Monday, April 12, 2010

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I have a very clear memory of the first time I saw an Office Max. It was Thanksgiving, 1990, and we were in Portland, Oregon. Lost in the dark and the rain, we pulled into a parking lot to look at the directions we'd been given by my cousin, who, I now realize, was hoping we'd give up and go back to Seattle so he could hog the turkey for himself. After my uncle died, my aunt raised eight kids - the first six of them boys - on a limited budget. Second helpings were what you got if the kid sitting next to you wasn't paying close enough attention to his plate. I don't think anyone in that family closed their eyes for a mealtime prayer in 20 years; forks were used more as defensive weaponry than mere eating utensils.

Anyway, as it turned out, we parked in front of an Office Max, and it actually took my breath away. It was huge, filled with paper clips and Dymo labelers, and was quite honestly the most beautiful building I had ever seen.

I was in love.

I may have a little problem with Diet Coke. I admit to occasionally consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of peanut butter M&Ms. It's possible that I own more red shoes than someone really needs who's not tornado-ing their way to Oz.

But my relationship with office supplies could well be described as obsessive; if I could leave five hundred messages on a sticky note's cell phone or take pictures of a decorative storage bin while it slept, I totally would. I am absolutely fixated on paper punches, file folders - anything that promises to bring order to the hullaballoo that is my life.

For me, it's the impossible dream. I have known for some time that I am to organization what hand grenades are to koi ponds. You know how some people have that weird anti-magnetism thing that stops digital watches and erases their credit cards? That's what I do when I walk past a perfectly harmless stack of mail. I don't even have to touch the envelopes. Heck, they don't even have to be in my house. Neighbors have complained for years that every time I walk my dog their cable bill falls behind the radiator.

I have roughly ninety-six thousand IKEA magazine boxes, color coordinated to match my living room and marked with beautiful tags like "Christmas - Vocal" and "Sacred Flute Solos". Yet there are so many stacks of song books and theory pages and catalogues of music paraphernalia breeding around my piano it looks like Beethoven's slumber party. I have no idea how they got there; I turned my back for five seconds, left Romanze chatting up The Minute Waltz, and before I knew it I was knee-deep in sonatinas.

My bookcases are filled with paperbacks, all facing every direction but 'up.'  Notes from teachers wad themselves into balls and leap into the dishwasher. Necklaces materialize from parallel universes for the express purpose of twisting into knots you could use tether cruise ships.

"One day," I tell myself, "I'll finally get it together." I buy more and more office supplies, certain that this binder, this storage bin, this collection of monogrammed note cards with matching envelopes will finally be the organizational soul mate I can settle down and start a tidy little life with.

Then I'll have all of my, you know, stuff, at my fingertips. No more rifling through piles of loose papers looking for the car registration, or frantic searches for the two-for-one coupon from Domino's, or sheepish explanations to students for why $30 worth of lesson books - which I had in my hand twenty seconds ago - has now vanished into thin air. I'll breeze through my day, confident that no matter what natural disasters or calamaties may come, I'll always know where my return address labels are filed.

Yet even as I set out to woo and win the object of my affections, I know that in the end those beautiful office supplies are going to let me down. Betray me. Scatter themselves all over my house, leaving me in a bigger mess than before we met. It always ends that way; I fall for jerk filing systems.

I know I need help, some kind of intervention that will end the cycle of expectation, acquisition, and heartbreak. I got the number of a therapist who specializes in this kind of addiction, but I haven't been able to find where I put it. What I really need is a cute little address book, one with slots for business cards and things, and I could use a matching pen to write down all of my important phone numbers sorted by area code and...

...sigh.  We'd be so happy together.

45 comments:

L.T. Elliot said...

I suffer from this malady too. I can never have enough notebooks, pens, post-its, expo markers, staples, staple-removers, dayplanners, journals, white-boards, portfolios, key-safes...

Melanie said...

LOL, I have beautiful bins/crates/baskets adorning my spare room, empty. Looking for love, check the junk drawer:)

Kristina P. said...

