The whys of organizing

I’ve spent the week organizing, or rather reorganizing, our finances and file cabinets. One of the traits Peggy and I share is that we are born organizers. The difference is that I organize everything—socks, tools, pantry shelves, even the kitchen junk drawer, whereas she is a selective organizer. She’s content to let things overflow in her purse, desk, and closet; but her checkbook is an accountant’s envy, and her button collection is displayed so symmetrically that a flea couldn’t crawl through the margin of error. I stop short of such perfection, though I still qualify as neurotic by most standards, my garage being tidier than other people’s living rooms.

Well, anyway, I organized this week. It was such fun that I had to force myself to go to bed at night. Organizing is, of course, an attempt to control reality—to make it safer, tidier, more predictable. The problem is that reality is inherently dangerous, messy, and unknowable. The harder I try to tame it, the more aware I become of its dangers, and the greater my need to eliminate those dangers.

The most frightened man I ever knew carried a .45 everywhere, even into the shower (he put it in a baggie). I visited him once. He had a yard alarm, and every time a squirrel walked by, that alarm would go off, and my friend would run to the window with his .45. So it is that prudent watchfulness can grow into full-blown paranoia. On the other hand, the world really is a dangerous place, and it makes sense to try to avoid the most likely dangers.

The trick here, as in all things I suppose, is balance. But where is the fulcrum? I don’t see it. Do you see it?

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