Thursday, June 07, 2007


Today things started to feel like they were going back to normal. I only had one Volunteer session to teach and I was able to get a lot taken care of as far as my contract goes. I even had time to take the client folders that we get and put them into well organized sectioned and pronged folders so they can easily be looked at by auditors. I had two groups of folders, ones with all the necessary information already in them and some that needed me to put in the signature page that certifies if a client meets contract requirements. If some things are missing here and there it could be ok as long as the signature page is there and completed fully.

I finished the first group of folders and went to grab the signature pages that I keep in a folder on the right-hand corner of my desk to get the second grou going. They weren’t there. I decided they must be under some other papers so I looked all over my desk. They were nowhere to be found. The folders had the signature pages of all potential clients for the contract from April to the present. They represented at least thirty people toward the 95 person contract goal. If I lost that many clients there would be no way that I would meet my contract requirements.

I tore my office apart. I looked in other offices that I occasionally visited even though I knew I would never take my signature pages with me. I thought about what I was going to say to my supervisor. I thought about what I was going to say to my contact in Springfield. I thought about crawling under my desk to hide.

Hours later, while talking on the phone, I looked to my left. There, in the file pockets hanging on my wall were the very folders I was looking for. It came flooding back to me. I remembered cleaning my desk and realizing that I didn’t want to put the pages away but needed to make some room. I remembered noticing the file pockets on the wall that I never ever use and thinking that it would be a good time to start using them. I remembered putting the files there, in plain view, at arm’s length. I breathed again.

I am one of those people who lives well with clutter. I understand my clutter and know where things are within it. It makes sense to me. There is a certain method to it. Give me a stack of papers a foot high and I’ll know where in that stack the thing I need to find is. Not that I habitually keep foot tall stacks on my desk but you get the picture. It’s when I put things away that they get lost.

And now, because my Mom asked for it and I sometimes do what my Mom wants, here is a description of “The Jar Method”. There are tons of versions of “The Jar Method” out there but this is the one we use in class. The rocks can be used to represent all kinds of things depending on what point you are trying to make.

1. Get a large jar. This jar represents the time you have available in life.
2. Get some large rocks- These represent the big things that you have to do in life
3. Get some pebbles- These represent the things you enjoy doing
4. Get some sand- This represents all the little things you have to do
5. Have some water on hand- This represents the extra mess

Fill your jar with large rocks until you can’t fill anymore. Your jar is now full with major and urgent events. Add your pebbles to the jar and shake the jar so they fill in all the cracks between the large rocks. This shows how much fun you can still fit in life when you deal with the big things first. Then pour in some sand it will seep to the bottom filling all the empty space just as all the little things can be fit into your life when you manage your time well. Imagine picking up your jar and noticing how much it weighs. Then pour in the water and watch how much heavier it becomes. The water represents all the ways you allow stress seep in and weigh you down.

Now think about doing this in the reverse order. If you filled your jar with water first it is likely that you could fit a decent amount of sand inside. You might even get in a pebble or two. However, when you try to add large rocks, they aren't going to fit. Even if you eliminated the water, you can’t fit many large rocks into a jar filled with sand and pebbles. Keeping this in mind will help you decide what tasks in life you should tackle first so that you have room for everything you need to accomplish.

1. I’ll do anything/ For my sweet sixteen/ And I’d do anything/ For little runaway child

2. Though you may not drive/ A great big Cadillac/ Gangsta whitewalls/ TV antennas in the back. Be Thankful, not by Curtis Mayfield or Massive Attack (who is it??). Partly identified by Ern

3. This here’s a cheer for all the fellas/ Trying to do what those ladies tell us/ Get shot down cause you’re overzealous/ Play hard to get females get jealous. Bust A Move, Young MC. Identified by my parents.

4. People are strange/ When you’re a stranger/ Faces look ugly/ When you’re alone. People are Strange, The Doors. Identified by Lizza

5. Growing up it was just me and my mom against the world/ And all my sympathies were with her/ When I was a little girl


Lizza said...

I'm a cluttery person too! I'm glad you found your files though. I also enjoyed learning about the Jar Method, thanks for sharing it. It sure is something to think about.

