skillets” to “frying pans.” I have since learned that they know a skillet is a frying pan and a saucepan isn’t. My son watches “Top Chef,” after all. They know the big silver pot is not blue and that the big blue pot is not silver. They don’t particularly care. Like Native Americans who believe that they are on time if they arrive the day of the meeting, my family believes that the pots and pans are organized as long as they aren’t mingled in with dishes or baking ingredients.

I see nothing particularly obsessive about wanting the pots and pans to be where I want them when I need them. After all, I am preparing healthful meals for my organizationally challenged charges. Never mind that they won’t appreciate them or, in many cases, even eat them.

I’ve learned, though, that some of my labeling is seen as a bit nutty. I admitted to my niece recently that I had labeled the insides of the cabinet doors in my old house with the contents of each shelf in each cabinet. I thought she’d understand. She did, after all, once compliment me on my system for organizing chocolates, nuts and dried fruits. Instead, she looked at me as if I were obsessively obsessive compulsive. Now, of course, I can’t label the insides of the cabinets in my new house without appearing more than a little dotty.

There are a couple of places in our home where the lights can be turned on and off from either side of the space. From the dining room, you can operate the kitchen and dining room lights. From the hall, you can operate the kitchen and hall lights. Complicating things further, there are two sets of kitchen lights. These switches drive me insane. I invariably turned on the wrong one. I would cycle through the three options—stove light, table light, hall light—until I had the one I wanted. So, I labeled the switches, a perfectly reasonable solution I thought.

A friend, on seeing the light labels asked, “Can’t you just remember which one’s which?” She had that “Oh . . .my . . .god” tone of voice and I think she may have even snickered. “No,” I thought, “I can’t remember which one’s which, hence the labels.” This was immediately followed by a deeply rooted sense of shame at my inability to remember which switch was which. The switches are still labeled, but I feel a tremendous sense of inadequacy every time I flip one.

I hope my friend never sees my office. I have a cabinet where I keep my supplies, things like stamps, rubber bands, tape—all the office-y kinds of things. The cabinet has 12 drawers in sizes ranging from small to large. (Do you know where this is going?) Each type of office supply has its own drawer. Little things live in the little drawers, big things in the bigger drawers. So I have a drawer for tacks, one for stamps, another for staples. Scissors have a drawer as do hole punches, Post-its, erasers and tape. There is, of course, a large drawer reserved for—you guessed it—labels. Each drawer is labeled. My saving grace with the cabinet may be that there is a junk drawer. It isn’t labeled.

When my mother was alive, I had a partner in labeling compulsion. She was a goddess of organization. We would have conversations about organizing; we both found them calming. But I’m a piker compared to my mother. While I have long owned a Dymo Letra Tag labeling gun, she had a Brother P-Touch, the Cadillac of labeling systems. I snatched it up recently while helping clean out her office.

When I lived alone, I was cavalier about organizing. Now that I live in the midst of a storm of people, their things, their needs and their emotions, I crave organization more than ever. So, I’ve built an alternate universe in my mind. One where there’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place.  There are no Littlest Pet Shop figurines, clothes are on hangers (no wire) in closets, shoes are in boxes, bath towels are neatly stacked. And everything, of course, is labeled.

9 Responses to “Everything In Its Place”

  1. scribblechic May 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Clutter is my daughter’s primary medium of self expression. As someone who fantasizes of a beautifully organized home, you have my sympathies.

    • jmlindy422 May 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      I’ll take all the sympathy I can get! Thanks. And good luck with that clutter thing. The only thing that’s working with my daughter is me going in every day and putting her stuff away. Sigh.

  2. twistingthreads May 11, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    I also fantasize about organization, but I’m not so great at following up, and other people definitely compound the problem. Oh, sure, Mr. Wonderful will clean the bathroom, vacuum, and do any number of other household chores, but he can’t wrap his head around where things go, even when I’ve told him a dozen times. He once spent months thinking we’d lost a pan even though I told him where it went over and over and…well, he doesn’t have the best memory for those sorts of things. He never puts anything away, or stacks a dish by the sink, or scrapes it out before he decides to fill it’s foul contents up with water. It’s like trying to pull a boulder uphill. We’re working on teeny-tiny steps. I used to laugh at all my Mom’s lists and cleaning rules; now I feel terrible for all the times I shrugged them off. When you’re a kid you have maybe five important things to remember at any given time; once you’re an adult, the list grows exponentially (hundreds!). Organization saves time and grants mental clarity. I don’t think you’re weird at all.

    • jmlindy422 May 11, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      Oh, I’m like your mom! I’ve got so many “do it my way or die” eccentricities. Learning to let go of that, but it’s hard to do when your cashmere sweater becomes a doll sweater because it went through the dryer. Teeny, tiny steps. Sigh. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  3. The Waiting May 11, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    When the baby was born and I had to rely on my husband to do a lot of the things I normally do around the house, I learned that he doesn’t know where anything is/goes either. But I blame him, not me.

    “Honey, where do you keep the broom?” ”

    “Um, the broom closet.”

    “And where is the bread?”

    “The bread box, genius.”

    • jmlindy422 May 11, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      Love the bread box bit. Have you two had the Tupperware argument yet? Every marriage has to survive the Tupperware argument or it’s not really a marriage. Maybe I should warn all my gay friends. Thanks for dropping by!

  4. Karaboo May 11, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Check it out at

    Happy Friday!

  5. philosophermouseofthehedge May 11, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    And another bonus: now excuses for not putting stuff away -it’s obvious where stuff goes (from the “don’t put it down, put it away” school of training)
    Gotta do what you can to streamline the mess and fussing. Nice post.

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