Anne Palumbo: There's more to January than resolutions

Anne Palumbo

Now that the holidays are behind us, and the dust has settled, and the sun is shining brightly on our cluttered homes, it is time to start putting things away.

I know this because I am a mature adult who has lived long enough to grasp the significance of January. Although we tend to associate January with “resolutions” – and rightly so! – this important month is not only about resolving to quit doing deplorable things that make us wake up with cotton in our mouth or a bowling ball in our stomach or a police officer at our front door.

It is also about organizing!

Even if you are not a grown-up who is in charge of running a household, you can’t escape the organizational thrust of January. Everywhere we turn these days, we are bombarded with America’s second most important invention ever: the plastic tote.

(The first, of course, is the terrific teeth-whitening kit.)

I don’t know about you, but I find it impossible to walk by a tote without pausing. During my pause – which is pregnant, protracted and often unpleasant – I think about all the things I could put in a tote…or two…or twenty. 

From there, my mind leaps to my basement, where I would be storing the totes, and, the next thing you know, I am begging the store pharmacist for sedatives.

I don’t like thinking about my basement, OK? But now is not the time or place to talk about an area of my home that drags me down like a soggy futon – a classic basement bed that cats happen to find more attractive than a litter box, my own included.

But back to totes and why “plastic” may soon replace “garnet” as the new January birthstone.

The good thing about totes is that they trigger our brains to think in terms of “clumps.” By this, I mean, we see a tote and we think, “Hmm, what like-minded items could I clump together to place in Tote #1? Let’s see, I could put all the yarn that I never use in there, along with all the sweaters that I never finished, along with the cat. Putting the cat in there would solve my futon dilemma; and since Ginger likes yarn, that seems like a win-win solution.” 

Basic as it sounds, “clump-thinking” is desirable thinking, as it serves us well in other areas of our lives, too. For instance, I often use clump-thinking when I need to throw together a meal and have no idea what to make. I’ll hold a pan in front of the refrigerator and think, “Hmm, what liked-minded items could I chuck together to form dinner? Let’s see, I could toss some watery sour cream in there, along with the smoked salmon we never finished from Thanksgiving, along with some hardened Hickory Farms cheese that got opened but never consumed. Sounds like a winner.”

The bad thing about totes, however, is that they take us away from our favorite activity: lolling on the couch with salsa breath. Call me a lazy lummox, but I don’t like to spend my free time clumping like-minded things into neat little piles.

In conclusion, January is for organizing and totes are the vessels that motivate us to get hopping.  In the event that, like me, you’d rather loll than organize, well, you can always resolve to do it next January. That’s right, put it off. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a mighty fine dinner to throw together.  Anyone care to join me?

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: