I just spent  a couple of hours going through a pile of keys. House keys, car keys, bike-lock keys, office keys. Keys to gates and storage bins.

I’m sure you know exactly where this story goes: Most of these keys, I have NO IDEA what they unlocked back in their glory days of real utility.

Labeled? Nope, not a chance.

Except for one whole envelope that my sister the archivist sorted through.  Those keys, at least we know they were our mother’s, and that means they go to this house where I live now. They are helpfully labeled “interior lock” and sometimes even “interior lock/closet.” It’s a start.
Then there are he keys from previous incarnations. At this point, I don’t even remember what my son’s car keys to his first, second and third car looked like. Yeah. Maybe some of these are those.

These, those … My point is – well, I have several. First of all, we all have too much stuff. Well, most of us. This is not news.

The news is – I just got it this morning – that SORTING STUFF IS NEITHER WORK NOR PLAY.

That’s why we hate it so much.

Sorting stuff does not pay us. Nor does it further any tasks (a.k.a. work) that WILL eventually pay us. Nor does it fuel anything we are passionate about.

Au contraire, it actually takes time AWAY from the tasks that will pay us either in money or pleasure.

And it eats up valuable time that might otherwise be devoted to playing. Hiking, biking, dancing, surfing … reading, sewing, fixing the car (if you call that play) … or simply lounging around or hanging out with friends.

NONE of this do we get to do while we are sorting. It’s tedious, solitary, time-consuming  …. And did I mention tedious?

And it gets worse. Sorting can also be traumatic, because it almost invariably dredges up the past.

In the case of the keys, it dredged up my life as an editor, where I was able to open doors on levels literal and metaphoric. And the houses where I lived with my son when he was growing up – gone, the houses and the childhood. Can’t tarry there or I’ll never get through the pile.

And my mother. Some of the printing on the keys that are labeled is hers. I probably don’t have to tell you what a mental side trip those provoke?

I have a lot more to say about it all. But for now, what I want to leave you with is this:

You’re not crazy if sorting makes you feel crazy.

Not at all.

And: There are solutions. Every problem holds keys to its solution. To be continued …


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