It’s a perennial New Year, New You topic: how to organize your possessions. Real Simple’s January issue promises a year of organized living, starting with your kitchen cupboards, and moving on to a new hot spot every month. The reason for devoting so much real estate to organizing? As the organizing expert (whose name I can’t recall because — irony alert! — I just purged my old magazines) noted, when you look in your cupboard and see mismatched mugs, it will make you feel, on some level, like “my life is a mess.”*
This narrative — your possessions as metaphor for life — is a common one. I suspect it’s why every women’s magazine has at least one decluttering feature per month. The promise is that if your junk drawer is organized, your life will be organized. Outer order leads to inner calm.
It makes sense, and the human brain likes stories that make sense. My life was a wreck, I got rid of the unmatched mugs, and every time I opened my cupboard, I felt a sense of Zen. Soon my whole life was Zen, too. My children magically got their own breakfast each morning with no complaining and tromped obediently to the school bus right on time. We spend much time organizing our emails under the same assumption. If my inbox is clean, my work life will be a well-ordered experience.
But is it actually true? I’m not so sure. There are other things a cupboard full of mismatched mugs could say about your life, other than “my life is a mess.” For instance, it could say that you’re so busy doing important things — building a career, raising a family, helping your community — that your brain doesn’t concern itself much with the colors of your mugs. Indeed, you spend very little time in your kitchen cupboards in general. Your mugs function as a vehicle for transferring your coffee from the pot into your mouth in the morning, fueling you up before you go conquer the world. That’s it. Indeed, given the amount of time that creating and maintaining a perfectly matched kitchen requires, I’d be more inclined to think one’s life is a mess if matched mugs rise to the top of the priority list. What are you avoiding to devote your limited time on this planet to the pursuit of chucking that photo mug of your kids your spouse made on Shutterfly?
Your cupboard is not a metaphor for life. It’s just a cupboard and a mug is just a mug.
In other news:
Sheila from The Deliberate Reader reviews What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, writing that “At $2.99 I think it’s an inspiring and motivating read, perfect if you’re looking for a jump-start to fresh habits in the new year.”
*I think this is the exact quote. It really bugs me not to know for sure. Guess I should have held on to that issue!