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An Open Letter to the Evangelically Organized

Dear Evangelically Organized,

If you are a Multi-Sized-Tupperware-Having, Tidy-Closet-Owning , Where-The-Scissors-Are-Knowing (assuming a child has not absconded with them to “give my little sister’s Barbie’s a makeover” while you read this), Meal-Planning type … go with God.

This letter is not to you.

It is only to you if you are described above AND you habitually tell people, “Oh, anyone can be organized if they just *insert your system here.*”

It is SUPER DOUBLE to you if you then give a smirky shrug and cut your eyes sideways at the lady with wild eyes, egg on her shirt, and a packed purse disgorging foreign objects from its maw in a little vomitty lost-item trail behind her. This letter is SO for you. (And PS STOP IT! THAT IS NOT ATTRACTIVE!)

It makes you look like this. True Facts.

Maybe you think everyone can because it comes easily to you. My mother is like this—- she puts things in order without noticing she is doing it.

It is a gift.

If it is YOUR gift, then I say to you, DO NOT take your own gift so for granted! You are actually kind of amazing. Bankers and other Captains of Industry have brains like yours. So do most of the folks in R and D, teachers, and the best military strategists. You know what goes where when. Not EVERYONE can do this.


No, she would not. No more so can ANYONE martial all the physical objects in their care into beautiful, peaceful order. Could ANYONE curate MOMA? Could ANYONE be the archivist at the Vatican? No. It takes one of YOUR breed. Stop denigrating your gift by insisting any schmo could do it!

Others of you have painstakingly learned a system. It was hard for you. You are not naturally organized, and you probably look with a gimlet eye upon those other-wordly creatures whose socks gravitate naturally into pairs, then into stacks of like-colored sockly brethren, then into drawers in a neatly multi-tiered, paired sock rainbow.

So you worked REALLY hard and ingrained a bunch of habits deep within yourself and created routines and TRIUMPHED.

This is a true achievement. CONGRATS. I am proud. You are like SEA BISCUIT. It was not in your pedigree, but you were willful and ornery and mighty, and you overcame all odds.


Not every horse can be Sea Biscuit, even the ones who really WANT to make War Admiral suck our dust.

You believe I could make my sock drawer into the platonic ideal of a sock drawer if only I wasn’t so lazy or dumb or uncaring. And yeah, okay, this IS true. I CAN lay socks in a row. I am not COLORBLIND or terminally lazy. I simply cannot KEEP them that way. Cannot. Not will not.

This is a new discovery, and is literally one of the best things I have learned in my WHOLE WHOLE WHOLE life. It is the most freeing, beautiful thing. Admitting this has been one of the nicest things I have ever done for myself.

It isn’t that it doesn’t come naturally to me. It isn’t that I am lazy. It isn’t that I don’t care. It isn’t that it is hard for me.

It is PURELY ANTETHETICAL to my nature. I can’t do it any more than whales can lay eggs or lizards can grow luxurious pink mohawks. And if I could, I suspect it would be costly. I would lose a different thing that my brain CAN do.

Not “write books.” Lots of people with neat closets write books. This is NOT me being all “Hey alla ya’ll dumb roses! I am the only Crazy Posy in God’s amazing garden! I am SooOOoooo wacky artsy, like a SPESHUL Princess Messy-Pants Posy. I cannot be CONTAINED by all your OPPRESSIVE ROSE COLORED TUPERWARES!”

No. Poseys are LEGION, and we can’t keep our sock drawers in order. The end. We have different brain chemistry, and we can do some things you can’t do, just like you can do some things we …never…can.

NOW! I am sure you mean well. I am sure you believe “ANYONE can become organized” when you say it. You are so sincere, I have no doubt that the Great Pumpkin will be visiting your patch come the end of October, and he will probably bring you this:

Should the Great Pumpkin fail you, you can click this pic to buy this for yourself.

But the world is a wide, wide spectrum, and you are…wrong. AND YET WE BELIEVE YOU! We BELIEVE, and it makes those of us who CANNOT do what you can feel like craptastic failures. AND at the same time lessens the value one of YOUR own gifts or minimizes your amazing Sea Biscuit-worthy triumph. So. Stop it.

Meanwhile, I guess my kind will have to work on not believing the ones who simply cannot help themselves.


PS Having said all this, tomorrow I will explain how this realization and acceptance of my limitations CHANGED MY LIFE and EVEN made it possible for me to FIND CLEAN SOCKS.

Most of the time.

At which point you can throw crap at me, oh YEAH, cuz Imma go ALLLLLLLLL evangelical.

PSS Are you a Rose or a Posy or some other flower in between OR….are you Sea Biscuit?

PSSS I think I do this, too, the “ANYONE can blahblah!” thing. If it is easy for me, or if I devote my all to it and MAKE IT HAPPEN, I think anyone should be able to manage it. Do you do this?

40 comments to An Open Letter to the Evangelically Organized

  • A part of me used to think “anyone can write.” Now, I didn’t think everyone had the “gift,” but I thought everyone COULD write at least halfway decently. Then, I started homeschooling.

    Nope. Not everyone can write. And no amount of my preaching with change that. Lesson learned.

  • Ginny

    I am not naturally organized, but I have discovered the way out of sock purgatory: throw away every sock you own, go down to the outlet mall and buy at least 24 pairs of identical white socks, and throw them willy-nilly into a drawer. No matter what you pull out, they match.

    And I definitely internalized “anybody can do anything if they work hard enough!” as a child. What I’ve learned the hard way is that being able to do anything does not, in fact, mean you can do everything.

  • Elizabeth

    I thought I was the minimum amount of organized you can be and still function. Thought that until FRIDAY, when I had foot surgery and my husband now can’t find a thing! I tell him where something is and he can’t find it for the other things that are also there. He’s kind enough not to blame me, but he is just confused as to how I can feel so organized when he can’t find anything.

  • Jenn

    That is brilliant! Instead of snarking at them to kindly play in traffic you are flowering them with complements. I am with you: terminally untidy and destined to leave chaos in my wake. But I am also very organized, I just can’t sustain it. I haunt my favorite organizing and decorating blogs hoping to find the right inspiration that will create a sustainable system. Haven’t found it yet.

  • See, my problem is that I am both organized and unorganized. I am my own worst enemy. My clothes are neatly folded and put away and hung facing the same direction among their genetic brethren (Clothes with common genes are as follows: no sleeves, no sleeves with collars, short sleeves, short sleeves with collars, etc. Then come short pants, long pants, skirts, and dresses). But if you look elsewhere in my closet or my bed room things are chaotically everywhere. My bedroom is the catchall of my house. Straighten and clean the family room? Have things that go somewhere else? Those get stuck in my room in the never ending pile of Things That Go Somewhere Else.

    Everywhere in my room except the book shelves. Those are alphabetized by author.

    The kitchen cabinets are organized, but not the counters.
    My family room is organized, but the closets in it are not.

    I drive myself bonkers, I really do.

  • Jill W.

    Tenessa- were we separated at birth? I am the same way- some of my stuff is perfectly organized (like the clothes in the closet and the kitchen cabinets) but lots of other things are a mess. And I have piles of I-don’t-know-where-to-put-this all over the place. Worst of all, I can’t really see those piles. I can’t deal with them, so they don’t exist for me, so I think my house is clean and guest ready, even when those piles are still out.

  • I personally think women like this are what puts the rest of us in therapy. And you know what? I actually think that 99% of them are big fat liars, liars, pants on fire. I am actually organized by nature. There was a day when I had my shit together. But then teenagers invaded my house and now I am out of control. Socks are lost. Appointments are missed. I’ve forgotten that it is early pick-up day. People that have their ducks in a row and tell us it is easy just want us to believe they are perfect. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of their houses at night.

  • Lori B.

    Preach on sister! I was at a Bible study once when an older lady told a roomful of new mommies with nursing babies on our breasts and dried spit up in our hair that if we didn’t keep a clean organized house, we were not being good wives and mothers. I stood up and got all Norma Rae on her and all but cried the ugly cry and told her how I’d spent years thinking I was less worthy of God’s love because I was a complete failure at all things organizational and keeping a decent house, but I’d finally figured out that God loved me and my personality as much as He loved her. I’m fairly certain there was clapping and a standing ovation, and there may have even been a new union formed at the Southern Baptist church that day…

  • Cheryl

    Yes! I do that! When I’m on some kind of new kick, I almost have to walk around with a haughty sense of superiority – the other people in the supermarket are all buying the WRONG FOODS while I fill my cart with only things my paleolithic ancestors supposedly ate, etc. We do it as a society. It is why we are shocked when someone as good at golf as Tiger Woods is not at all good at being a husband. OF COURSE HE’S A TERRIBLE HUSBAND! He spends 22 hours a day practicing golf! There are not enough other hours in each day for supportive and loving conversations! We tell our children they can do anything they want, but we don’t tell them that choosing might be the hardest part.

  • I cannot wait for your follow-up post, because my brain simply does not work that way, either–and I want to have a life-changing moment of realization, too!

  • DebR

    I’m an organized slob. Organization comes naturally to me but I hate housework. So on any given day you are likely to be able to write your name in the dust on my furniture, but if you want to know which dust bunnies to kick out of the way to find something I can tell you exactly where ‘most anything is. As early as toddler-hood, I was rearranging new boxes of crayons so that the flow of colors was more pleasing. My clothes are arranged in the closet by season, type and color, preferably on color-coordinating hangers, although now and then I have to just go with one that doesn’t clash. I never really thought of it as a talent, more like a touch of OCD weirdness. I wish I didn’t CARE if my hanger matches my shirt and whether or not the shirts are hung in a proper color sequence there in the dark of the closet, but I kind of DO. So, talent or insanity? Or both? LOL!

    The time I can remember having one of those “anyone can do it” reactions recently was when I heard someone, somewhere (don’t remember who/where) say they can’t read a map – that they tried to learn multiple times and literally can’t do it. I felt like someone told me they didn’t know how to make their lungs process oxygen. Isn’t reading a map something you just DO? Because for me, it is. But I guess for some others not so much? I still don’t understand how that’s possible though.

  • Obnoxious Lulu

    I think maybe it’s that whole “anecdotal evidence = scientific fact” thing or “single example = universal rule” that we all seem to do (or maybe that’s just me, oops). Then again, maybe it’s false pride.

    But what I really want to know is whether this realization & acceptance made it possible to find a long-lost pink sock????

  • Yvonne Ford Wilder

    That super organize-y drawer thingy actually made me shudder when I saw it. I’m a fan of organized chaos.

  • I like to be organized and am a halfandhalf. Like other people, some of my things are organized. If you came into my house, you’d say, “My how neat this family is!”–just don’t open the drawers in the side board or the server. Junk drawers, gotta love ’em.

  • Karen

    But has the realization and acceptance of your limitations allowed you to find a PINK sock story?

  • Chris of the Woodwork

    **Please** do not let this become a Pink Sock Story!!! I so desperately need to hear the end of this!

  • Thank you! Thank you! I’ve been feeling rather down on myself lately. Book sales lagging, not enough writing time, etc. But I am a very organized person and you made me realize I HAVE A GIFT. I took my organizational skills for granted, but knowing how hard it is for others to stay organized makes me feel very blessed. Thanks so much. I needed that. (I will confess my desk does get rather chaotic at times, but the mess is confined to that area.)

  • Lora in Florida

    I lust after your picture of organizational plastic! Alas, I would buy it, and for 2 weeks, use it in the manner for which it was intended. Then, *Stuff* would slowly accumulate on TOP of the lovely plastic. I once bought an Organizing System to organize my organizing systems. Unfortunately I am not one of the Chosen ones.

  • Oh, Joshilyn, I’d like the Great Pumpkin to bring me one of those drawer units! I practically drooled when I saw it. So call me kinky. I’m a hopeless organiser, and I’d rather be shopping for folders and paperclips than for shoes! 🙂
    Now, if only my husband and kids understood this about me and didn’t leave their crap [footnote] lying around!

    [Footnote: _Crap_ is anything that’s not in its rightful place. See _shoes in the middle of the hallway floor_. See _already-read books not returned to standing guard on the bookshelves_. See _this cool piece of hardened clay with a pigeon feather and a bit of dead pigeon stuck into it_]

  • Yvonne – That’s funny, when I saw the organization basket photo, I got a little tingly. I may have heard angels.

    DebR – Separated at birth! Dust bunnies abound, but my spices and books are alphabetized. I also arranged crayons, and my ridiculously large fabric stash is also organized by color. My little OCD quirk: Frosted mini wheats for breakfast every day, with 6 super frosty ones set aside in neat little pairs for after the soggy ones are all gone and all that’s left is milk.

    I THINK organized – that’s my gift. But I don’t always act on it, so my bedroom gets progressively more crappy looking until all of the drawers are empty and all of the clothes baskets are stacked – full of clean clothes – in front of the dresser and 16 pairs of shoes scattered around the floor. (I didn’t even think I owned that many shoes.) Then I tear it all apart and create peaceful organization again.

  • Amen — Praise and Glory . . . . thank you, thank you. . . for articulating what I’ve been trying to say for decades…

  • Oh, my. I am a degenerate, terminal posy. I want so desperately to be organized that I have tried countless “systems” and other ideas. I now have an abundance of boxes and baskets and buckets and bags….and other alliterative paraphernalia. All holding various and sundry CRAP that isn’t the slightest bit organized. I give up. Unless of course you show me an even BETTER system….

  • Melissa

    What are those weeds that you blow on and they scatter puffy things everywhere? Yeah, that’s what I am….But at least my kids find me entertaining.

  • Linda J

    ok I’m just going to ask…Are you drafting again??? That post made me speed read the way your other drafting posts usually do.

    Me? I’m not terminally organized, but if something has a given place ( flashlight on hook in hall, band aid box on proper self in kitchen) I go frigging bat crap crazy when I need it and it isn’t where it’s supposed to be!

  • Brigitte

    Heh, I’m so craptastic at so many things – organization and housecleaning among them – that I cherish the few things I’m accomplished at. I accept that it is my awesome talentedness (not something “anybody” could do) . . . in those very few, utterly useless areas.

  • Also, can we apply this thought to those of us who are chronologically challenged? Some people just can’t be on time. It is not our gift.

  • Elizabeth

    Dear Lori B–

    Yes! Yes! Yes! My father was a pastor, and my mother was a disaster when it came to home-making. Judged much? And then when my father had an affair, of course it was believed to be Mom’s fault… and on and on.

    Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that the *perfectly organized* might not perish and have everlasting life.

    I rest in God’s overwhelming love for me, even while I try to not make my organized husband crazy with my creative processes.

  • Jennifer G

    My parents are BOTH naturally organized. My mother has TWO label makers. My dad knows precisely where every tool is (neatly arranged in a giant tool box). I didn’t inherit any of that. I am more Sea Biscuit. I appear to be organized, but those neatly arranged bins? Total chaos inside! My organizing doesn’t go much past “like things with like” but it works for me.

  • susanvl

    So happy to learn there are so many other half-n-half folks out there! The visible areas of my house are fairly tidy now that the kids are older, but my art room? Disastrous. I only clean it up when I spend an hour looking for something that I KNOW is on the table somewhere…but afterward I can’t find six other things that I put away somewhere very logical. Also finally came out to all my foodie friends recently and admitted that I don’t like to cook. Gourmet meals with side dishes and everything on a Wednesday? Please.

  • Hallelujah and I’ll even give you an “Amen!” I’m forwarding this to my beloved mother. You’ve described her to a alphabetized bag of tea. Her house is her temple. Yeah. Somehow those snips of DNA didn’t reach me, yet I still clean and organize for days before she comes over. I do a decent job of creating neat exteriors, but step a toe in my closet and you may never find your way out. There are just too many other things to do in this world.

  • See that picture of plastic drawer organizer? So tidy. Now look at the drawer with toilet paper rolls. Four rolls. You could add a fifth. But what if there are 10 rolls to a package, or eight. What do you do with the leftovers? Put them in your out-of-season sock drawer where you’ll never think to look?

  • Em

    I just blame the children

  • This has NOTHING to do with organization, but since I’m sitting here procrastinating, I thought I’d be transparent and own the fact that I just ate a Dutch Chocolate icecream cone and had two snack-sized Mounds as a chaser. Not even my dietary INTAKE is organized.

  • Only my papers are organized. And my pantry. Otherwise I rely on closed drawers and closed cabinet doors to keep the house looking halfway tidy.

  • Reine

    Dear Joshilyn,

    You have a brilliant ministry based in sound theology and principled exegesis grounded in the truth of differences, a critical ingredient of God’s plan.

    Rev Reine

  • Reine

    PS: Why do I have such an angry, ugly, miserable commenter icon? I hate it!. Not very ministerial, I guess. There you are, though – differences in action.

  • Laura

    …did it help you find clean *PINK* socks?????????

  • Lora in Florida

    @Sandi…AMEN sister, sing Hallelujah! I am chronologically challenged too! And no, it’s not because I don’t “respect” other people’s time, it’s because I’m just late.

  • edj

    made me love you more than ever before.

    I am permanently on the edge of chaos. My best friend is preternaturally neat and organized. We were college roommates. It was scary. However, she says God gave me other gifts and she admires all that I can do that she can’t. It sounds condescending as I write it in a comment, but IRL it isn’t.

    Besides, what’s so great about crafts? You know where crafts come from? Satan. That’s right. Proof? Read Genesis. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other creature.” Yes. I will keep my overflowing junk drawers (and junk corners) and mismatched socks (so embarrassing in Pilates class where everyone else has cute turquoise anklets) and my habit of stuffing everything into a closet just before company comes. It’s better than being Satanic!

  • edj

    (Ok I realize being crafty isn’t necessarily the same as being organized, but you’re the one who brought up Martha Stewart, and also they often go hand-in-hand. Not in my house though!)