Obsessive Organizers Aren’t Made, They’re Born

I recalled a childhood memory the other day. This in itself is somewhat unusual — my memory is tepid at best and very selective at what it chooses to retain (song lyrics? Random flower names? Check and check! People I’ve met? Things I’ve done? Er…)

When I was in elementary school I had a portable file folder, the accordion kind with a flap that closes with an elastic cord. The folders inside had alphabetical tabs, A through Z. I used this folder — exclusively — for organizing animal photos that I’d cut out from magazines.

There were… a lot of them. I had a habit of going through my dad’s National Geographics and cutting out any interesting animals I found. Add to that the random country magazines my grandma used to give us, and there were a LOT of animals to choose from. Otters — filed under O. Zebras, under Z. Baby horses — well, H, clearly. There were a few empty letters, of course (X isn’t common in the animal kingdom), but most of the others were pretty well filled in.

And you know? I never did anything with these. Every once in a while I’d pull them out, look through them, and then neatly file them away again. I think the “thrill” of it was just having them there, organized, exactly where I could find them.

The animal file folder wasn’t the culmination of my organizational frenzy. When I was in…fifth grade? Sixth grade? My dad taught me how to use Excel. Rather than acting like a normal kid who’d say, “DEAR GOD WHY?”, I proceeded to make a spreadsheet that kept track of all the household’s stuffed animals.


My sister and I, we were somewhat avid in our stuffed animal collection. Between the two of us, there were 50 or 60 stuffed animals, ranging from your typical bears and dogs and cats, ranging to more exotic elephants and alligators and parrots. And I listed them all in this Excel sheet. Their names (they all had proper names), their species, when we received them, who gave them to us, any special characteristics they had. I went through the entire house, found all the stuffed animals, and categorized them all. All neatly organized in Excel.

I think Byron is often amused/bemused by my OCD organizing. But really, when I go on a drawer-cleaning spree, or organize the bookshelf alphabetically (by author), or get gleefully excited about the prospect of color-coordinated file folders… really, he shouldn’t be surprised. Clearly, I was born this way.