View from Lodi, CA: Help! Joe A Prisoner Of Paper!
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I am, by unanimous consent among all who know me, the most disorganized person in America. I have become a prisoner in my own home—held captive by my piles of "crucial" documents and "vital" possessions.

Should there exist an unfortunate soul somewhere out there who is even less together, I extend my deepest sympathy.

Disorganization is a curse. People ask, often in hostile tones, "Why don't you get organized?"

That's a very insensitive question. People like me long to be organized. For us though, the goal is elusive.

I can't explain it. My mother and three sisters maintain normal levels of organization. My father—long gone from this world—even had a sock drawer. His black and browns were in a neat pile on the left hand side; golf socks went on the right.

My case is so far gone that I do not allow visitors. Although the living room, dining room and den have the standard allotment of furniture, callers would not have anywhere to sit.

What entertaining I do is done in the summer when we can eat on the patio. Whenever I extend an invitation, however, I issue this very serious warning: the bathrooms are off-limits. Right now, they are storage space for canned vegetables and unopened bank statements.

Dust covered junk and scraps of paper with phone numbers I no longer recognize overwhelm me.

Consider that just before I sat down to compose this column, I surveyed the scene around me. On the top of a pile of magazines on the staircase was, "California State Roster and Government Guide, 1999." After extensively reviewing the contents and painful deliberation, I tossed it.

The next magazine, still in its plastic mailing envelope, was "Arizona Highways," the special 1994 Christmas issue.

Since Arizona is close to California and looks like a nice place to be in December, I kept it.

Look, I've tried. I own two organizers. One, the Cowboy Journal, has great western photos. I planned to use it for personal engagements. The other is a fancy leather Filofax with all the subsections: notes, projects, diary and receipts.

As of March 31st, the end of the first quarter of 2004, I had no entries in either daily planner. Wait; allow me to amend that statement. In the Filofax, I have written under notes "milk, club soda, limes, dishwasher soap."

I may have written my list in 1995 when I bought the Filofax. Or I may have jotted those notations down last year. Who knows? Since the list represents pretty much my standard grocery store needs, I see no reason to tear out the page.

One thing about my Filofax is that I need to get calendar refills every year. Unfortunately for compulsives like me, the manufacturer puts out inserts that are nifty but totally unnecessary. So although I don't use my Filofax for its intended purpose, I do have a nice assortment of extras like maps of the London underground and the New York streets. Great if you live in London or New York.

I, however, live in Lodi, CA.

But lately, a nagging pressure has been eating at me. I cannot neglect my living conditions too much longer. In the back of my mind is the constant image of poor Patrice Moore.

Last December, the unfortunate Moore was hospitalized with a broken leg when his collection of 3,000 1980 magazines and comic books tumbled down on him. Really, I view 3,000 magazines as nothing but Moore lived in a one room flat!

The New York Post headline screamed "Book Worm Squished; Mound of Magazines Buries Bronx Man."

According to the story, the unlucky Moore was "buried alive in the buff for two days under heaps of fallen debris."  

For 48 hours, stacks of magazines and catalogues muffled Moore's desperate cries for help. When Moore's door was finally pried open, books poured out into the hall.

Moore's landlord Bernie Jones said: "I don't even know how he could stand in there." Observers at the scene noted that junk was piled from floor to ceiling, blocking the room's one small window and covering what appeared to be the only piece of furniture in the apartment.

Firefighters, fearing the entire floor might collapse under the weight of Moore's reading material, ordered the building evacuated.

Moore lived a solitary life. But I am fairly visible figure in the community. I couldn't stand the humiliation if I had to publicly endure what Moore suffered through.

Effective immediately, I vow to clear a path so that the few visitors I do permit onto my premises will not have to come in through the front door sideways.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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