A Tale of Two Closets: A Personal Post

Oct 15, 2014

Loyal readers, you know I mostly focus on YOU. But occasionally I give you a peek into my crazy life of high travel, two full-time working parents, two kids under the age of four, and two cats.

I’ve been reading this book called A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, and it has me really thinking about the role of order in our lives. Here’s a quote from the introduction:

It’s time that we take an open-minded look at messiness in all aspects of our lives and institutions, and consider where it might best be celebrated rather than avoided.

I can really get behind this as it relates to my own creative processes, and more specifically, my writing process.  I do a fair bit of writing– book, blog, articles for Edutopia and other publications– yet every time I carefully plot out a detailed plan for one of these projects, I fail.  Since you know me by now, this may seem counterintuitive, right?

Well, let me confess something. . .  I have no clear plan to complete book number two. Though I’m very capable of planning, my time to write is messier. I am often struck with inspiration late at night, after sharing a moment with a client or reading something interesting. This is all fine for me.

The issue is that I have to involve other people like my book editor, peer reviewers, designers, photographers, and production support. And if I want a good product, I can’t very well dump things on them last minute, especially 100,000 words.

So, here’s my takeaway after reading this book: Sometimes you are organized by design and sometimes you are messy by design.

People often think, “Oh, Maia, your house must be all Container-Store-ized and perfectly neat all the time.” Not true actually. Some parts are very Together and some parts are not. On purpose.

Exhibit A: My linen closet. It is HYPER-organized by design. I put time and effort into this masterpiece (or at least two shelves of it).

Before you go judging me, let me tell you WHY I invested the time and money in plastic drawers. I have a SHARP aversion to holding a feverish infant while not being able to locate the thermometer. I personally find this very stressful. Or going to the pool and realizing we are out of sunscreen. This is a huge fun-suck for me. Therefore, I decided it was in my best interest to have all of these dratted things very easily accessible.

Exhibit B: My office closet. IT IS A DISASTER. And it has been this way since we moved into our house a year ago. And I 98% don’t care because there is no real reason for me to organize it. Therefore, it will remain exactly as is for the foreseeable future. It will be messy by design.


I have found that I don’t lose any time or have any stress when I need to root around a bit for wrapping paper, envelopes, or my workout gear. It does me no good to bother folding my exercise clothes when I can just shove them into those cheap cubbies. And as long as my suitcase remains packed, I’m just going to shove it in there and pull it out each week when I travel.

Planning and organizing has benefits — big ones. But so does messiness. It’s the same reason I like to keep my weekends relatively unplanned but some of my cupboards highly labeled. As long as I am clear on which methodology I am applying when and why, then this is a good thing. It is all about intentionality.

How about you? Are you messy by design in any aspects?

P.S. Of course, if someone wanted to come fix Exhibit B for me (free of charge), I’m open to that!