Globe Syndicate

for release November 1, 2002

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

A Place for Everything

My daughter was in a tizzy. She couldn't find her car keys. We did not give our daughters their own cars in high school but when they got their license, they got their own set of keys to the family vehicles. Which also meant they had to keep track of their keys-a bit of a challenge for any of us, at times.

She was late getting to an evening school activity so I quickly pulled a key off my ring and let her borrow it. A stopgap measure. There would be time to hunt later.  The next morning, she still couldn't find her keys. She retraced her steps, thought through her evening activities the night before. Still no luck.

Finally she went out to the car, again planning to use my key. She soon tore back into the house. "Mom, you'll never guess where I found my keys!"

"In the grass? In the lane?" I responded from guilty experience.

"There were laying on the trunk of the car! I now remember I put them on the roof of the car when the neighbor girl came over and talked to me. And when I was driving down to school last night, I remember hearing a "thunk" which must have been the keys sliding from the roof to the trunk!"

She has about a 20-mile round trip (32 kilometers) drive to school over curves and hills, so I found it pretty amazing that those keys didn't slide off the car. Then I recalled an oil cap that rode all the way to West Virginia and back (an hour's drive) and I suppose more amazing things have happened. But luck was definitely with Doreen that day.

But you can't depend on luck to find your car keys every time. It helps to have a little organization. My personal key-hunting episodes reduced greatly when I adopted a specific pocket in my purse to always put my keys in. Now I rarely forget to put them in the right place and my key hunting episodes have all but disappeared. (But somehow I still end up hunting for my glasses, my watch, and the cordless telephone.) When things are always put in the same place, it saves so much frustration and wasted time searching. 

There are people who make a living from organizing the clutter and mess of other people, so maybe here the first week of November before the house fills with Christmas and holiday things we would benefit from learning a few things from the clutter experts. 
If you have a lot of clutter to deal with, they suggest focusing on one closet or even just one drawer. Sometimes it is overwhelming to look at all the things we've accumulated over 10, 20 or more years of keeping house and feel it is hopeless to bring order out of chaos. 

Why do we accumulate things? These clutter experts say it can stem from the fear of being without or worrying that we won't have the things we need at the right time; competition with neighbors, family or peers; not having time to organize or put things away; and being or living with people who are collectors or who are very sentimental about things.

If you are a clutter bug, it should be comforting to know you are not alone: "I've seen enough extra stuff, in the homes of my 600 clients in the San Francisco area to outfit an entire city," says Christy Best, founder of the Clutterbug Network. "It is very embarrassing for them to talk about the clutter in their homes. They're used to hearing, 'you need to clean up this mess' but that's what Mom would say and it's counterproductive. I try to help them understand how they've gotten to that point." ( <>)  

The closet experts have suggestions for uncluttering a clothes closet. Get tough with yourself and look at your clothes as if they belonged to other people, and go through and consider whether you've worn the item in the last two years. If you haven't, get rid of it. Make four piles: dry cleaner; a fix-it pile; charity; and finally, to recycle or throw out. If someone in the family insists on keeping an old piece for sentimental reasons, try to limit such keepsakes to one or two-not a whole closetful. It really doesn't take very long to bring more order to your life if you tackle one piece at a time.

Now, as my office colleague says, "Maybe it is time to put this idea to work in my office..."

Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 770 words; end material = 105 words

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