Organization and Happy Cat Tails

For two years, Tanman and Louise have lived at the shelter. They were born, along with their sister Thelma, in a laundry room, and received very little human attention in the first months of their lives. This means that they came to the shelter in the no-cats-land of not being feral because they had never been outside for a second in their lives and not being socialized either. At the shelter, we discovered that they are great with other cats and love to play. But they are afraid of humans getting too close.

In this photo you can see it says they were at the shelter 600 days, but that was printed in December. Thelma is the tabby and Tanman is, that’s right, the tan and white.

This story takes a good turn, I promise.

A couple of weeks ago, they were adopted together by “Catification Couple,” a couple who have a lot of cats and devote their lives to taking care of them. Their house is designed for cats, in fact.

If you want the fun of seeing Tanman and Louise warm up to humans you can follow their stories on Instagram or Facebook. They do post, as well, but to really see what goes on with these two kitties you have to watch the stories.

So I have been spending a lot of time (that I don’t have) going through files and files of old paperwork–writing drafts, academic papers, business “dead files,” and personal business out-of-date stuff. So far I have 8 banker boxes of shredding :/.

What motivated me is that I am missing a list of items that I know are just misplaced. When you have too much stuff, you can’t find what you really want to find.

But I am reading a few things before I toss them.


Audre Lorde is one of my favorite poets. My dissertation (gosh, that feels like such ancient history now–and it really is) is structured on one type of identity for each chapter. Then I focused on one poet for each identity. A chapter I was excited about, but never got to was “the performance of economics,” using Lorde’s poetry. She so often uses images and metaphors of money and math. I suspect it meant that she dealt with feelings about worth.  Reading this poem made me remember how disappointed I was to exclude the proposed chapter from my dissertation, but I already had enough word count and just wanted to graduate.

Going through all this stuff is making me wonder what other writers do to organize all their work. It seems an ongoing time-consuming project to organize well. Right now I have a binder of published poems and a binder of published prose with lists for each. But the binders are full and they seem a bit disorganized. Then I have a binder for all the paperwork related to Doll God and one for Kin Types. Maybe it’s my habit of losing things that make me want to use binders instead of just file folders.

There is still much to be gone through, but I am losing my passion for it. My allergies are in an uproar over the dust I’ve stirred up, and I’m tired of the same project. And have started to feel overwhelmed by how many incomplete poem drafts I’ve found!

Do you do intense organizing like this? If so, how often do you engage in it? I sort of think this is my first time . . . .


Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing

53 responses to “Organization and Happy Cat Tails

  1. If anyone ever had a chance of organizing anything, my money would be on you, Luanne.
    I tried, but I’m afraid my last downsizing move placed a severe restriction on my collections. Best wishes for you, however.
    Cat story makes me happy.

  2. A move forces this kind of activity. I’m like you. I got real tired real fast of trying to make chaos into organization. I gave up, boxed the stuff and will approach it another time.

  3. “When you have too much stuff, you can’t find what you really want to find.” Oh man, that is so true. I go through spurts where I want to trash or donate…it always feels good.

    • It feels SO good. I can’t stand keeping all this clutter. I am not like my mom–she’ll throw everything away if you let her. But I am not one that likes too much baggage either. Which makes me think of Laurie Buchanan’s book Note to Self!

  4. I can only tackle projects like this for very short periods of time. Then I get either bored or overwhelmed (sometimes both). But good for you for trying to deal with it.

  5. I have notes and papers from my dissertation still and all of my books and ETS work. . .clearly, I’m not the person to ask. Hahahaha.
    I’m glad the cats found a good home!

    • Oh man, that is exactly some of the stuff I am getting rid of. No point in keeping it all these years later! I am so happy for these two cats. They are such nice cats and just need a chance. They ended up in one of the best cat homes ever.

  6. Thanks for the cat story. So glad that Tanman and Louise found a good home! I’m the last person you’d look to for advice on organizing. I think I was better organized when I didn’t have so many distractions 😉 For now (that is, as long as I’m still stuck with my day job), I do my organizing in bits and pieces. One of my challenges is, what do I do with the papers (flotsam and jetsom) that I want to keep? Right now I’m bundling papers into large envelopes (brightly colored, cardstock quality, 10 x 13 envelopes). I don’t have room for binders or a file cabinet ;(

    • At least your envelopes must look pretty :)! That is something, I think. We have always had our business in the house, so that has meant file cabinets and lots and lots of paperwork.

      • When we were both in grad school we had filing cabinets (I think they were surplus from an employer). Had to get rid of them because our first kitty sprayed on them like there was no tomorrow. You can’t get rid of the smell when it’s on metal, plus his urine rusted the cabinets. Now we just use file folders in magazine holders for our taxes and other business stuff. My room is too small so that’s a big reason why I’m trying to get rid of stuff. Plus we hope to move in a few years so better start downsizing now 😉

        • I did not know that about metal! My son and DIL are dealing with dog urine on their carpet. Because of “circumstances,” it has really soaked in and no amount of shampooing is going to get to that pad underneath. They are worried about it.

