Friday, May 28, 2010

Stuff That Molds

messy office
I often think that given the perfect organizational system, my life would fall into place.  Work would get done, books get written, stacks would disappear, gardens would grow, and languages would get learned.  The fact that I wrote that last sentence in the passive voice is telling.

Anyway.  My office space is a mess. The desk holds old receipts, scraps of paper, yesterday’s teacup, and a toy okapi.  A wire basket sorts papers into 4 compartments.  A dry erase board has lists, three calendars are spread over the wall and table areas, and a huge bulletin board is covered with odds and ends I might find useful. Books are everywhere. 

It’s the kind of space a person would admit is messy, but say “I know where everything is—I have a system.”

 desk okapi
Well, I don’t have a system.  Much less a clue where anything is!  I do have a handy daily schedule pasted on the coat closet door, made by Bronson Alcott for his family.  But I get thrown by his prescribed 5 AM rising time, 8:30 bedtime, and those bits about obedience and keeping work and play distinct.

 alcott schedule
Instead, I turn to an unlikely person for inspiration: my son.  Simon is not the kind of person most people would associate with organizational genius; he can be scattered.  But upstairs, there’s a filing cabinet.

 file drawer
Inside is a file folder, labeled simply (in Simon’s 6 year old handwriting), ‘Stuff That Molds’.

stuffthatmolds 1
Actually, it says 'stuf that moldes'.  Which makes it look as if it could have been Benjamin Franklin’s handiwork—another guy who could help me with organization.

 stuff that molds 2
Inside is this:

 stuff that molds 3
Never mind that the bread clearly didn’t mold.  Those are the kinds of chances you take when you embark on scientific inquiry.

But what that file folder does remind me is that when all else fails, gather up the odds and ends, label them succinctly, and put them in a folder, a box, or a drawer.  And forget about them.  You can always deal with them later.

Though I’d advise against using them for your morning toast. 

And do you wonder why, after 14 years, that bread didn’t mold?  It doesn’t have to do with preservatives; that slice came from a Grand Central Bakery loaf, made with only basic ingredients.  I suspect it was dried out before Simon put it in the plastic, otherwise it would have molded. 

We always buy our bread unsliced, and store it in a paper bag, never plastic.  It gets drier, of course, as it ages.  But I don’t ever have trouble with mold, and I actually like the flavor of bread as it ages a bit.  Or I can always make bread crumbs.


Thérèse said...

You are brave, showing those pictures!

Charles Shere said...

Yes... I read this in a small-town hotel in Calabria, thinking that in two weeks I'll be considering the odds on whether I'll get down from the loft a paper bag labelled TO DO ON RETURN. In fact there are several such paper bags up there, some of them years old.

For years our damp Berkeley basement contained a box of books important enough to have been packed and moved from the previous apartment, in 1973. It was labelled SEX AND HISTORY. I have no idea what it contained, or whether it was moved again in 1997, or simply thrown out…

Rural Eating said...

Hilarious. After Benjamin's mother died, he was cleaning out her house and found a box labeled "Crap." That's exactly what was inside.

Nancy Singleton Hachisu said...

Giovanna, you should see my office/bedroom. Scary. I'm determined to clean up the piles this summer. I do have an archeological system to the madness. By the way, I recommend using plastic sleeves to separate papers. Saves the horrible mad scramble through reams of print trying to find what you want. If I posted a photo of my piles people would be open-mouthed.

h. hart said...

Haha that office looks like my closet! I have to constantly remind myself to put things away or my side of the bedroom becomes a disaster area.

h. hart said...

Haha that office looks like my closet! I have to constantly remind myself to put things away or my side of the bedroom becomes a disaster area.

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