My sister Terri used to tell people that I had an “organized mess” in my living space, and this was a term a lot of people thought of as an oxymoron, or perhaps an impossibility. But it’s true, or it used to be: I could generally find whatever I was looking for in among my heaps and piles.
When I started at Pat’s, the namesake founder was like that too. She didn’t have much of a filing system, except in her head. To look for a screen could take all day, but if you asked Pat where it might be, she’d think for a second, then direct you to the “top shelf back by the bathroom,” and sure enough, there would be the screen you needed.
As she got sicker from cancer, finding screens that way was no longer viable, and ultimately we went to an electronic database, which works as long as an unnamed someone (ahem) stays current on inputting screens to the database.
I haven’t gone digital at home, mostly because there just isn’t the need, and the number of people impacted is generally limited to no more than two. And, while in recent years some parts of the house have become more “mess” and less “organized,” I still generally have been able to locate items I want, when I want them.
Until we started moving. And you could predict this with any move, but here’s the main problem: we really haven’t started moving, and still I can’t find a dang thing.
Every weekend Lynn and I have Plans. And every weekend, fractions of those plans get accomplished. The accomplishments focus generally on the new construction, which has more urgency attached to it — at least for now — than anything here at the current house. Painting, for instance, needs to be done before flooring (ordered but not yet here) goes down.
And painting is taking forever, even though we’re not doing most of it. So far, I have no plans to do any of it, although Lynn keeps thinking it will be “fun.” But “fun” also equals “way more time than I thought it would,” and so empty boxes keep materializing in our current living room, with less and less likelihood of ever getting filled.
And yet. Without much being boxed up, and nothing moved from the garage, I still have been frustratingly unable to find a single darn thing I want.
We did — okay, we mostly hired someone to do — some home improvement projects a year ago, and in this fervor of projectifying, I kept going to the hardware store and buying tools I didn’t need and would never use. I left the sander new in its box, hovering on the newly-uncovered wood floor in the living room over a tendril of a wood with an unfortunate tendency to catch people and animals as they walked past. Should I return it? Should I hang onto it? The debate lasted until the 60-day return period expired, so now I am the proud owner of a sander. I wish I knew where it was.
I also bought a chalk line for purposes at the new house that never really worked out, so it has been sitting around, waiting to find a new purpose in life. And finally it had one: Lynn is painting small stripes around the perimeter of one room in the new house. I was very excited: my purchase hadn’t been in vain after all.
I can’t find the chalk line. I located the chalk, bought at the same time, but not the line. I looked in the garage. I went to our storage shed. The chalk line has vanished. So Lynn bought a new one. After this week, we will probably never need a chalk line again, and I am operating on the assumption that somewhere, some day, we will uncover the original line, and then we’ll have two to take up space in our new garage.
When yesterday’s stripe experiment turned out more wobbly than expected, we decided we needed something firmer for both measuring and setting the lines. At which point I recalled buying a square, again, brand-new and never-used. And it must be with the chalk line, because I can’t find it, either.
For someone who is used to finding what he wants, this is very frustrating. The notion of buying the same things we already have (and have never used) is galling. But looking for them should probably start with a complete scouring of the garage, and here are the problems with that:
Weather. (You thought I’d go for distance, didn’t you?)
This last weekend I had Plans to clean and sort, but instead I went to two graduation parties, a choir concert and Sunday breakfast. And helped Lynn mark and tape for stripes, a project consuming far more time than expected.
To really clean the garage is going to require emptying it, which is how I sorted one corner to locate the battery charger (now in a heap on top of the piano because I figured I’d need it again soon, even though I haven’t). And I could empty the garage, but not while it’s raining/snaining/snowing, as it is supposed to do again today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
(It’s not just me, in case you’re wondering. Everywhere I went this weekend, people were wondering if summer is really coming this year. Maybe on a Tuesday. Just not this Tuesday.)
So the garage remains a snarled mess, and I can’t find anything that was there or inside the house that should have been in the garage. I am trying to be zen about this, because of course stuff is going to go missing in a move, but we’re on Month Three of a move with no clear end in sight — and we haven’t moved very much yet. If I’m missing all this stuff now, what happens this summer, when everything I own is in a box in one of three locations?
The saddest loss for me so far are a pair of license plates. I have gone in twice now to register my “new” truck. The first time I went without insurance; on the second trip, a woman who looks suspiciously like the woman who used to be a rare helpful clerk at the City Market pharmacy asked if I wanted regular plates, and then suggested I might be able to use my old plates.
There’s been a gap of over a year since I had a licensed truck, but the thought that I could perhaps resuscitate those plates was galvanizing. Now that Colorado is a three-letter license state, and those letters are issued randomly, plates with the old two-letter, county-assigned system are highly valued. My plates went one step further: they were the same number as the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
I didn’t realize that for many years, and it’s not something I actively sought, but once you know your license plate is 1701, same as Jim Kirk’s ship, how could you give a number like that up?
But I don’t know where the physical plates are, and until I locate them, I don’t stand a chance at getting the number back. The only other option would be to request a vanity plate with those same numbers — or I just relegate it to the expanding Trunk o’ Good Times and move on with some nondescript number I’ll never remember.
I keep putting off my third trip to the county, thinking that miraculously my plates will materialize in the garage. So far, though, the garage has been nothing but a black hole with little hope of recovery. I did find the battery charger, so that should give me some hope, but if the sun doesn’t shine soon, I fear all hope will be lost.
John Denver, two days in a row! Sometimes you gotta go where the road leads you.