#4: People Are Strange, by the Doors. Also covered by Echo and the Bunnymen in The Lost Boys soundtrack.

Lakeiya said...

So I just thought of a possible solution for the "I do best w/ clutter but like to put away important things so they don't get lost but I have a tendency to forget where I put them" syndrome (which I too suffer from). When you put something away in a safe place, like the signature sheets, put some kind of note where the object previously was reminding yourself where you've moved the object to. That way, when you're frantically rummaging through your office or bedroom or living room or underneath the kitchen sink (knowing that, really, there's very little chance that you'll find your check book there) you might run across your usefully placed note.

CSG said...

"Give me a stack of papers a foot high and I’ll know where in that stack the thing I need to find is"

lol. That's me too!

Monica said...

I got beat to #4. Poo. Thanks for explaining the jar.

Mom said...

#3 - Bust a Move, by Young MC
Guessed by Mom and Dad together.

I remember when Idris gave you and Shoshana that bunch of cassettes, including Young MC. Also some Digital Underground and Fine Young Cannibals, if I remember correctly...

Kiyotoe said...

i can't do the clutter. Must be the Taurus in me that needs structure and organization.

I drive my family crazy and vice versa.

Katrina said...

Mom beat me to it. I hear Bust A Move almost every day at work. I still enjoy it.

I'm a clutter person also. I can do exactly what you can. My old boss was driven nuts by it but I never lost anything until he made me clean up. Then it'd take me forever to find what he wanted. So he gave up and let me keep my piles.

My new place of employment I keep my desk nice and clean. For now anyway. We'll see what it looks like after I've been that awhile longer.

thethinker said...

I can do well with clutter too. My mom will walk into my room and start yelling and screaming, but as soon as I clean up, I lose track of everything.

RastaManErn said...

I have perhaps the most cluttered desk in my office, but I have a good memeory of where I've placed things. If I lose something, I just sit still and glance at everything for a few minutes, and it usually turns up within arm's reach.

Damn, I thought I had n°2. I just looked it up, and you're right. I've never heard of the composer. Nobody's going to get it. =P

Natalie said...

Lizza- For some reason I really like the jar method. It partly seems like something really lame you would hear at a business seminar but it is also kind of nifty.

Lakeiya- That s one of the funniest ideas I have ever heard. I can just see my yellow sticky covered life now.

CSG- It just seems so natural for some people.

Monica- You are very welcome. It was my pleasure.

Mom- You forgot Bobby Brown (probably on purpose you hated that one), Milli Vanilli (easily the best), and Paula Abdul. I still have most of those tapes.

Kiyotoe- I think you neat people are amazing. I try sometimes and fail miserably.

Katrina- It does seem to pile up after you have been someplace for a while. Our offices are moving in August and I will have a brand new never before used office. I wonder how long it will take me to destroy it?

Thinker- Luckily my mom was a clutter person too. But she did hate for me to let the room get too dusty.

Ern- You are probably right about that. It is one of those songs that everyone knows but no one REALLY knows.

Johnny Yen said...

Are you sure we're not related, Natalie? Because that is my filing system.

My father and I had a talk a couple of months ago about that. My mother was in the habit of "cleaning" his desk up. And of course, if something gets moved, it disappears. He had a little talk with her about it.

Mom said...

I didn't totally forget Milli Vanilli, but couldn't remember if that came from Idris or not. I thought you had gotten Bobby Brown yourself, so didn't think of that tape in connection to the Idris Collection. I did forget Paula Abdul (I hear she's got a new TV show coming out).

I rearranged the piles in my home office last night. Haven't lost anything (yet) today...

kim said...


Obviously, Mr. Yen and I have a difference of opinion. My favorite is when he thinks I moved something and it turns out he moved it.

I inherited my resistance to clutter from my father. I live better, I work better, and I don't hide it anymore, I embrace it.

But living with a clutter junkie, I am trying to find a support group. If you know any, please pass it along.

bint alshamsa said...

Natalie, I really appreciate this post. I have been so stressed with all of the deaths in my family lately and the Jar allowed me to think about things and try to put it all in a different perspective.