What to do when a carefully organized system collapses? Do you roll up your sleeves and do it all again, or put your hands down and let the metaphorical jungle vines take over the metaphorical house of order?
It is important to practice good mental habits before times of stress. Be kind to your brain and eliminate as many decisions from its to-do list as you reasonably can.
Recently, I plugged a USB stick with all my tedious photos into my computer. When I imported them to my MacBook, the photos weren’t showing up in their elaborately created folders, but by date. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get my folder organization to stay put. The photos on my computer are now messy, one of the many reasons I don’t like iPhoto at all.
I had to decide whether to repeat the agonizing task of organizing 9,000 digital photos or just forget it all and hope that I could find a photo if I needed it by remembering the approximate date it was taken. I decided not to redo the organization. I just couldn’t justify the hours it was going to take to organize the photos, the majority of which I will probably never see again anyway.
When things break down in the organization, it’s usually in the tech or paper realm. Technology is changing so quickly – duh. Anytime there’s a software update or you change the type of device you’re using (Apple to an Android phone, for example), you may need to reorganize or relearn something, like the terrible latest version of iPhone calendar. Spending a lot of time organizing digital content is probably not a good investment.
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I just read an article about Warren Buffet, the iconic billionaire who has lived in the same house for 60 years in Nebraska and does not attend any of the usual constant meetings, constant expenses and constant work of typical billionaires. He won’t go into space, on the one hand.
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Buffet does not have a computer in his office. He does not have a smartphone. He never spent time learning new technologies because he recognized early on that things like software would change regularly, requiring a hamster wheel to learn and relearn, which he said is a huge waste. of time. Rather, it invests in reading and thinking more deeply about larger issues, knowledge that will last a lifetime. It was such an “aha!” time to read this, but of course investing time in something that will become obsolete doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I would like to be as clear and focused on priorities and values as Warren Buffet but alas! I wasted countless hours on trivial activities like making super specific email file folders that I had to redo when switching from PC to Mac. I sat on planes organizing and rearranging the notes on my smartphone into categories when I could have read “War and Peace”.
And then there is the music. How much time did I spend sorting CDs alphabetically in binders? And later, how long did I spend downloading all my CDs to one of the very first iPods before it died? This debacle was particularly disheartening. I started logging out of my CD collection that day as if he had cheated on me or had a terminal illness.
When cars stopped having CD players, I gave up my CDs. I quit Apple Music and resigned myself to Spotify and podcasts for entertainment. I have some resentment against Apple and its devious, serpentine ways, which always change the tech on me. Like Eve in Heaven, I have a love / hate affair with Apple. Still, I’m not such a Luddite that I’m going to give up my iPhone.
The moral of the story is not to get too attached to your digital organization. Keep it as loose as possible because technology is guaranteed to change and our organization does not always survive the transition. It’s true that adaptability helps our brains stay young, but it’s not a bad idea to keep candy and petty cash nearby to bribe a youngster to help you out. Or keep in mind someone old, like Warren Buffet, who doesn’t care at all.
Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in Napa Valley. For more information on its services, call 707-738-4346 or visit houseinorder.com.