For several years after I got out of the army, I thought was terribly disorganized. I was messy and tended to pile things. In fact, if you look at any site on organizing, these are both often touted as a sign of disorganization. “File it, don’t pile,” they will say, often accompanied by a stern lecture and disbelief that anything can be found.
It’s hard because people will look at messiness and think that you’re disorganized and not productive. It’s also true that I’ve seen people who are messy and disorganized like the person with stacks of paper three feet high covering the entire desk and the floor. That was enough to make me queasy!
But in the army, they took the organizing to new levels. Some of it is because of what the army’s mission is: War. There are things that you have to do in order because that might cause an accident, or worse. Maintaining discipline helps with the chaos that war turns into.
But it was worse for the barracks soldier. If you had a spouse or kids, or both, you lived off post in your own home. Once you left work, you could organize whatever way you wanted. The barracks soldier had to keep her room ready for inspection at all times, and some parts had to be a certain way. We had silly rules like you couldn’t put a magazine on a table top, or if you had a pack of cigarettes (not that I smoked), it couldn’t be out. Everything had to be put away, always.
I need to see stuff as part of how I do things. Like I’m working on this A to Z post, and I have a pile on which there’s a calendar so I can see what day to post it. I also have a story I need to critique and that’s in the pile, too. If I put the story in a drawer in a file cabinet to be neat, I’ll forgot entirely because filing means it’s done and I don’t need to touch it again for a long time. Out of sight is really out of mind.
In the barracks, we had this three drawer chest that was probably about the size of a nightstand. It was serviceable but ugly (curiously, I could not find a picture of it online. Maybe that’s a clue on the ugliness!). But I did find a picture of what it is was supposed to look inside. We had a diagram of how it was supposed to look and it had to follow that at all times. I ended up have a set of all this stuff for that chest, and then a separate set of stuff that I actually used because it was so hard to get it exactly to inspection standards. That made it terrible for the limited storage because I was having to buy two of everything. Though I did get sneaky. I discovered that if the drawer looked neat on the top, with all the clothes nicely folded, they didn’t look to see if there was chaos underneath.
Oh, yes, I was a bad soldier.
On the work side, since I was in an office, my squad leader was always getting on me about how my desk looked, and I kept thinking, “But how am I supposed to work?” I also had this one sergeant who would follow behind me and rearrange supplies because he wasn’t happy with how they looked. Oooh-kaaaay …
Looking back on it now, I often like I couldn’t be me, really, anywhere. This was such an issue that when I was able to finally move into an apartment, I went almost entirely in the opposite direction and exploded with messiness. I ended up having to bring it back more to the center and understand how I needed to organize.
So it was quite a shock after I got out of the army and a coworker told me she envied my organization skills. Organized? Me? When I’m so messy? So it’s been an evolving experience away from what the army taught me to what really does work for me.
Next up will be “the Practicality of the army uniform” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.