New van brings order to dad's life

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

We live in an age of organizational gurus who are constantly telling us to reorganize our lives.

It sounds great, sort of like home improvement for our souls.

To run a household, you need to be organized and efficient, says organizational expert Deniece Schofield, who is in Cape Girardeau today to offer her well-structured advice at two seminars.

As a dad, I confess I need some organization. Fortunately, my wife, Joni, makes better lists than I do. So does my mother.

My dad, when he was alive, used to make lengthy Saturday to-do lists.

Maybe that's why I've tried to steer clear of lists. If I have to make a list, I try to keep it short. Longer lists only set us up for disappointment because we can't complete all those tasks in a single day or weekend.

Still, I admire those who are able to bring a little organization into our chaotic lives.

Parents particularly appreciate it. When you're raising children, you often feel like you're living in a jumbled appointments calendar.

Keeping track of school choir practices, basketball practices and Girl Scout meetings takes a full-time secretary. Fortunately, I have Joni who seems to have a sixth sense about these things. It also helps that she puts down all the important dates in our Palm Pilot.

As a journalist, I seldom get things written down in my own life. When you spend all day taking notes on the day's news, it's hard to get motivated to write down important household tasks.

Our youngest daughter, Bailey, hasn't learned the value of organizing her room yet. It doesn't bother her to be messy. Dolls and clothes have a way of taking over her floor, leaving a maze-like path to her bed.

I'm hoping that she'll change when she gets older or she'll hire a professional organizer.

And when it comes to being neat, there's nothing that gives you that tidy feeling like owning a new car.

Joni and I bought a new minivan last week. It comes with all of today's bells and whistles -- CD player, overhead DVD player and enough room to cram in a few Third World countries.

But what I like most is the fact that it's got that spotless clean look. The kids haven't spilled French fries, sodas or anything else in the van.

So far, I've managed to ban food from the vehicle. But I know it won't last. Sooner or later in our busy world, I'll have to go through the drive-through at a fast-food restaurant.

I've added plastic mats to the new van to better protect the interior. They sit on top of the vehicle's regular carpet mats. At this point, I'm thinking of slip covering the whole thing.

It seems to me that the best way to keep a car clean is not to use it. A new car looks great when it's sitting unused on the dealer's lot. Put a few people in it and almost instantly it gets messy.

Perhaps automakers need to consider installing trash compactors in vehicles so we can better manage our trash.

And while it's not a New Year's resolution with us, we have tried to keep our household more organized, or at least banish more stuff to the garage and attic.

One of these days maybe we can just shoot all the clutter into outer space and really clean up our planet.

Until then, we'll just have to stuff it.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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