Organizing is Like Doing Algebra With Everything You Own

6 Jul

(x+3) – (x-2) = 5

Is this correct?

Yes.  You can verify this equation without knowing what the variable is.  In fact, the variable may have ANY value.  I think algebra is fun!  Organizing is fun, too.

What happens when you take a disorganized, overfull apartment and try to squeeze the contents into a smaller apartment?  This is not as much fun, but it can be done with some planning and some sacrifice (in other words, you will need to sacrifice some possessions).

I am currently working on a “Downsize and Organize” project for a client, and the T-shirts are one of the most troubling variables in the equation.

Organizing a space is very much like doing algebra.  The more things you own, the more complex the equation becomes.  I enjoy solving problems by rearranging numbers — or objects — until they fit, and in fact, the first paying job I had was as an Algebra Tutor.  Many students struggle with this subject.  I wonder if there is a correlation between struggling with algebra and struggling with clutter.

[(x+1)(x+6)] – [(x-1)(x-6)] = ?

Does this give you a headache?  The equation is much simpler than it looks.  (The answer is 14x in case you were wondering.)

Organizing is a little bit trickier.

For example, if a sock drawer becomes a T-shirt drawer, where will the socks go?

T-shirts = T, Drawer = D, Socks = S.

D+S = (D+S)

(D+S) – S + T = (D+T).

S cannot equal zero.  Write a new equation for S.

If you figure that one out, let me know.  I’m still working on it.

I think I need to add another D to the equation.

21 Responses to “Organizing is Like Doing Algebra With Everything You Own”

  1. bigsheepcommunications July 6, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    I have to admit that when I read “algebra is fun,” I was a little frightened of what might be next. I can handle basic equations and basic organizing, but I don’t enjoy either one!

    So, can you offer any explanation as to why both my children are brilliant at math, yet have rooms that resemble the aftermath of a tsunami?

    • acleansurface July 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      Because they are children? I think my theory is blown, Big Sheep.

  2. donnahuebsch July 6, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I dunno – I was a math major AND I am the worst clutterbug in the world :o) At age 56 I am STILL trying to figure out how to beat the clutter monster.

  3. anonnickus July 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I like the idea of putting the Algebra in the sock drawer preferably behind that last pair of argyles from several birthdays ago. Some things you have to keep to take up space so more spiteful things don’t creep in instead. I am OK with Algebra but haven’t seen ‘x’ since High School. Love the blog.

    • acleansurface July 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks, Anonnickus. It takes confidence to wear argyles, doesn’t it?

  4. pegoleg July 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    I got x=0. What am I doing wrong, teach?

    • acleansurface July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      Well, Peg, you might be doing the wrong problem!
      I like problems where the variable equals zero, though. That always makes things easier. Unless, of course, you are trying to find a drawer for your socks, then zero is a bad thing.

  5. somethingnewplease July 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    I’m quite certain you just blew my mind. I love thinking about every thing in terms of math, though usually on a spreadsheet. I am a spreadsheet junkie.

    • acleansurface July 7, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

      That is such a great compliment I don’t know how to respond. Thank you.

  6. georgettesullins July 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    In these retirement years “D” means Downsizing and Don’t need all that stuff. I liked algebra too…and love that my daughter became a math/science teacher.

    • acleansurface July 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

      I think “Don’t need all that stuff” is a great motto, at any stage of life! Thank you for visiting, Georgette.

  7. Mindy@FindingSilverLinings July 12, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    Girl, you’re talking to an art teacher, lol! Even if I was good at math, the organization thing is always a challenge. Thanks for the fun read though!

    • acleansurface July 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

      Aha, the fact that you are an art teacher explains your creativity! I’m glad you liked it, Mindy.

  8. doon po sa amin July 13, 2011 at 3:50 am #


    i’ll clean, i’ll organize things… pls don’t make me do algebra! 🙂

  9. Booksphotographsandartwork July 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    That is the best thing I have ever heard! My husband likes no clutter. I can’t seem to think without clutter. Our house doesn’t not have enough storage for a person like me with many hobbies and interests and thousands of books. I can barely do regular math let alone even think about algebra so that is the funniest thing I have ever read. I love it.

  10. meredith July 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    I love this! It’s so-o-o-o-o logical.

  11. theorderexpert July 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Great post. I always thought there was some formula out there that one could develop that would explain organizing. I’m no math wizard, but I do remember factorials…would they help? All I can think of are shirt and slack combinations!

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