I couldn’t find anything. Stuff was flying at me from every direction. Time to stand-down and get organized.
The problem is as old as history. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2.
Yep. My office last week. It needed help, and the Spirit was telling me to get organized.
Read over the rest of Genesis 1. It was all about God getting organized. Separating things. Naming things. Putting things in piles. Assigning tasks. Setting goals (“Be fruitful and multiple”).
About the only thing God didn’t have to do was toss things out because – well – everything was new. That came later (think Noah, think Passover).
Then God created mankind. From the standpoint of being organized, it’s been downhill since.
About the only thing I remember from high school chemistry is the concept of “entropy.” In addition to the technical aspects, “entropy” describes everything I mess with for more than a few months.
Entropy is the tendency of matter (the technical term is “stuff”) to move from (i) the state of being distinct from other stuff and being organized to (ii) being indistinguishable from other “things” (another term for “stuff”) and completely disorganized.
Entropy does its magic on both my bedroom closet and on my office.
The difference between closet and office is the type of stuff. Both are black holes capable of gobbling matter and warping time.
At home, I needed the gentle suasion of my wife. “You’ve had that jacket since before we were married.” But, it had been a lucky jacket of some kind (couldn’t remember what). Dropping it into the “Salvation Army Box” was like letting go of a piece of my youth. Goodbye old friend.
Finally, wood. Yes, my closet has a wood floor. I’d forgotten that. The dog was fascinated, snurfling around this new territory, the back of my closet. Until she started growling.
It startled me, too. A dust bunny the size of a Texas jackrabbit.
By time we finished I could drag a chair in there and sit (as if sitting around in my closet is something I’m in to).
I also picked up some neat tricks. My two favorites were clear plastic storage bags and an air mattress.
The storage bags have plastic zippers and a big valve-like gizmo on one side. The object is to fill the bag with stuff (sweaters work great), attach a vacuum cleaner to the valve-gizmo, and let it rip. A two-foot-high stack of sweaters reduces to a desiccated-looking thing about 6 inches thick.
I was crazed. All kinds of stuff could be stored away in that manner. Somewhere in the process of rounding up stuff to suck down to pancakes, the dog elected to slink out.
The other neat trick – one I invented, actually – is to inflate an air mattress under the bed. Not only does it make that territory hostile to dust bunny infestations, but it is impossible to store any stuff under the bed.
The office posed some different challenges and opportunities.
Client stuff is easy. Everyone gets a paper file and an electronic file. At my law firm, we’re moving toward paperless. Less bulky, safe encryption, and accessible by me from anywhere in the world. Even my closet, I suppose.
Scanning stuff at the office is almost as much fun as sucking stacks of clothes down to nothing at home.
The trick at the office is organizing stuff so that I can find it later when I need it. Fortunately, I can assign tags to digital files that make searching cloud storage a snap.
The challenge is organizing a mountain of projects and work into manageable tasks and setting priorities. Then getting all of that on to lists.
In his 2001 classic “Getting Things Done” David Allen says the brain is not meant to be a storage device, it is supposed to be a thinking machine. A bit like a computer: If you stuff your pc or laptop with too much stuff it either stops running or runs so slow that nothing gets done.
Allen says to get stray thoughts immediately dumped into a list for later processing and clear the head for the task at hand.
My mind is running like an F-16 Fighting Falcon in service to my clients. My only problem is I can’t find my to-do list is.