I can refer you to a good therapist. But why don't you make a stop at my house first, so you can organize it? Is that called enabling?

Kazzy said...

In my mind I am very organized. And then I go to find something and realize it is all an illusion. sigh

KC Mom said...

I'm kind of that way about libraries and bookstores. I love the smell and I want every book there. Will I ever read them all? Do I have space for one more book? I think that is what heaven will be like for me.....lots of space for my books and plenty of time to read them.

Garden of Egan said...

I think that maybe you should be featured on "Hoarders" or something like that.
I think if it isn't in its place then throw it away. Seriously.

If your students are dumb enough to let you touch their music books, they have to buy a new one.

I'm a firm believer in tossing stuff. Clothes on the floor, throw it away....even throw clothes away that is on the kids or spouse and save them the step on throwing stuff on the floor.

My way of organization is really awesome.

MommyJ said...

I'm an obsessive compulsive book buyer too. I just like to have them around me. They make me happy. But office supplies are really fun. Planners, and pens and fun little notebooks...

I have areas of my house that are organized to a fault, and other places where I hide chaos. Like the linen closet. Good grief... it's just sheets, you'd think I'd be able to keep those in order. But it doesn't happen. Ever, ever.

Happy Mom said...

Oh, we are soul mates!!

Organization is just not possible for me! I buy stuff and work on it and try but never seem to get there for more than a few hours in selected spots.

Lately, I've been settling for sorting through the stuff at least weekly and ignoring the rest of the time.

becca said...

You are brilliant. I'm going to print this post and tape it to my kitchen cupboard (If I can find the tape...)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Oh, DeNae, maybe you and I could have a girlfriend's getaway where all we do is a national tour of office supply stores. Think how fun it would be. I love office supplies, too, and probably for all the same reasons. Matt told me I have an unlimited budget when it comes to organizational supplies. (He's a little OCD and fully enables my habit.)

Cheeseboy said...

A hand grenade in a koi pond? That is the perfect visual.

And I don't remember the first time I have ever seen an Office Max, but I remember the first time I ever saw an Old Navy, which was built right next to our Office Max.

Flagstaff Odds 'N Ends said...

I once was like you. At the end of my first year teaching, the really nice organized teacher and friend next door to me decided to help me organize my classroom. We filed everything, labeled everything, sort, stack, etc...Next school I was so excited to enter my clean and organized classroom. I stood in the middle of the room and turned in cicles, I couldn't remember HOW we organized everything. I couldn't find a thing! I ended up buying a lot of things I knew i had, just couldn't find. I now know I am right brained, organization in files just doesn't work for me. I can look at a stack a mile high and tell you everything that is in it, in the correct order! Amazing, right?

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. It was a great place to grow up. I was lucky to escape 6 years ago, the town I once knew is gone.

Momza said...

love your fascinations!
I would write more, but I'm off to STAPLES to get some more organizers.
I also love The Container Store. It's like TUPPERWARE for your whole house!

Love it!

Braden said...

DeNae, I am with you on this. We are the normal ones. I promise. All the others are wrong, defective, etc. Here's my proof. This Christmas I gave in to my wife's suggestions that I really didn't my intro to Psych 101 text from my Freshman year. We went through and I got rid of the books I haven't used or touched.

I was brutal. I was ruthless. I bought the whole "if you haven't touched it for three years you won't need it line".

It was a lie. Only this am, I needed, desperately, my script for Fiddler on the Roof. And it is gone. Forever, irretrievably gone.

You hold on to those sacred flute solos and let your sonatinas grow up and start dating beginning pop solos. One day, you will need one of them. And if you have organized them (or, the inevitable consequence of organizing: thrown them away) you will then be in a world of hurt and up a creek with no paddle at the same time.

Charlotte said...

I have needed to ground myself from all organizational and/or supplies aisles before. It is just so tempting! Great, now I'm craving plastic storage bins.

aunt dyanne said...

i have a wonderful little business card organizer....empty...still...

could probably find you a pen that matches, and glue a "post it note" pad inside the front cover...

want it?

haha

Lindzena said...

