Monday, October 27, 2008

The Price of Disorganization

$10,000.

Ten.Thousand.Dollars.

That's a VERY conservative estimate for me in actual dollars lost over the years due to disorganization.

That money comes from overdue or late fines, missed bills, missed deadlines (and the resulting fees), misplaced drivers license and resulting tickets, missed check refunds that went past their expiration date. It comes from the lawyer's fees sometimes incurred when trying to rectify above situations, and a few times bail bond fees and once, a plane ticket fee to go back to the town I had left because otherwise I would have missed yet another court date because I forgot about it.

It comes from not maintaining property (cars, etc) in a timely fashion and then having to spend a lot more when things broke down.

Buying things that didn't work and then never returning them, even though I "meant" to. Buying things more than once because I couldn't find the ones I bought previously.

It comes from working so many hours that instead of cleaning and doing laundry, I went and bought new clothes because that was all I had time for. I didn't even have time to try them on; I just bought a few choices and took them home, wearing the ones that fit. Meaning to return the ones that didn't, but never doing so. Not shopping for bargains, but going to stores and walking in, grabbing something and leaving in about 10 minutes. I used to buy new underwear and socks ALL the time when I was working as an Exec. Chef on my way home - I'd zip into Walmart for groceries and pick up a few more socks.

That figure could easily be doubled or tripled when you take into account that I never organized my future or retirement and instead of saving for that, often gave large chunks of money away randomly (by large, I mean between $300 and up to $1000) on an impulsive moment and a misguided attempt to do the one right thing that would turn someone's life around forever. I actually still have the impulse to give all my money away, but I don't do it anymore. I think about it all the time, though. I think it helps that it's not really "my" money anymore, but Rafe's. I stopped that when we married. What's really crazy is that I helped almost complete strangers to me but not my family, and I have no idea why. The impulse would happen and BOOM, a check would be written. I did that even when I didn't have money to pay my own bills, but I didn't worry because I wasn't organized enough to see what a mess I was in. I never worried about money or my future. I haphazardly invested in retirement.

Disorganization has cost me a lot in relationships also. I think about my friends and people I love all the time. All the time. I am one of those people who would be much happier living on a big compound with all my family in houses scattered close by, big Sunday meals with everyone together. But for some reason I can't seem to reach out when I'm not in physical proximity. I lose addresses and phone numbers over and over again. Until this year, I had to call my mom or my sister every time I wanted to talk to one of my brothers because I lost their phone numbers on the scraps of paper I had written them in. I bought organizer after organizer and would lose them, or not use them consistently. I've lost touch with dear friends and became too embarrassed at not contacting them or missing important dates (once even a wedding). I failed a friend who ended up in jail and asked me to pay his bills for him. He gave me a $400 check to do so - in 1998 - and I just found it two weeks ago. I also found the list of addresses of people he had asked me to mail and tell of his predicament.

It kept Rafe from feeling comfortable about inviting people to our home when we first married. It kept him from feeling peace in our home because of the psychic noise that clutter and disorganization creates. It kept us from going out and enjoying ourselves sight seeing new places we lived because we stayed home on weekends cleaning and going through things, again and again. I turned down invitations to go places and do things because of clutter and disorganization. People who are organized don't feel comfortable in unorganized spaces. I'm sure that before I married, I probably lost a date or two with that as a factor.

I was/am late to things regularly looking for stuff. I lose my keys all the time because I can't focus on where I put them. I get distracted so easily that I can go into one room to clean something or get something and forget why I walked into the room by the time I get there. I make lists upon lists and often read them, only to realize that by the time I got to the bottom of writing the list, I had written something again that I wrote at the top of the list... totally forgetting I had just written it! When I'm stressed out, this happens more often.

My clothes don't match much of the time because I could never find what I was looking for in the overcrowded closet. I just grabbed and went.

Sometimes it is extremely hard for me to focus from one moment to the next. Ideas jumble around in my head and I start projects all the time but never finish them. Ironically, what I can focus for long periods on are things that both interest me AND require intense concentration at the same time. My daughter, my husband, reading, cooking. Sometimes the problem I have is with too much focus - I zero in on one thought and simply lose all other thoughts, no matter how important. I'm usually reminded of the previous thoughts when a crisis happens and I have to deal with what I forgot about before.

Why am I writing this today? I wanted to be honest out loud. This is the area of huge struggle in my life. It causes me stress and anxiety, yet sometimes I feel like I'm swallowed up by the enormity of organizing. It's probably really hard for someone who is organized to relate to. But I also want to talk about progress. I stopped spending money like crazy a few years before I met Rafe. But I couldn't seem to stop collecting paper clutter. There is probably so much more that disorganization has affected that I haven't written about here. I am determined to change, and have been changing for the past few months. I worked on this once before, when we lived in Jacksonville. But the outside stress on our lives there made it slow going, and once I had started to get a handle on it, we moved again and it threw me into a tizzy. It is not something that comes naturally to me.

My goal is that our house is peaceful, comfortable, and a sanctuary for my family. To me, that means less clutter (MUCH less clutter), simple living. We really don't need much. Rafe has been my biggest motivation in this endeavor. I have changed so much for the better since I met him. It's one of the first things my family noticed about me after dating Rafe... just that I was more human, more down to earth, more grounded.

6 comments:

Barb said...

Oh my do I often feel in that same boat. I often feel as if I cannot create & see through one thought on my worst days. It became so much more noticeable to me when I was with company for the past few weeks. wow, then it was glaringly obvious. I carry this ridiculously long to do list everywhere that I always seem to have to add to. But in the hopes that I can get those few minutes to do something with it I cart it everywhere. Oh how sweet if feels to cross off one thing, any thing on that list. I have been known to forget to write a task on the list, complete the task & for the sense of accomplishment write it on my list just to cross it off. So see, I promise it's not just you! Please know that you are in good company. Or maybe I"m bad company, either way we're in it together! :)

Laurie said...

I've done that too! When I look at my list at the end of the day and NOT ONE THING was finished completely, but I was so busy all day, I write down what I did!

Barb said...

haha, I'm so glad to know that it's not just me!!! :)

Mandy said...

You should send this in to Oprah! You have the totally right attitude to WANT to change and maybe she'd have one of her expert organizers help you! :)

Laurie said...

Maybe you could send it in to Oprah and tell her how pitiful I am! Haha Tell her all my poor husband really wants is to come home from deployment to a serene house where everything matches and no clutter, and the walls painted for a bonus!

A girl can always dream!

You're right about one thing, though. I'm seriously in the changing mode. I wish I was computer savvy because I'd be able to figure out why my laptop doesn't work to upload pictures right now and I could show you some before and afters.

Katie Slater said...

Hi Laurie! Thanks for leaving some love on my blog! :) I am located in CT but would love to do some photos for you - where are you located?

I am with you on organization - it's a constant, daily battle for me too!! :) I envy those with impeccable organizational skills!