Judith Martin is organized. Perfectly organized. She always has been.
And then there is Sheppard.
Rather than live by the dictate "a place for everything and everything in its place," I choose to follow a simple set of rules:
1. If a surface is flat, pile things on it.
2. If a pile grows to more than one foot tall, start a new pile.
As a self-appointed spokesperson for the cluttered majority, I offer a plan for living free from the tyranny of files, diaries, and pocket calendars.
Have only one calendar (you probably got at least one, featuring gnomes or cats or chocolate, for Christmas. Check it once each morning and do not worry about forgetting an appointment. If it is really important (your wedding, your turn to drive thecarpool) of if money is involved (your divorce, the orthodontist) you can be certain that someone will call to remind you of the obligation.
Money comes in three forms: cash, checks and credit cards. Each is easy to keep track of. You have no more chsh when you reach into your wallet and come up with lint. Your checks are no good when you receive a letter other than your statement from your bank. Your credit cards are useless when a 16-year-old clerk at the drugstore gleefully announces over the store's loudspeaker system: "Mr. Jenkins, we have a Mastercharge card that is on The List."
There is also no need to keep a financial summary to know where your money went each year. Taxes, housing, food and automobile take 90 percent of your income. The other ten percent would not be any fun if you had to keep track of it.
1. Buy it if you like it, can afford it, and it does not give you hives.
2. Do not buy it if it is turning green, must be purchased on lay-away, or contains additives with more than four syllables or two hyphens.
3. Clipped recipes should be used as bookmarks, preferably in cookbooks.
4. Cents-off coupons should be stacked wherever convenient. When young children come to visit, keep them occupied by having them discard outdated coupons.
5. Rather than keep a journal of what was served to whom at what party, you can tell if you once served a certain dish to a guest when he or she mentions that "the seafood casserole is even better this time than the last two times I was here."
I will not venture any suggestions on how women should keep track of a wardrobe. For men, if it wearn out, replace it; if you get it as a gift, savor it; if you're single, have enough clothing to go two weeks between trips to the laundry.
Any friends I have in the area are listed in the telephone book. I'm not important enough to know unlisted people. I keep track of out-of-town acquaintances in a thin blue book that the telephone company used to give free for the asking. Maybe they still do. Maybe clams have legs.
Incoming letters that are not important enough to answer immediately go into one of the aforementioned piles. You'll know it's time to write someone when something reminds you of that person; e.g. seeing a derelict in the street and saying, "Gee, I really should write Uncle Eddie."
Anything you might need when you travel is easily available at your destination except for prescription drugs, your credit cards and a reservation. Other items might cost more if purchased away from home, but it is less than the cost to one's sanity of trying to make certain that one has everything one needs.
Clippings about hotels and restaurants should be filed the same as clipped recipes. Let's face it, the chance that you'll ever visit that Chinese restaurant in Kansas City is about the same as the chance that you'll ever cook that crown of roast lamb for 16.
If your life story is important to you, write it yourself and make sure it's your version of the truth. If having a record of your life is no more important to you than the amount of shredded lettuce on your Big Mac, why make things easier for some graduate student who will someday do a PH.D. thesis on your life when all the other dissertation subjects are exhausted? Besides, it's so much fun if, after your biography has been written, someone finds a letter hidden behind a bureau that indicates it was really you who turned Hamilton Jordan on to amaretto and cream.
FRANKLIN'S LAWS OF ORGANIZATION
There is a set of laws -- Franklin's Laws -- that puts things into a great perspective. Franklin is a reporter I once worked with. At least I think I worked with him, since he never came out from behind his desk which was blocked on all four sides by piles of papers, reports, clippings, and other miscellany (he disdained the one-foot rule). I wish I could give you Franklin's Laws, but the truth is I never saw him and his telephone was unlisted. He is a real pro, though, and to see that desk of his is to bring a tear of pride to one's eye.
A FINAL THOUGHT
This treatise on organization is not as detailed as Ms. Martin's, but I seem to have misplaced a pile that I think contains some of my notes.