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Madeleine Begun Kane


"Stop The Chaos!" screeches the magazine cover. "Take Control Of Your Cluttered Life!" Periodicals are packed with chaos-avoidance techniques. But do they work? Let's see.

1. Awaken early, inspired by self-help articles to finally organize your life. Grab paper scrap and jot down all urgent chores. Admire list, savor it, enhance it with scribbled notes. Spill coffee, rendering list illegible. Then, lest you be tempted to do something that might garner a check mark, file list under "T" for "To Do."

2. Forget where you left list. Start new one, grow bored, take shower instead. Dash through house naked and wet in search of clean towel. Try to start a wash. Realize you left detergent off list.

3. Check if you're low on other cleaning supplies. Notice several empty containers squandering space under sink. Yank everything out of storage and strew on floor. Resolve to rearrange cabinets once you've looked at mail.

4. Retrieve bills, ads, alarming bank statement from mail box. Hunt for check register and fail to find it. You never find it ... which is why you haven't made an entry since the Eighties.

5. Decide bank info must be buried in your bag or briefcase. Dump contents of both onto table and chase renegade coins. Smooth every particle of crumpled paper. Use magnifying glass to decipher contents. Take your time; any fragment could be a clue to your deficit balance.

6. Find nothing that sheds light on finances. Decide bank's probably right. Stuff papers back into bags ... just in case.

7. Forage through remaining mountain of debris. Find 97 pennies and count them twice. Hunt for coin wrappers. Start third list.

8. Spill pennies into already stuffed drawer. Resume foraging. Find stale stick of gum, half eaten candy bar, rusty key, crud-encrusted tissues, and several items you've never seen before. Attempt to throw out. Add garbage bags to list.

9. Find address book whose entries end at the F's. Start working on G's. Lose interest half-way through H's.

10. Drive to supermarket in pursuit of garbage bags, laundry soap, and snacks. Roam through aisles, plucking random items off shelves until cart is full. When you finally reach cashier, discover you've forgotten your wallet. Abandon cart and go home for nap.

11. Wake up with start and see it's time for dinner. Get a yen for leek l'orange souffle. Vaguely recall magazine recipe. It's surely in that stack you left outside last night for recycling. Fortunately, you were one day late, so the pile's still there and just slightly damp.

12. Retrieve magazines and thumb through several months worth of Family Circle, Woman's Day, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, First For Women. Become distracted by a piece on starting an Internet business out of your home while raising three children, holding down part-time job, volunteering at local hospital, caring for aging parents, and sewing the family clothes.

13. Remember dinner half-way through last page. Put magazines aside and pull cookbooks off shelf. Decide it's too late for anything but tuna.

14. Boil eggs, chop onions and celery, locate bread. Search for mayonnaise. Dispose of unidentifiable leftovers. Wash and scrub vegetable tray until you smell smoke. Scrub blackened, egg-encrusted pot.

15. Forgo eggs. Who needs all that cholesterol? Ransack cupboards for tuna. Consider returning to market. Consider trying cat food. Gorge on Chocolate Chunk Rapture and go to bed.

I have to go now -- I'm falling behind on my filing.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.

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