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January cover stories on organizing your life and home are as predictable as political ads in an election year. Maybe that’s because after the chaos and clutter of the holidays we long for order again. A place for everything and everything in its place. (Trust me, young moms – that’s never gonna happen.)

But January came in August for me this year. Knowing that I’d be combining rigorous grad classes with full-time work and ministry this fall was a powerful incentive to get my house in order. My life – not a chance – but my house had potential.

I started with the bathroom my husband and I share. “Master” bath is too grand a word for the 5 x 7 closet attached to our bedroom, but it’s plenty big enough to scrub us up in the mornings. My husband requires space only for his razor, shaving cream, toothbrush and deodorant. What the master bath cannot contain, however, is the missus’ assemblage of hair styling tools, congregation of creams and lotions (what she considers essential preservatives), and messy collection of cosmetics (after all, life is a battle and a girl needs her war paint.)

Thus the Problem: his stuff is neatly stowed away but hers overflows every available flat surface.  And then an idea from Better Homes and Gardens came to the rescue: a nifty little shelf nailed above the unused real estate of the door with wicker baskets to hold the missus’ paraphernalia. Cheap, simple and practical. Voila!One less mess to face on a daily basis.

Our new bathroom shelf that corrals all my stuff

Ah…if only all of life’s disarray could be resolved so easily. Don’t you sometimes wish you could just pitch  your problems in a basket and consider them dealt with? Out of sight and all. But life has a way of upending our baskets and leaving the mess on the floor. We have a choice, though. We can clean up our own messes or leave them for others to manage.

Our nearly century-old grandfather clock stopped sometime this past summer. When Mike took it in for service yesterday, the technician noted that it had not been thoroughly cleaned in over 35 years.  Sure enough – there was a note on the back with “1976” in my dad’s distinctive handwriting.  Dad was meticulous both about record-keeping and the maintenance of our house and farm. If he were still alive, the clock would still be running.

But now it’s our responsibility to care for the clock that once belonged to my grandparents. Its care has passed through my parents’ generation to ours. It may seem like a small thing, but it hit me hard last night that Mike and I likely will not be alive in another 35 years to arrange for the clock to be cleaned again. It will be our kids’ turn to keep it running.

The lesson is not lost on me. I will clean up my own messes.  I will maintain to the best of my ability that which is mine to manage. I will designate a place for everything.

But everything in its place? Not in this lifetime.

That would be heavenly, after all.