And Another Thing: On the prospect of organizing

By: Susan Rushton
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Don and I lack organization skills.

I look at that sentence and feel like laughing and crying at the same time. I mean, we’re both grown up. After all, we’ve had a mortgage for 23 years – the perfect mask for adults. It sure looks as if we’re mature. Nobody’d ever think otherwise, just by looking.

I’m here to tell you, we have terrific disguises.

Wouldn’t we have learned the value of filing by now? Well, we have.

No, really. It’s just that we have yet to acquire the very useful and mature habit of eagerly, willingly, quickly and efficiently organizing our tax returns, insurance pa-pers, trust documents, financial statements, wills and health records.

How wonderful to have dinner without gazing at stacks of envelopes one or the other of us has vowed to go through but hasn’t gotten to yet. How handy to want a vital document or piece of information and know exactly where to find it – and find it immediately, the first place we look, without first digging through heaps of folders and mounds of junk mail.

At least I pay the bills on time. I know where those are, always. And I always know when a column is due. And I know when I have scheduled my next appearance on ACTV, and the title of the next Silver Screen movie and when I’ll show it. Because I’m selfish. I like those things.

All that other stuff? I hate looking at it, hate thinking about it.

So I ignore it. Of course the problem with ignoring it? It’s always in front of me, so I’m always thinking about it. Ah, well.

My mother-in-law al-ways insisted she was lazy. She arranged things as she went, so she didn’t have to spend hours making her house look decent. Her house was spotless. Once I didn’t understand. Now I do, I certainly do. Because when I look at this place – stacks of stuff on the stairs, the coffee table, my desk, my extra desk chair, the floor, on and on – I feel so overwhelmed and intimidated that I don’t know where to begin.

I’m not alone, am I? Not alone in this hatred of organizing?

We have this lawyer. When she set up our trust several years ago, she helped us with our wills and our advanced health care directives. She gave us the original documents – an action I should have realized at the time might have been unwise.

Last Wednesday, I phoned her office asking for copies of a couple of documents.

“You have them,” said her assistant. “Our rec-ords show (sure, throw that up in my face) that we gave you copies last July.”

“I know,” I said. “I un-derstand. But I need them again. I was hoping I could come by and get more copies.”

“But you have the originals...”

“I know,” I said. “I understand, but...”

Oh, it’s so nice not to be 15. If I were 15 I would never have made that call, never have gone to her office, never have shown my face.

What an embarrassing situation. The good thing is that even though I was embarrassed, I know I’ll survive. I know this be-cause it’s not the first time I’ve been embarrassed.

Plus now I have those !#$%^&* documents – the copies of which I will undoubtedly find next Tuesday under a pile of folded napkins.

In other news: At least I organize my email. I heard from two people who responded to my last column about books, in which I invited people to let me know what they’re reading and loving.

Sandy Crane writes, “I just completed reading ‘A Good American’ by Alex George. It’s an intergenerational novel of coming to America and becoming American. Begins in 1904 and goes through to Lyndon Johnson.

I really enjoyed it. Did not expect how it ended.”

Sue Nielsen says, “One advantage of a Kindle is that, after reading your column of Sept. 2, I was able to download a book by Spencer Quinn and a sample Nero Wolfe at 1 a.m. (I don’t always read the paper the day it arrives.) I’m looking forward to reading two authors new to me. Thanks for the suggestions. Next visit to the library I’ll look for paper and/or audio versions.”

Thanks for writing! Anyone else?

Reach Susan Rushton at