Getting Organized In A Disorganized World

I have come to realize that it is very difficult to get organized in what really is a very disorganized world.

I consider myself a Type A-Lite.  I prefer an organized desk, office, home etc.  But I can tolerate a certain degree of disorganization – for a while; the duration of my patience is directly proportional to the degree of disorganization, how long it prevails and how much it directly affects me.

For example, in my home I am directly impacted by disorganization. I have to look at it and live with it, so it gets my immediate and full attention.  So if the dishes stay in the sink longer than one day, it’ll get my attention.  If the house remains un-vacuumed for more than a week, same thing. If the cat litter box doesn’t get cleaned twice a day -  well in that case the cats will let us know about that.

The thing is that, over the years, in my house I have learned to live with others who don’t always have the same level of appreciation for organization as I have.  I used to push, prod, beg and badger my housemates (i.e., family) to develop more highly-attuned organizational skills; some of it stuck, some didn’t.

After a while, knowing that compromise is the key to successful politics, whether in the home, office or world, I decided that I would continue to lead by example and use a more deliberative approach.  That seemed to work much more effectively and my blood pressure came down as well.

In my office, which is part of my house, I have more control of organization.  Well, it’s really my office, music room, sound studio and storage room.  So I have a merging of different organizational needs. 

I have my guitars, sound systems and equipment and other assorted music-related things in one quadrant.  In another is my desk and writing related stuff.  Another quadrant is my “guest” accommodations – a comfortable chair and a side table for coffee or other drink.  The fourth quadrant is a catch-all, “I love me” area with important photos, my eagle collection, assorted song books, my camera equipment and myriad other items important to me.

I should mention that my office is only about 10 by 12 feet with two storage closets, so it takes a great deal of consistent organizational finesse to keep each quadrant in check.

I would like to have a clean desk, but someone once told me that a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, so I am good with a bit of disorganization here. 

The trouble is, I am the sort of person who needs to see things in order to keep them in my field of operational awareness.  If I have something important to do but I stuff the associated material away in a drawer, I very likely will forget about it indefinitely, or at least until next time I open the drawer – or until a deadline is missed (apologies to my editor).

As a result, the surface of my desk consists of neatly piled stacks, organized by order of importance – which can change from hour to hour.  I rarely miss a deadline or get behind by doing this, but because of it my desk is not a glossy, waxed surface clear of imperfections; well it is but it’s underneath all the stacks so you wouldn’t know it.

So I have my little stacks and they sometimes get merged into one another as I’m working, but rarely does that cause me a problem.  The casual observer might think: Hmmm this guy looks like he needs an intervention, but it’s not so!  It’s just the method I must use to stay organized and on top of things.

But from time to time I’ll stop what I’m doing to regroup and reorganize.  I have my way of doing it so that it’s quick, easy and usually pretty painless. 

My wife and I have very different concepts of getting re-organized.  Where I like to plan it out, at least in my head, and have a certain step-by-step way of reorganizing, she has more of a pile it up in the middle of the room and go through it from there method .  Neither one of us is wrong or right, it’s just different approaches.

I happen to think my way works better – for me, but maybe not for her, so it’s all good.

Her method is good in that it’s like starting over and you can implement new ways of staying organized; the problem is that it often takes much longer than originally planned and will require some sort of new shelving, storage or ingenious new organizational device.

My calendar is a critical part of my overall organizational plan. I have my 12-month desk calendar on which I can plan things out indefinitely; and, I have an 18 x 24-inch monthly dry-erase calendar right in front of me, elevated on a pedestal, where I post the current month’s events.

This dry-erase board has been my daily reminder and has saved me from many a missed appointment or deadline. 

I’ve also began to use my phone as part of my plan, adding reminders that pop up days or hours before a deadline or appointment.  I admit I haven’t been as diligent with this part of my organizational retinue as I should be, but it too have saved me on numerous occasions. 

I know we reportedly live in a “paperless” world, but I still gravitate to the written form of reminders.  Yes, I admit, I still use sticky-pads and note paper to keep things in the light of day.  Yes, my desk is a small sea of note pads, each with a different level of reminder.

I have been known to shuffle through the notes several times a day, just to make sure I’m not missing an important event, or phone call, or deadline.  I frequently tape a note to my phone, or to my wallet, or to my forehead – kidding about that one, they don’t stick too well…whatever it takes to keep me organized.

It’s all part of trying to organize my little world amidst a vast universe that prefers chaos. 

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Bay Minette, AL; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email