  7. Those cats look adorable, I don’t use IG or FB so won’t see them being extra cute and learning to love their people, but they sure look as if they want to love people!

    When I was teaching I constantly sorted through my files and kept a tight rein on what and where and how things were accessed. When I gave up teaching in a great moment of release I burnt the lot! Then I spent the next 12 years moving about and my homes tended to become smaller and smaller and so with every move I got rid of more stuff. Now, when I’m uncertain, I put things in a certain drawer and if those things have not been required or used in a year – out they go. I’ve only ever come up against not having one ‘thing’ – a book – that I wanted to refer to some time after having disposed of it. That told me such a lot about my fear of letting things go – the fear itself is rubbish! 😀

    • You have a lot of self-discipline. Plus the moving does kind of force the issue. I haven’t gone through that yet so I wasn’t forced to go through everything until now. It’s just overwhelming and there is no room left. Period.
      The kitties are doing great! Tanman is letting them pet him briefly, and Louise has even let her come very close. They are getting along GREAT with their other huge amount of cats.

      • That’s good news on the kitties! I’m so glad to hear that. Having ‘No room left. Period.’ will kind of force the issue too I’m guessing 🙂 I have a good friend in California who is an excellent organizer – just saying……

        • Hahaha, yes, Marlene was mentioning that your friend helped her with her organization. I don’t really need help doing it so much as the time and inclination and energy to do it all. With what I have done I have really worn myself out. Now I need to RENEW myself :).
          Such good news about the kitties!

  8. It’s a dreadful chore – except when you come across something good, like that poem you found. Most of my papers are in order, or getting there as I scan folders and put them in a computer file. What I really have a problem with it all the research I’ve been doing for my books. Most of it is on the computer, but it’s overwhelming me to the point that I can’t seem to move forward on these projects until I go through it all.

    • I have now found something even better that I am posting on thefamilykalamazoo tomorrow, Eilene. If you get a chance, watch for it. It’s from my grandmother.
      You see, that is what happens with me, too. It becomes so overwhelmed i get “paralyzed” from it all. I was at that point. But now I am starting to feel better.

  9. I’m in some sort of nesting phase as I’ve been cleaning things that haven’t been cleaned in 15 years! As for those kitties, just aw! My latest cat Sasha spent a year in a rescue because she wasn’t people friendly. People came to see her (her photo was on the internet) but she would hide so they adopted another cat. A friend foster to try to socialize but still no luck so I had to adopt her. What a ruse. It took 48 hours, no I can’t even go to the bathroom alone! However, when someone comes to the house, she is under the bed.

  10. I know all about your plight. Pauline’s organizing friend from California came up to help me but goodness there is still more to purge. It’s almost more exhausting looking for things you can’t find than sitting with all the papers for an afternoon and sorting them. It always happens when I’m desperately looking for something I need right away. Then the shredding begins. I’m so glad the kittens found a home. There are so many in need everywhere. ;(

    • There are SO many in need. It breaks my heart over and over again.
      I am always looking for something I need right away. It’s so frustrating. I don’t really think it’s me as much as it is that I am just drowning in paper. We’re going paperless as a society? i don’t think so. Now we have to do computer AND hard copy organizing!!!!!!

      • I scan all important paperwork and there is so little that filing isn’t as much as it once was. But then of course, you could lose computer hard drives too. ;( Alys is the person that knows how to make it so painless that I didn’t get that gut wrenching feeling when she went through my things like I had expected.

  11. I guess I haven’t been writing long enough for my ideas to need much organizing. I keep a list of possible topic ideas on GoogleDocs. When I want to write, I scroll through the list and see which one calls to me. I don’t have any paper files.
    Glad the cat story has a happy ending!

  12. You hit several of my buttons here! First – ALLERGIES. I’ve been suffering for two months now and find the meds take away some of my energy. Thus, I write, teach, but my ‘to file’ pile has reached the ceiling. I’m realizing that I really hate organizing. Figures, since I don’t like to plot when I’m working on a book, either. Somehow they go hand in hand. Also, regarding thesis (mine is more ancient than yours, I bet), James Baldwin has been in the news the past half year or more, his books becoming a movie, his life and works finally getting more attention again. He was one of the writers I focused on in my thesis oh so many years ago. So… I looked for my thesis. It took days (and more papers found ‘to be filed’) and finally found it. So there’s my answer. I have ‘files’ in an oak cabinet of stories and poems I wrote and loved at one time, filed, and forgot within the week. ;-0
    Lastly, I’m now following the “Catification Couple” on Instagram. My children’s book MOLLY FINDS HER PURR will be published in September, and they will love it I think. 😉

    • Interesting about the plotting. I too do not like to plot. And I don’t like to organize until it’s a big project and I feel I am UNLOADING stuff. Then I like it. That might also be why I don’t save drafts! My philosophy is get rid of them!
      Excited to hear about Molly Finds Her Purr!!!!! Is it a picture book or a chapter book?
      James Baldwin is a blast from the past for me, too! Wow.
      Enjoy the exploits of Tanman (Mr. Man) and Louise!

