Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stop Whining about Getting Organized

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of all the whining. People are whining everywhere, about everything. Legitimate beefs, such as lack of a job, lack of a home, lack of a spouse, lack of health care. And stupid complaints, which can be lumped as one big general whine about lacking a mommy to tidy up their messy lives for them.

Have I been overdosing on Clean House, the TV show that finds people who like to buy and hold onto cubic tons of worthless possessions, which they seem to throw up in the air and let lie where they drop, and then live amongst like pigs? Probably. I can (just barely) understand buying too much stuff. I will never understand tossing it about like a burglar and then sitting in the same room with it for years, never cleaning it up.

But it’s not just these crazy people who are addicted to buying and to lazing about who are getting on my nerves. It’s the other people, the smarter people, if you will. Only they don’t act smart. They keep telling me that all they need to do is get organized. They feel overwhelmed, they say. They are looking for a system that will finally help them address their messes. And even more annoying, they keep finding such systems, and claiming that everything will now change. But of course it doesn’t.

Just yesterday I read a NYTimes piece by Ron Lieber about how he had taken a financial health day and finished many of his undone financial tasks. He finally spent some serious time on a long laundry list of unfinished money-related chores. He even claims, as you can read if you follow the link, that he saved a couple of thousand dollars by this day of attention to his finances. But to my mind, he missed the boat completely.

Here’s where I’ll probably start sounding like Suze Orman. Her most potent message has always been to protect you and your loved ones from catastrophe. And this NYTimes reporter freely mentions that he does not have a will even though he has a very young child. He gives himself props for finally (during his day of financial attention) investigating a few lawyer choices to make a will. But he does not finish the day as a man who has a will. He finishes it by rewarding himself with more stuff. He uses up a gift card and buys (overpriced) socks. Great move, Ron. What if you die tomorrow, and your kid’s guardianship has to be determined by a court? Everything gets messy. For the same $15, Lieber could have bought a will via the Internet that would have assigned the guardianship of his child. A simple trip to his bank, and it would be notarized. Done. The kid is safe. But no, the man goes shopping for socks, even though the most important task of his financial day remains undone.

Of course I understand that a will is a complex document, but covering the basics should not be put off because you haven’t got a trust yet, or you’re not sure how to include your spouse’s interests, or whatever picky little details you’re indecisive about. Lieber can always write another will, after lengthy consultation with a high-priced attorney. But in his drive for perfection, he leaves the critical task undone, that of protecting his child.

And that’s the same as what happens with all the whiners who claim that if they could just find the right system to organize their stuff (and of course, the time to do it), all their issues would be resolved. No, they won’t be. It’s not organizing the chaos of your life that is important, it is separating the important from the unimportant. And then doing what is important.

Too many people don’t get this. Their lives feel empty so they fill their physical spaces with clutter, or they act out with addictions and crazy behavior. Which does not get the basic job done, of dealing with the important issues. So stop whining, will you? Look around and identify your most important tasks, the ones that affect the core of your life. And then do them.


karen wester newton said...

I agree a will is critical, especially once offspring are in the picture. It must be because it's hard to face one's own mortality, but that's the one thing a lot of people put off— as if death were something they were assured a few days notice off. It doesn't always work like that.

Anonymous said...

The issue with the whiners is that they don't know how to make up their minds as to what is most important. Simply telling them to do what they have not been able to do up to now is not helpful.

You still have some more hill to climb to make your case that getting a Will online now serves any great purpose that waiting a few week won't. There are law and conventions covering these cases. I think a cheep online will is the same as nothing.

For a Will to be valid you have to make clear that this is your wishes and have someway of asserting that it ain't faked.

Hopeful Lily said...

The problem with "waiting a week" to get the real deal will is that the person won't get it in a week. Or a month. Or a year. These wills are legal enough to cover the basics and to show intent, which is significant if a battle over custody ensues.

And I am not so foolish as to imagine that the chronically unable to decide can be helped by my words. But people who are not so far down the road of confusion often do buck up when they hear common sense--that's why self-help books work. It may only be for a limited time, and then the person falls back into natural sloth and indecision. But then the next self-help tip reaches them, and pushes them on again.

And stop being anonymous, will you? All you have to do is choose a name and get a Yahoo e-mail account and you can be suitably anonymous, but with a consistent name.