By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
My life is such a mess that if I ever won the lottery, I’d never collect the money. That’s because my wife, Sue, the kind of person who throws everything out, would inadvertently toss the ticket in the garbage or I, the kind of person who saves everything, would put it somewhere in the house and never find it again.
My special hiding place would be either my office, which is a pigsty; my bureau, which might contain the remains of Jimmy Hoffa; my closet, which has no skeletons but plenty of dust balls; or the garage, which looks like a bomb hit it. If you looked in the dictionary under the word "clutter," you would see a picture of one of these four places. Unfortunately, in my house, you couldn’t find the dictionary.
So, in a long-overdue effort to de-clutter my world, I recently went to the Nesconset branch of the Smithtown (N.Y.) Public Library for a program called "De-clutter Your World." It was run by Jennifer Ryan, a certified professional organizer whose company, Create New Order, was founded six years ago to help people like me and the 18 other disorganized souls who attended the program.
One of them was a woman who carries all of her bills in her pocketbook, which she lugged along as proof. "In a strange way, you’re pretty organized," Ryan told the woman, "but your pocketbook is a mess."
Speaking of messes, Ryan said she was once hired by a man whose house was so messy that he couldn’t find the $87,000 he received in an estate clean-out. "He knew it was in there, but he didn’t know where," said Ryan, who unearthed the cash in a storage area.
There are even messes in Ryan’s house, thanks mainly to her 18-year-old daughter. "Her room is such a disaster area that I just close the door," said Ryan, who listened in disbelief as I told her that I once called both the governor’s office and the White House to see if I could get my younger daughter’s room officially declared a disaster area so Sue and I would be eligible for state or federal funds to clean it up.
"What did they tell you?" Ryan asked.
"Close the door," I replied.
I was so impressed with Ryan’s program that I invited her to my house for a consultation, which is part of her service (information is at createneworder.com).
"Here’s my philosophy," I said as Ryan sat at the uncluttered kitchen table with Sue and me. "Men don’t know where anything is. Women do – except if a man asks. Then it’s never there."
"My husband is very structured, but generally speaking, you could be right," Ryan said. "Let’s find out. We’ll do the worst first."
"That’s definitely the garage," Sue said as she led Ryan in there.
"I’m hoping you can help us find $87,000," I said.
"Did you have $87,000 to begin with?" Ryan asked.
"No," I admitted.
"Then I can’t help you find it," she said.
Ryan would have had to do an awful lot of digging because there are still unopened boxes from when Sue and I moved in almost 10 years ago. "That’s nothing," Ryan said. "I had a client with 35 years’ worth of junk."
She waded through the clutter and said, "Buy some shelving, create a hole by moving some of this stuff over, and put the boxes, tools and other stuff on the shelves."
After Ryan saw my office, which she said wasn’t so bad because she could actually walk in without breaking her neck, she suggested shelves, another bookcase and a third filing cabinet.
As for my bureau, which is in the bedroom and contains, among lots of other things, my underwear, Ryan said, "We all have drawers in our drawers. Learn how to fold clothes properly and you’ll be amazed at how much more room you’ll have."
I didn’t come out of the closet because I couldn’t get in there, but Ryan said it wasn’t that terrible, even though I have pants that I got years ago and have never worn. "Give the old stuff to Goodwill or you’ll never get on the cover of GQ," she said.
All in all, Ryan added, there is hope. "You can be saved," she told me. "And if you ever win the lottery, remember where you put the ticket."
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima