The Fine Line Between Organization and Obsession

F. Scott Fitzgerald“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

Gee, I must have a first-rate intelligence because I do this frequently. I’ll blithely plan to run errands on Saturday morning, all the time being  just as committed to walking on the beach with the family.

Here’s another example, fresh in mind because I spent some time over the holidays cleaning out the attic. Whenever I buy something new, I very carefully save the box it came in. This is so that when we move, I have the box, the Styrofoam inserts, everything I’ll ever need to pack that puppy up and put it in the moving van.

There’s only one flaw with this thinking. The last time we moved was ten years ago. The time before that, 21 years ago. In fact, I’ve had only twelve mailing addresses in my entire life, including college.

Based on Fitzgerald’s theory, it’s a wonder I’m able to function at all, what with thinking I need boxes when I don’t ever actually move.

That’s why, when I climbed up to the attic, I found boxes for appliances that have already died and been given proper burials. In fact, if memory serves … actually, that’s a bad phrase, because at my age, memory doesn’t serve. More frequently, it drops the dishes just as it’s coming out of the kitchen, gets distracted, and leaves the mess for someone else to clean up. But I digress … if memory serves, in some cases, I found boxes for appliances whose replacements had already died and been given proper burials.

I gave myself permission to throw out the boxes in the attic, under the assumption that – if the universe reels and we do move again before another ten years pass – I’ll be able to pack any item appropriately even without its original box. More likely, next time I move, it’ll be to someplace smaller that reeks of sanitary disinfectant, and I’ll just be giving away everything I own anyway.

But once the boxes were broken down, it looked like Santa had been especially generous to us this holiday season. There were so many product boxes in the recycling and so much Styrofoam in the garbage that if the ghost of Thorstein Veblen had happened by, it would have just stood there and cried.

I, on the other hand, am much happier, having given up this particular obsession for organization. Based on Fitzgerald’s definition, however, I have now downgraded myself to a second-rate intelligence. Clearly, you can’t have everything … or the boxes it all came in.



About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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3 Responses to The Fine Line Between Organization and Obsession

  1. Phil says:

    This must be contagious. I too save the boxes, why I don’t really know. At 61, I have had 10 addresses in my life and have been at the last one for 15 years. Now I’m depressed…

  2. says:

    I wonder how far down the line this box saving goes.

    • You mean how small do the boxes get? Small boxes are my wife’s department. We have innumerable small gift boxes packed within one another in a closet. It would be nice if we actually still gave holiday gifts, but we don’t.

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