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Tuesday, 7.7.04: Closet kudzu

My home has a certain organic quality about it. No matter how much I try to organize and find places for everything, its contents creep back out. Some days I feel like I'm beating back the jungle -- or, more suburbanish, fending off the kudzu. We are not even accumulating new stuff these day -- oh, except for the new video equipment and scanner that came in gigantic boxes (to be saved for future ebay sales) and that do require some cubic footage of their own.

Maybe that's how it got started this time. The boxes were piled up in the downstairs parlor and there didn't seem to be room in the garage to store them, even flat. What is the garage filled with? Other empty boxes and containers -- potentiality. We did manage to get rid of bags of camping supplies, reintegrating the salt shakers and pancake turners into our kitchen (to be cleaned out from there another day). Score one against the household kudzu.

In the utility room I've been tripping over a big cardboard box filled with my old vinyl LPs from the sixties and seventies. I resisted the temptation to start listing them on ebay (lots of labor -- no profit for used records) and got them condensed into a wire file box that I'd been tripping over in the bedroom. Score two.

But then, in one of our overstuffed closets, I spied a disorganized box of old photographs, back from the days when we did photo shows. And then there were two old microscopes in wooden boxes, with price tags from 15 years ago. I pulled them all out to consider getting them onto ebay.

Somehow pulling things out of closets here is like unscrewing the top off a can full of those gag springs. They pop out -- what once occupied 2 cubic feet are now all over the place and simply can't be put back. About 3 weeks ago I pulled out my 1-1/2 cubic feet of St. Louis World's Fair stuff. I held 20 auctions and have 20 more going and, still, it's all over the place. Now I have 19th century photographs and microscope parts adding to the encroaching chaos.

No sense getting overwhelmed.

When I was in third grade (I think), I was put in charge of the classroom library -- checking books in and out for kids who wanted to do some extra reading. I can remember the overwhelmed feeling of the long line of 9-year-olds at my desk, waiting impatiently for me to deal with them. Somehow my mother got involved and made me a box for the cards and maybe even alphabet dividers to help me be more efficient. The memory is fuzzy. But what did stick with me was her story. While she worked on my file box, she told me about being a check-out girl at her family's grocery store. When there was a long line of customers, she would get overwhelmed too. But she learned to simply concentrate on the customer in front of her. If she could do well with the one in front of her, then the others got quickly served in turn.

I don't remember being classroom librarian for very long -- the teacher probably realized it was a stupid idea to begin with. But whenever I have lots of things lined up to be processed, I do think of my mother checking out groceries, focusing on the customer in front of her.

There are times in life when it's useful to see The Big Picture. But on a day to day basis, sometimes it's better just to deal with the task before you.






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