Life Lessons from the Library: Putting Stuff Back Is Important. Really!

This month, we have two exhibits going on: one for women’s history month, and the other, a continuing exhibit of new materials. One proclaims proudly, “Women’s History Month” featuring a suffragette. The other has a sign with a smiling book saying “I’m  new. Check me out!”

Now, to me, the creator of these two exhibits, everything is clear. It’s obvious where the books should go once they’ve been checked out and returned.  But over the last few days, I’ve discovered it’s not as clear as I thought.

Yesterday, in the middle of the women’s history books, I found the title Almost Adults. A staff member had mistakenly put it on the wrong exhibit, but considering how women have been viewed for a great deal of history, it was a most unfortunate error. Then today, once again on the women’s history exhibit, I found another new book, this one entitled The Possessed. Once again, no matter what interpretation you give the title, not a great location.

I have now told each staff member to look at the title before placing a book willy-nilly on exhibit. And I hope we have no more embarrassing misplacements. But it made me think about the basic truth that we probably all heard from our mothers at some point: “If you put things back where they belong, life will be easier.”

It’s certainly not as profound as being kind or changing your career or following your bliss. But still, just putting stuff back in the right place really does make life run a little easier. I know from past experience if cooking dinner means taking all the clean pots and dishes out of the dishwasher so I can add the dirty ones that are in the sink and then sorting out the rotten from the fresh food and then finding the recipe my friend sent me a month ago and then going to grocery store. . . . Okay, you get the picture. It makes me tired just thinking about it, and almost nothing gets done.

But if I put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher as I go and put recipes in the drawer that is supposed to house recipes, then it’s much easier to make a dish. And if I don’t have to put away a mountain of clothes before vacuuming the bedroom, then I’m more likely to get to the actual vacuuming.

So take it from our experience in the library, things are much easier to find if they are put back where they’re supposed to be. And life is easier. And you’re sometimes just saved from plain old embarrassment.

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