December 23, 2013
My brain reached its saturation point fifteen years ago; unfortunately, it was about five years before my retirement date. Lesson plans, parent activities in the evenings, organizing the yearly Mary Ingles Festival in town—my plate was piled so high that I couldn’t keep track of everything in the heap. So I did what Bonnie does to maintain her sanity: I made a to-do list. I recoiled at the idea at first. It seemed much more adventurous just to deal with life as it happened. But I could see that I couldn’t put it off any longer. Organization at work was a must.
Maybe the organization bug would spread to my tool area as well. The last time it went around, I put everything into buckets, boxes, and bags in the garage. So much handier than having them in buckets, boxes, and bags in the basement, attic, and car, and laying outside rusting away.
Even though my tools were (mostly) still in the garage, some remained difficult to find. One day I spent an hour looking for my tin snips before giving up and ruining a perfectly good pair of scissors cutting sheet metal. That was the day that “Organize tools” made its way to my new to-do list.
However, the huge task sat on the list undone. The bug was slowly becoming dormant. Finally, I tired of transferring “Organize the tools, dummy!” from one week’s list to the next and decided that I could procrastinate no longer.
The big day arrived. I began by hauling all of the buckets, boxes, and bags of tools and parts out onto the driveway. Then I built shelves and put up pegboard. The urgency of this task was made even more apparent as I bent another butter knife driving in a screw. I had to stop twice to run out in the driveway and shoo off motorists who had stopped and gotten out of their cars to look through my stash. It took some doing, but I finally assured them that this was not a yard sale, and that even if it was, they, like myself, wouldn’t be able to find anything anyway.
When I was ready to move the tools to the garage, I realized that I would have to develop a classification system. Rats! After an hour and a headache, I had my categories resolved: things with holes, things with blades, pointy things, and hammers and wrenches. Other tools, like the tin snips I had just unearthed, stumped me until I realized that I could classify them as a cross-category. As I hung the tools one by one on the pegboard, I traced an outline of each implement with a Sharpie. Wait until Bonnie sees this! On the shelves I used my handy label maker, which only took me a half hour to find. No categories were designated for the shelves, unless you call things-that-there-is-no-way-to-hang a category.
As I stood gazing at my work very late that evening, Bonnie slipped quietly beside me, both of us in genuine awe at my workshop. Always the practical one, she admired the black outlines of each prized implement. Her amazed look indicated that she had not been aware of this side of me. To tell you the truth, neither had I. Let the projects begin.
Productive months passed by. One day Bonnie needed a wrench for some home repair. The job required a more substantial tool than anything from her pretty, petite (and off-limits-to-me) powder blue toolkit. I wasn’t around for her to ask for a wrench, but then she remembered her toolman’s recently organized workshop. She excitedly ran down to the basement, opened the door to the garage, and reached toward the pegboard for the wrench. All she grasped was air. It looked as if the CSI team had been there. Precise outlines showed where every tool used to hang. The only survivor was the tin snips.
At our Christmas Open House that year, somehow the topic of repairs came up. That led to tools. And that led to . . . you guessed it. Bonnie related her missing-wrench story to Arlene, and the two of them cracked up. In fact, considering how long and hard they laughed about my failed plan, I sampled the punch again to find out if someone had spiked it.
So my area was a little messy again. At least everything was (mostly) still in the garage, not in the basement, attic, and car, and laying outside rusting away. At least I would have the Sharpie outlines in place when I cleaned up. At least the tin snips were still hanging.
More recently, I decided to test my organizing skills on a new venture: backpacking. After 10 or 15 experimental trips, I finally learned what I needed to pack. I eventually came up with a reproducible checklist of supplies so that I wouldn’t have to keep reinventing it. On my last trip I had everything I needed. Note to self: find a way to put the next thing I will use in the top of the pack instead of the bottom. Another thing for my to-do list. Wait—maybe I can draw the shape of the hiking gear on the outside of the pack and hook them there. No, scratch that. They will just end up back in the mess inside, and Bonnie and Arlene will have another good belly laugh when they see my pack.
Oh well, I am making progress. Occasionally, though, I lose the to-do list, so I’m thinking of putting up a bulletin board for it. Bonnie still won’t let me touch her little blue toolkit. Let’s see . . . those tin snips are pretty heavy. Maybe I can drive a nail with them.