I must agree, there is a sort of giddy feeling when you enter an office supply store, isn't there? I tend to stare at sub-woofers and such for hours on end...

Yeah, I bought one of those organizer books. It now sits in my purse waiting to be used. :)

wendy said...

I love organization!!!
BUT, then I forget what file, box, place ---I organized the dang thing in.

Hubby is the most unorganized person I have EVER met in my life.

is that called "balance"

HalfAsstic.com said...

That is hilarious!
Have you ever watched that show on HGTV or DIY or one of those type channels called "Neat"? They take people just like you and fix everything wrong with their "systems". (Or lack thereof.) It really is neat and inspiring! You should catch it and write in to them! Direct them to this post, as well!

That Girl said...

"I buy more and more office supplies, certain that this binder, this storage bin, this collection of monogrammed note cards with matching envelopes will finally be the organizational soul mate I can settle down and start a tidy little life with."

Genius. And totally ME.

I still dream the impossible dream, too.

AS Amber said...

My obsession is pens. Being a waitress, I get to have lots of pens. I have all my pens color coordinated. I take orders with the colorful pens & each table gets a different color. Then I have my blue pens. For customers to sign their credit card slips with. I get at least one comment a day from the people I work with. I have probably 12-15 pens in my apron. I love pens!!!!!

My room, however? Four words: koi pond, hand grenade.

AS Amber said...

Oh PS!! I don't know if you know this, but Todd reads your blog! I bet he gets a kick out of this post!

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Why don't you just start a support group? I will come. We are totally soul sistas in this department. I have read and beleive that Braden is right, we are the normal ones. I am convinced that I have a burmuda triangle cirling my house sucking items up into oblivion.

Kimberly said...

I constantly resist the urge to label tupperware containers full of leftoveres with post-it notes. It really is a sickness and I`m viciously glad I`m not the only one suffering.

Anonymous said...

Ahaha! Mom, you crack me up. I liked the 'Necklaces from other dimentions' part. Too funny :)

-Ness

Connie said...

I don't need office supplies to organize. I have a huge drawer filled to the brim with....everything I'll ever need! Old cards, pictures, bills, jewelry, pieces of fabric, recipes, you name it. I got it! The other day I couldn't open or close the drawer so decided to take it to task.
I started throwing things out, then decided to file a few things and eventually put everything else back in the drawer and called it good! At least now I can shut it!

I hear confession is good for the soul! Thanks!

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

I could make you a cute little address book! But I don't think I'm a great enough bookbinder to make one with slots for business cards.
I could make a little box for your business cards though! A clamshell box. Looks like a book but its a box. *sigh* I love those.

lori said...

Then not only do they have the simple basic stuff, but they have to go and stock the pretty springy stuff. Clips decorated with pink stripes and lime green polka dots and stickie notes with girly pictures of purses and shoes on them....what time do they close?

Lucy said...

I hear ya' on the office supply addiction. There should be an anonymous group somewhere that deals with it. Fortunately, I don't work anymore which kept my 'fix' going storng. But I sure have dreams about this part of my house where my computer lives of what else I could do with it.

InkMom said...

I'm with Amber -- for me it's the sheer number and variety of writing implements: felt-tip, ball-point, fountain, mechanical, gel. I have a pen and pencil drawer. An ENTIRE drawer. And my children have been warned away from said drawer by threat of death or, worse, crappy crayons.

Smith Family said...

Great post - it made me smile. :) I love office supply stores too. I have a mom who's house is right up there with the temple in terms of organization, so I have a lot to live up too...I do my best and after almost 15 years of having my own home I can say I'm progressing...slowly... :)

M-Cat said...

Oh how I love a good office supply store. Not sure what it is.... but I could meander for days and days and days. The sticky notes, the highlighters, the pen, the folders, the markers....

Karen said...

Sometimes, when I have a bit of extra time, I like to visit my friend, Staples. I can spend hours there, drooling over organizers and binders. And don't get me started on my love of pens!