      • Yes, yes! I don’t plot my life, and I don’t plot my books. 🙂 Molly Finds Her Purr will be a picture book. I’m holding the illustrator’s hand and hoping she can finish in time for a mid-September pub date. But then again, she doesn’t like to “plot” or plan either. 🙂

  13. So happy about the kits’ adoptions! Hurrah for good people everywhere! Organization—what is that? I have papers and photos and ideas stashed everywhere. I know someday I will get around to it, but not today. Can I have more time, please?

    • OK, that cracked me up. Sure, you can have more time ;). Permission granted.
      I am so thrilled for these two kitties. And they are proving to be such good cats. (Aren’t almost all of them though!)

  14. Good news re: Louise and Tan Man. That is such a cute picture of him hanging around. Congratulations on having weeded out all those old papers. And you got to enjoy some good memories. The Audre Lorde poem and dates remind me of how lucky I was to see her honored as State Poet of New York. What a thrill!

  15. In a recent post you mentioned how annoying it is that WordPress sees fit to eliminate all spacing that its algorithm deems to be unnecessary, thereby over-riding the author’s intent to using spacing to communicate degrees of conceptual linkage. I solve this by entering a minus sign at the beginning of every intended blank line that is to be protected against WordPress’ algorithm, and then using the character-color tool to color those minus signs white, so that they become invisible.

    • Oh, wow. OK I need to figure out how to do the “character-color tool”!!! I will try it next time . . . . (Gotta print this though so I remember!), Thanks so much!

  16. First: love-love-love the cat stories. Makes me feel better about our two adopted cats (13 years old now!) who were reportedly found in a field outside the Boeing Plant in south Seattle, but who do not seem to have been completely feral, though they were not human-socialized. After years of just giving them a place to be and an older friend-cat companion (Carnation, a tabby-tortoiseshell), Pickles (all-black) and Mittens (black-and-white tuxedo) became marginally more friendly, to the point where now, after Carnation passed away three years ago, these two sibling cats demand pats every day from us. Still skittery with strangers but more than friendly enough with family, hah! Pickles will curl up across my arm when I’m trying to type at the laptop, and Mittens stalks into the kitchen and hops up onto her “safe” chair, then turns and yowl-meows to let you know she’s ready for pats. Funny.

    Second: big congrats on the organizing and clean-up project. Wow. Love that you have the binders, esp of the unfinished poems. Inspiring, I am going to organize too! I’ve started weeding out “older” versions of short stories I’m still marketing. And while I’m not doing active new short stories on purpose – working on getting momentum going on this novel project instead – every writing day I start with a poem exercise and then I stick the results in a file marked “Daily Poetry.” So: KUDOS!! Luanne!

    And, if you’re losing passion or energy for organizing, I’d say that’s when it’s good to step back and transition to another project you DO have passion for. I usually find myself cycling back to things later on that feel overwhelming at the time. (Like weeding in the yard, haha).

    Thanks, Luanne! fun post!

  17. Pingback: The Outlier’s Tail: Part 4 of The Caterbuddy Tails | Luanne Castle's Writer Site

  18. I had to go look at kitties ^_^ they have one who looks remarkably like my Cletus!
    Audre Lorde was one of the first poets I loved hard, the way one does when one is studying words.
    As for the organization, well, Luanne, I’m no poet, but I do sorta have a flair for organization. It comes naturally to me and so it’s a way of life. Where I find chaos, I make order. You won’t like my suggestion, which is to NOT read, but to scan, and to decide within seconds – keep or pitch? What many people do is labor over items, remembering and wondering, dealing with worry, guilt, and fear, instead of actively reacting to the need to keep or pitch. You’re not there to ask why you kept it, why it was important at the time, or if you’ll wish you had it later. You’re there to decide if the item is currently serving you. You’re not the same person you were.
    Ideally, you’re left with what’s important, and items you can later place higher importance on (like displaying them) to experience the joy of memory, or pieces you keep as research, which should certainly be filed and noted for easy use (post its, tabs, highlighting). Go with your gut, don’t overthink.
    This is very difficult for feeling people, and I am one. Virtually everything I own is sentimental. It’s a gift, an heirloom, a curiosity, a story.
    xx i promise

Leave a Reply