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Is Organization Really the Key to Success?

the keys to success“Organization is the key to success,” Grandpa Arnold would recite.

Grandpa Arnold, you are right. But for me and millions of other scatter-brained Americans, how do we organize our chaotic lives?

There are credit card PIN numbers, email passwords, and Junior’s Thursday daycare appointment to remember. And the bane of my existence: misplaced keys.

“Did someone take my keys? I have to be at practice in five minutes,” I exclaimed. Searching for the missing keys, I petulantly stomped around the kitchen table, the dining room, and the family room. “Where the [expletive deleted] are they?” I growled.

“Well, Matthew, the keys must have used their little legs to walk off,” my chortling mother teased.

I scowled, flashing a contemptuous look for good measure.

“Matthew, you are so disorganized,” Mom sighed. “I bet I will find the damn keys.” Mom and I had starred in this drama before.

Of course, she tracked down the missing keys in, give or take, three seconds. Dangling the missing keys in front of me, she taunted, “Were you looking for these, Matthew?”

I sheepishly grinned. “Thanks,” I mumbled. An embarrassed smile crossed my face; my bemused mother shook her head in mock exasperation.

Family and friends have participated in Operation Search Party: Matt. I have misplaced my wallet in Panama, my passport in Taiwan, and my mind in more countries than I can name.

When lost and found is a daily occurrence, here are strategies to reclaim your time — and sanity.

Ready, Set, Bowl

“Put it in a bowl,” Grandpa Arnold shouted. Little did I know that his oft-recited homily would become an unofficial mantra. When panic-stricken, my mind devolves from scattered to senile. As my mind races to the latest, greatest fear, I bury my keys under yesterday’s sports section, stuff my wallet in a sock drawer, and plop my phone on a nondescript bedroom stand. An hour later, Operation Search Party: Matt is flummoxed. “Where did I place my phone? And those keys must have scampered off.” My late mother is shaking her head in disbelief.

My saving grace: a tacky memento from a backpacking misadventure. As soon as I enter the apartment, I immediately place my worldly possessions in the well-worn bowl. Slowly, I am habituating to the routine and regaining my sanity.

Story Time

Absent-mindedness, meet your two siblings: distracted and spacey. As the anxiety sings, your synapses concentration nosedives. You muddle through the meetings, scribbling down indecipherable notes. You need a compass because your mind is wandering a thousand miles away.

Greeting the Boise sales team, you flash a winning smile. But names, dates, and titles elude you just as your boss asks you about the new sales pitch. Create a story, however outrageous, to refresh your memory. So your regional boss has an uncanny resemblance to a well-known celebrity? Use your creativity to concoct a memorable story about him and his celebrity doppleganger. The more memorable the story, the greater the likelihood that you will recall the meeting’s critical details.

When anxious or depressed, our memory vanishes, or so it seems. There are timeworn strategies to overcome any memory deficits: always have a designated place for those continually misplaced items, and create a humorous story to sear into your synapses. Grandpa Arnold was partially right: “Organization is the key to success” — and mental health stability.

Sergei Gnatuk/Bigstock

Is Organization Really the Key to Success?

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). Is Organization Really the Key to Success?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 14 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.