Thursday, January 04, 2007

Learning to love the order in disorder and the beauty of the blooming penicillin mold

It's high time to get organized, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers, and they stand ready to help.
“January is the perfect month to get organized and start your new year off right. Getting organized is one of the top 5 New Year’s resolutions people make and with almost 4,000 NAPO members ready and available to assist, it is easier than most people think. NAPO is gearing up for our largest Get Organized Month(SM) ever with 11 industry partners and a nationwide radio campaign. NAPO members will help over 10,000 people get organized during this month-long event.”—NAPO President Barry Izsak
David H. Freedman has a better idea -- learn to embrace your mess. Freedman is co-author with Eric Abrahamson of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. Penelope Green wrote about it in the New York Times.
The book is a meandering, engaging tour of beneficial mess and the systems and individuals reaping those benefits, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose mess-for-success tips include never making a daily schedule.

[...]

In their book Mr. Freedman and Mr. Abrahamson describe the properties of mess in loving terms. Mess has resonance, they write, which means it can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world. It was the overall scumminess of Alexander Fleming’s laboratory that led to his discovery of penicillin, from a moldy bloom in a petri dish he had forgotten on his desk.

Mess is robust and adaptable, like Mr. Schwarzenegger’s open calendar, as opposed to brittle, like a parent’s rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for a small child’s wool-gathering or balkiness. Mess is complete, in that it embraces all sorts of random elements. Mess tells a story: you can learn a lot about people from their detritus, whereas neat — well, neat is a closed book. Neat has no narrative and no personality (as any cover of Real Simple magazine will demonstrate). Mess is also natural, as Mr. Freedman and Mr. Abrahamson point out, and a real time-saver. “It takes extra effort to neaten up a system,” they write. “Things don’t generally neaten themselves.”
Granted, my desk probably won't neaten itself, but generally things sort themselves out just fine. When the strata become too deep I just throw most everything away and start over, figuring anything important is either in the computer or it wasn't that important anyhow. Meanwhile, there's some interesting looking stuff growing in that dish over there, by the telephone.

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