If you constantly wish you knew how to be organized, you probably won't be surprised to learn that home organization is a major stress trigger, according to an online survey of approximately 1,000 Americans taken by the Huffington Post. The survey came out back in 2013, though I can’t imagine things have changed all that much since then.
Obviously, you can take being orderly too far, but if you’re looking for organizing role models, turn on your TV.
I wish I had done that growing up or somewhere in my adult life. I’m decent with time management, but when it comes to cleaning and clutter, I have a problem. And maybe part of my problem isn’t that I’m not channeling TV’s neat freaks.
When I was a kid in middle school, I’d watch Three’s Company and wanted to be like Jack Tripper. Since he made me laugh, I’d walk through the middle school hallway and would occasionally stumble into a wall, because... I don't know... I apparently thought anybody watching would find it just as funny or endearing, I guess. No wonder I wasn't more popular in middle school.
But I’d have been better off watching, say, The Odd Couple, with Felix Unger’s manic cleaning personality.
There are numerous examples of hyper-organized TV characters, and I know that there’s probably a lot of material to mine beyond the examples in this blog post. But, still, for now, here are a few examples of TV characters who could easily lead a "how to be more organized" seminar.
Today's "TV Lesson" Breakdown:
Clean When You're Feeling Down.
We all have our blah, lackluster moments, and arguably, the best way to counter feeling blue is to do something to take your mind off that. Now, you could watch some TV, take a walk, go visit a friend – but, sure, you could do what Dr. Frasier Crane does and clean. At least, that’s what he did in the episode, “Frasier’s Curse,” when he was worried about going to his high school reunion.
In fact, his brother Niles found him looking pretty disheveled in the kitchen and was worried about him.
Niles: Oh my God! Frasier, are you all right?
Frasier: I was fine before you screamed, what the hell's wrong with you?
Niles: Well, Daphne said you were depressed and here you are with your head in the oven.
Frasier: I was cleaning it, Niles. It's electric.
After entering the living room, Frasier added: “If I wanted to end my life, I'd choose something faster than broiling.”
Frasier was on the right track. If you think about it, even if cleaning doesn’t help your mood, you’ll at least have done something productive. And that probably will make you feel better.
Schedule Your Cleaning.
I (ahem) hear this is a good idea. I guarantee that Felix Unger in The Odd Couple (1970-1975) regularly cleaned out the refrigerator once he moved in his with his pal, Oscar Madison. I'm thinking how in the pilot episode Oscar offers Felix a drink.
Oscar: “You want brown juice or green juice?”
Felix: “What’s the difference?”
Oscar Madison: “Three weeks.”
Granted, you can take labeling too far. Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory is fastidious to the point of – well, there’s probably nobody, on TV or in real life (hopefully), who is as obsessed about cleanliness and organization as he is. In "The Big Bran Hypothesis," which aired in 2007, Sheldon convinces Leonard to sneak into Penny’s apartment – in the middle of the night while she’s sleeping – to clean the place.
Sheldon feels like he has no choice. Penny’s apartment, as he puts it, “is chaos.”
As Sheldon says to Leonard, “Explain to me an organizational system where a tray of flatware on a couch is valid. I'm just inferring that this is a couch, because the evidence suggests the coffee table's having a tiny garage sale.”
We wouldn’t want to emulate Sheldon’s obsessiveness, but when you have a mess, labeling isn’t a bad idea. You could, for instance, label:
- Spice jars
- File folders
- Plastic Bins of Clothes or other odds and ends in your basement
- Shelves in a pantry
- Coffee mugs
Coffee mugs? Well, Monica Geller, one of the friends in Friends, carries one around with her and labels the bottom of her coffee mugs, so she can keep track of them.
Of course, if there was a labeling and organizing Olympics, Sheldon would win.
After the coffee table crack; Leonard says, “Did it ever occur to you that not everyone has the compulsive need to sort organize and label the entire world around them?”
Leonard: Well, they don't. Hard as it may be for you to believe, most people don't sort their breakfast cereal numerically by fiber content.
Sheldon: I'm sorry, but I think we've both found that helpful at times.
Get Into An Organized Frame Of Mind.
Being organized, you could argue, is a state of mind. If you hate organizing, you’re probably never going to be good at it.
Still, if you at least have an open mind and try it every once in awhile, maybe you will enjoy it. And if you’re looking for an organizing role model, you should probably look at Amy Santiago (played by the winsome Melissa Fumero) in the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which airs on NBC but used to be on the Fox network. There are a lot of organized characters on TV, but Amy is probably one of the more well-adjusted ones worth emulating.
Amy Santiago is smart (she attended a magnet school where she was voted “most likely to befriend a school administrator”), and she is successful at her job, well liked and doesn’t seem to drive her colleagues and friends too insane with her organizing skills. (A recurring joke throughout the series is how devoted Amy is to office supplies and especially her customized binders, which keeps her life orderly.)
At any rate, along with her organizing skills, she definitely has a worldview that probably would help a lot of frazzled people get through stressful situations.
Consider this exchange with Detective Rosa Diaz, who once said in the fifth season, in the episode, “The Favor,” “I’ve never met anyone who cares so much about stupid bureaucracy.”
Amy’s response: “Bureaucracy is not stupid. It's elegant. It's a beautiful puzzle waiting to be cracked. Every rule, every form has its purpose. It all fits together, and when the puzzle is solved and you take a step back and see the big picture, it's like staring into the face of God.”
Keep that in mind the next time you’re standing in line at the DMV.
Where you can watch these shows (at the time of this writing): You may find these shows in other places, but try Hulu.com for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Odd Couple and Frasier, though Frasier seems to be everywhere, including Paramount+ and Peacock. The Hallmark Channel also plays a lot of Frasier episodes. The Big Bang Theory and Friends can be found on HBO Max.