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Celeste's Confessions

"Okay. If I were the extended service warranty for the copy machine, where would I hide?" I asked myself gamely.

In dismay, I looked around me. A higgledy-piggledy panorama greeted my eyes.

I had moved back from an apartment to my parents' home. I'd had to find room for all I owned somewhere. I'd found a place in our recreation room. There was the ping-pong table stacked with my belongings; art supplies, wrapping paper and bows, books, a couple well-used cat toys, and travel literature. Under the tables were boxes stacked with more possessions: kitchenware, high school and college memorabilia, photographs, photography equipment, a couple scrapbooks, a few lost Christmas presents hidden somewhere "safe", bed linens, table clothes, old artwork from my student days, audio cassettes, two ancient computers, outdated clothing dating back to the brief moment in college when I could fit into those slim garments my mother had made, luggage, old Christmas cards, notebooks from classes I'd taken, home-decorating ideas, financial records, and (yes) extended warrantees and receipts. I couldn't even see the ping-pong table anymore, let alone walk around it or use it for a nice game of table tennis. Along the walls, piled as high as the ceiling, were portions of a six-year collection of a weekly magazine (the rest was in my bedroom closet or under my bed) and more boxes.

My new copy machine, a recent purchase for my home graphic arts studio, was on the fritz.

"No problem," I had thought innocently at first. "I have an extended service warranty. I'll take it back and they'll fix it in a jiffy."

All was fine until the person at the desk said I had to have the warranty in hand, along with the sales receipt for the copy machine. Reasonable. My first lighthearted digs through a notebook reserved for receipts turned up nothing. It's true, I hadn't really used it lately, but maybe I'd filed it there. I hadn't.

I gazed at the three-dimensional chaos around the ping-pong table. It was hopeless, but I had to have that service contract! I dove in like a high-platform Olympic diver. A few hours later I came up for air, cursing my packratting habits and empty-handed.

I finally gave up and paid full price for the work on the copy machine. The outlay was a lot more money than it would have cost if I'd been able to find that contract.

Unfortunately, this scenario was turning into the rule rather than the exception. My days were full of frustrations like this. I could never find anything.

It hadn't always been this way.

At one point I'd been very organized, with boxes grouped together as to content, numbered and labeled. There was a master list explaining what was in each box. Everything fit neatly under the ping-pong table with room to spare. When I went through a traumatic period, I hadn't the energy to keep it up and the system fell apart. I had no clue how to get back on track. I needed help.

I came across a blurb on Julie Morgenstern's book Organizing From The Inside Out in December of 2000. It looked good, so I got it.

My future looked better immediately.

Julie's book didn't try to change me into anything. She wanted me to work with my own inclinations and way of thinking rather than impose a system on me. Julie had me focus on what I was doing right, and why, then applying it to the mess. She didn't direct me just get rid of stuff. She told me to give myself access to the things that were truly important in my life. What a change in attitude!

I began to make progress. I started by working in other parts of the house that wouldn't take as much work as the ping-pong table and stood shocked at the result. Within a few hours time, my bedroom had changed from a stockpile of stacked clothes, mail and books to an attractive, restful place to sleep. I eagerly tackled a few more spaces that were bothering me: the hall closet, the bathroom, my computer room... and then the ping-pong table and its environs. It took nearly three weeks to go through my six-year collection of the weekly magazine, but it was GONE.

In the process, I discovered what was genuinely essential to me. I came to the realization that I was blessed with many wonderful possessions, and that I was delighted to share with people who needed them more. I also discovered, on Julie Morgenstern's web site, a bunch of caring, creative, courageous kindred-spirits that I'm honored to call "friends".

I still have a little ways to go (I need to attack my older financial papers), but the end is in sight. I know I'll make it.

Oh, by the way, I found the extended service warranty. Unfortunately, the copy machine was replaced three years before the cleaning spree! Oh well. That missing warranty taught me a lot. Maybe I should be grateful for it.

Celeste [not exactly celestial! ;-)]

[A higgledy-piggledy panorama]

A view from my past: somewhere under this mess is a ping pong table.