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 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