Lara said...

You are like my twin--my older, wiser, much funnier than I am, but still addicted to office supplies and dreams of being organized twin.

I scrapbook because that means I can buy pretty paper. And, really, I don't actually scrapbook much. I just buy pretty paper.

And my husband has forbidden me to go to Office Max ever again.

Kara Herron said...

You mean, I'm not the only office-supply-obsessed person out there? I think I'd rather go to Office Max than to Kohl's - Office Max doesn't have those mirrors that make you look fat when you try their merchandise on.

I'm in the process of setting up my home office for a business that I just joined. And even though I'm buried in office supplies that I've bought over the years, I just know that I'll find what I REALLY need if I make a trip down to Office Depot. Seriously, how can I be expected to use "old" stuff?!

Looks like I've got a lunch date with Mr. Depot today - want to come? ;-)

The Crash Test Dummy said...

ha ha ha ha Amen sister. I'm with Melanie. I had no idea I wasn't alone in this bad-boy baskets and bins compulsion.

hee hee hee You crack me up, girlfriend. You really do.

Shelley said...

I think you've opened up a new line of thinking for me. There is a little of that in me....and I don't think I recognized it until you so eloquently scripted it out for me. Maybe there's an AA...for that.

rebecca said...

Heck, don't be so hard on yourself, we all have our quirks/problems/flaws. Frankly, I like yours very much...reminds me much of mine. ;)

Gloria (The Mamafamilias) said...

(Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he owns the Office Depot.)

Well, Dr., I think my obsession began early - when I was in 1st grade I believe. The whole first grade was taken to an auditorium one afternoon, and we watched a movie (it was black and white and it was the kind that the teacher had to thread onto a big huge reel - if we were lucky, it was big and huge because that meant a nice long movie). Anyway, I'm sure this movie was meant to teach us some math - a little girl was sent to the store with some money to buy school supplies. The math was lost on me - but the sight of all of those pencils, erasers, paper, paper clips, etc. has stayed with me for lo, these last 40-something years. I've never gotten over the obsession. And now, they've put the fox in the henhouse at work - I'm in charge of ordering office supplies.

Gloria (The Mamafamilias) said...

And where is this Container Store? I must know - I must, I must.

(And KC Mom - I think you and my daughter may have been twins who were separated at birth somehow)

The Damsel In DisDress said...

I wonder if being a piano teacher has something to do with my paper problem.

Today I fondled an iPad and fantasized that if I scanned all the loose music breeding around MY piano, it would be magically organized and contained and oh! Oh!

Could it be that easy?

Rebecca said...

A hand grenade in a koi pond? How do you come up with this stuff? LOVE IT!

Ah, what is it about every new gadget and organizing thing that makes one feel as if they're organizing just by bringing the poor sucker home? Wow, that was a long sentence.

And as for help, try the 15 minute per day thing that I'm doing at my decluttering blog. After a few years I might have things under control. For now, I'm heading in the right direction. Or, just head to www.flylady.com which is where I get my inspiration.

I am always losing my keys, though. And my bras. I take them off and can't find them, it's awful! Oh, and my wallet, since I carry or don't carry a diaper bag, depending on if I have the baby with me or not. And my shoes. *Sigh* There's no hope for me, is there?

Melanie J said...

Um, just to warn you: I did a post on my deep love of Staples a year or so ago and a little visitor named The American Folder Company paid a visit to my comment trail to extol the virtues of their folders. It's my favorite spam commenter ever and I'll never, ever delete it.

Sher said...

IKEA magazine boxes to file your music? Why didn't I think of that!

I have an ugly gray filing cabinet in my living room that is literally overflowing, plus a diaper box on the floor, also overflowing with music.

I also have like 8 IKEA magazine boxes, which are empty, sitting on top of my kitchen cabinets, acting as my dumb attempt at decor, collecting dust.

You are brilliant, I'm going to rearrange.
....tomorrow.

Lisa Loo said...

5 words.

My daughter works at Staples.

Will you adopt me now?