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Life is Messy — Embrace It

Aug 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

My office is a disaster. I take full responsibility. It’s diabolical, unhealthy how it happens. I love being in a neat, clean environment. With three kids and pets, it’s hard to keep our house clean, but we do a pretty good job. What tends to happen is that one room gets cleaned really well — everything put away. And then that room gets messed up before another room is finished, so about half of the time there is one room that is very clean. That’s the room I like to be in. I gravitate toward that room. It could be the bathroom, someone else’s bedroom, the garage — doesn’t matter. That’s where I end up.

So why can’t I keep my office clean? Let me give you an inventory of some of the items in my office:

• Boxes of our catalogs

• A snare drum

• Lockout kits that I “borrowed” items from to sell and I’m waiting for the replacements

• A fold-up cot

• A small electric car (very small — for the kids to ride around the cul-de-sac)

• Piles of vendor catalogs (many piles)

• Hunting gear

• A circa-1990 LifeCycle

• A foam mattress (for the cot)

• Clothes hangers

• A car stereo

• An old home stereo unit (boxed)

• Empty boxes

• A Miller Industries fleece sweater

There’s much more than that, but you get the idea. One of the problems is what I call the Dad Syndrome. The Dad Syndrome is when your house is too small, so there is less and less available space for any personal item that belongs only to Dad. Maybe no one is telling you this, but you get the hints, so you move your stuff to the garage. Then you move it to the shed. Then you move it to the car. And, if you have your own work office, you end up moving it to work. I still have a dresser and one-tenth of a bedroom closet for my clothes, but I know that could end at any time. That is how you explain the snare drum, the electric car and the hunting gear.

My underlying concern is that I consider myself an organized person, but that doesn’t coincide with my direct surroundings. Our parts inventory is organized. Our shipping area is organized and relatively clean. My calendar is organized. What I don’t have enough of, like most of you, is time. That’s why things accumulate in my office. The battery on the electric car needs to be replaced, so I brought it to work so I would take care of it because it’s been sitting in the garage for four years without working. Now it’s been here for six months. The piles of vendor catalogs are here because I don’t have time to go through all of them. It’s not that I need a place for things. I just need time to process them.

Yesterday I wrote “office” on my daily calendar. Now it’s there, so I have to address it every day, or move it to the next day every day, until it’s taken care of. It’s a drastic measure, but if I don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. That’s my plan. The problem is that it’s a temporary solution. But here’s the deal: everything is a temporary solution. Why should that concern me? Nothing’s permanent. It’s like what Jason Robards tells Steve Martin about being a parent in the movie Parenthood: “You never cross the goal line, you never spike the ball.”

So, with regard to all of these tasks and goals and strategies we load ourselves up with every day, I think the thing to do is to embrace the process. You might not enjoy the journey as much as you should, but at least accept that the journey is 99 percent of reality. So I’m not going to fret about how messy my office is, or how long it’s going to take me to get it under control, or how little fun it will be to clean up, or even how much this blog contradicts my “Simple Acts of Discipline” blog. Life is messy. Which reminds me of the grandma in Parenthood who compares life to carnival rides: “I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Nick Kemper