A Look At Life: Getting Organised

2nd March 2012

Getting Organised…

Clare Finney

Those who can, and those who cannot. Those who love, and those who hate. Those with loaded guns, and those, as Clint Eastwood memorably pointed out, who dig.

Since the beginning of time we’ve been dividing the world into two kinds of people – so much so, that it becomes impossible to think of any differential that’s not a cliché. Yet, as I gossiped with a friend some months back, we came across a formula so comprehensive, so comically foolproof, that it seemed a pity not to try it for size.

Speaking – with some despair – of a particularly domesticated girlfriend, I began to describe her as “the sort of person who makes dinner in big batches and then freezes meal-sized portions…”, when my friend stopped me. “Say no more. I know exactly who you mean”.

I meant, she predicted sympathetically, the sort of person who has their life in boxes: tupperwear boxes, which she bulk buys from Lakeland. While the rest of us are stashing leftover pizza in the same takeaway box it arrived in, she Click-n-Snaps her bolognese, labels it and dates it – and if she has a takeaway it’s because it’s been planned and in the diary for weeks, not because there’s nada in the larder. When I was jamming solid soup in the microwave, she’d have got it out the night before to defrost. When I was spattered with tomato, she was wearing an apron.

We went on in this vein, cackling conspiratorially over weekly shopping lists and colour-coded sandwich bags – and, as we did, we realised that this typecasting operates beyond the kitchen too. Who keeps a birthday book, lest Facebook fail her? Who buys files for ‘personal admin’, which they actually use?

Wander round any stationery store or department and you’ll find so-called ‘organisers’ everywhere: cook’s diaries, travel journals, even logbooks in which gardeners are to record their seedlings. But while my friend and I get given such as these, and pass them on to aunties, freezer lady uses them and profits by it. It’s enough to make a woman weep with frustration.

In no time at all the handy tag ‘freezer lady’ had become a byword for all things excessively organised – from washing whites separately from light colours, to buying Christmas presents before the middle of December. It was amusing, sure, yet when I really stopped to think about it, I realised that the definition, the distinction, lay not so much in what she did as in what I didn’t do. Because I was systematically failing to be organised, I felt the need to undermine those who were – even though applying any one of freezer lady’s principles to my own life would improve it immeasurably.

Cooking enough Bolognese sauce for several nights would almost certainly be better for me than ordering Chinese. Filing my bank statements in order is preferable to stashing them, together with insurance papers, recipe clippings and old birthday cards under my bed. Deep down, I know I’ll never attain the level of efficiency necessary to be a freezer type of person – but I’d be lying if I said each new year that I didn’t resolve to try.

Which brings me to my final point, the one about spontaneity, or living the life that comes to you as opposed to the one you’ve planned. In the few short weeks that I maintained my pledge – writing labels, stapling recipes, filing bills – it was a relief to feel on top of things, yet while my life looked better, I was enjoying myself less. Held hostage to the organiser, I eschewed anything last minute. Held hostage to defrosting meals I went out less. Of course I saved some money, and panicked less about my tax return, but in the process I lost something of myself.

I’m not freezer lady. I use Tupperware for make up. I like arriving home at midnight and eating cheddar out the fridge. It may take me hours to locate an obscure official form, but in the process I’ll discover forgotten letters and a long-lost recipe for cheesecake. I don’t spend days filing things I probably won’t ever need again.

In short, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are organised, and thrive on it, and those who live, somewhat precariously, on the edge…

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