Squawk Radio

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Eloisa on the Meaning of Life

It has taken me a few years to discover but (how lucky for you all!) I am here, now, to tell you...

THE MEANING OF LIFE.

The way to happiness, the path to nirvana, the one true joy in life.

(No, Christina, that's not it!)

True happiness comes from one thing: controlling chaos. I meant to add an illustration of my desk to this powerful statement, but I can't get my digital camera to work because it says a "file is unavailable" -- which is a perfect example of my point.

Everywhere I turn, I'm buffetted by chaos. My desk is a welter of papers. Folders are upright, sideways, stacked in piles. There's also an interesting acorn (by right of being yellow) that my son brought me yesterday, a chocolate version of the RITA (the prize for best romance that I would like to win if Connie stops snatching them all up), a pot of half-dead but not quite there flowers and a huge sign that says "Interview 8 pm tonight." It's a live radio interview all the way from Australia and I'm terrified I'll forget all about it. My bookshelf is a wilderness of books to be read, books given to me that will never be read, chicken paraphernalia, various plaques and honors and a box of birthday ribbon. In fact, my life is a wreck. And yet I have bought every organizing book on the market. I spend hours filing (when I have hours). I am lucky enough to have someone to clean my house for me (so the piles aren't dusty). And yet...chaos.

I've figured out a few ways to control the hundreds of things that mothers, wives, and working women have to do, and I thought I'd offer them up, in the hopes that all of you will have even better tips! So:

Eloisa's Organization Tips

1) Make a To-Do list. Put everything on it. This will be so frightening that it will give you heart palpitations, so find a tiny yellow sticky and write three things on it that you have a reasonable chance of doing today. If the big list says "write novel," the little ones can say "write 5 pages." Cross off the little items as you do them: that way you have a sense of accomplishment.

2) Make another list. This one is called Goals. Make the first one, "Simplify," and go on from there. This is kind of a touchy-feely list and can include things like "have a baby before my ovaries go into mothballs" or "cheer up the family so we're not all so cross." Add one more: "See my girlfriends more often."

3) Throw out a lot of stuff. I have discovered that life is easier if you actually don't keep a paper trail. Or a clothing trail either (by which I mean those pants that haven't fit since 1987, but your daughter might like them, or you might fit into them--you won't, she won't, and Goodwill exists for pants like those).

4) Buy a lot of plastic containers and put things in them. Don't make the mistake of buying transparent containers -- you don't want to see what's inside. After a year, if you haven't opened a container at all, you should feel free to throw it out.

And the biggest one of all, and the realization I am really really trying to live by: when you're lying around in the funeral home and somebody is tucking you into a coffin lined with baby blue satin, are you really going to be thinking: "I should have been a more organized person? I should have worked harder? I should have pulled myself up by my bootstraps?"

My suspicion is that I'm going to lie there thinking: 1) I always knew my husband had bad taste and would put me in blue satin, and 2) I wish I'd hugged him more, and 3) I wish I'd hugged all my friends more, and 4) I wish I'd spent more time admiring oddly colored acorns that a child found on his walk and thinks I need on my desk.

Who's figured out some other tips for surviving life in an organized, successful manner -- for anything from cooking to housekeeping to writing to working to raising children?
Eloisa James, 8:24 AM
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