January is "Organizing Month". So, it seemed appropriate that I read the book A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman. I was under the impression that this book was about actual CLUTTER - as in all the piles o' crap lounging around my house. As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a family member who has a serious hoarding problem. Serious as in "Oprah Should See Her House" SERIOUS - entire rooms of her house cannot even be accessed because of the clutter and soon, her dining room will be the next victim. So, I have a constant paranoia of getting overwhelmed with junk because I've seen how too easily it can get out of control. I thought this book would be a good way to take a different look at all my stuff. However, this book turned out to be much, much more. Oh sure, it covered good old-fashioned junk, but it also discussed messy ideas, relationships, schedules, traffic patterns, Internet search engines, business strategies, art and even music. It examined ways mess can impact our lives - good and bad.
The authors make the valid point that sometimes, we throw away too much stuff, things that we will regret later not having in our lives. I can't agree more. I have given away things that I wish I had now - things that evoked special memories from particular moments in my life. The authors also make the point that there is a discrimination against messy people and again, I can't agree more. When I look back on my professional life, I remember specifically those co-workers and clients that had atrocious desks with piles of paper teetering close to the brink of disaster - I always thought distastefully what slobs they were. However, some of those very co-workers were some of the brightest and most productive that I have ever worked with - perhaps, they spent more time working and less time procrastinating? Furthermore, the authors examine how mess can affect relationships - and that hit close to home. X is a messy guy, I would prefer things to be more tidy. When we were first married, it was a major problem that had to be worked out. Over the years, we've established ground rules, but realistically, mess sorta rules our roost now. I've learned to be okay with it for the most part and to put my foot down on the certain things that really make my stomach churn.
This book made me look at the mess in my own life and I took stock. What am I okay with? What am I not okay with? Toys littering the living room? I'll live with it. Dishes filling the sink? Never. Piles of paper on my desk? I'll live with it. Mentally keeping track of appointments or the list for the grocery store? Never.
In short (notice how I put this at the end? after the cluttered review?), I liked this book - it made me think. It also forced me reconsider all the things I had considered "messy" and "wasteful". I should note this is a great book for discussion. I highly recommend it for bookclub reading since there is a wealth of points to ponder after reading this book.
And now? I guess I better start on that stack of mail that has been growing for the past 2 weeks. Gulp.