The curse of the organized is that you are called upon to help those less fortunate. When you have a kid who is organizational challenged that means years of backpack cleaning, camp trunk excavating, and end of the year college room packing up.

Freddy had a rough first year in college. He was separated from his twin for the first time and assigned a monastic single on the fifth floor of an old dormitory. He applied to clubs and was rejected. By spring he had found his footing, but he had spent much of the year miserable. So, when he asked if I would fly out and help him pack up because move out was 24 hours after his last exam, of course I said yes.
This wasn’t enabling. A lot of my friends were doing the same thing. Besides it was a chance for me to get away. I booked into the local college hotel and packed a small overnight bag filled with clothes that could get dirty, packing tape and markers. Over the phone I pleaded with Freddy to start: to pick up the floor, to separate things into piles and at least do the laundry.

“I always do my laundry Mom.” Freddy retorted.

I knew that. While he was a Pigpen about his surroundings, he was slightly OCD about having clean clothes. Despite my instructions, I’m a realist I knew the disorganization I was flying towards but how bad could it be?


Papers have always been Freddy’s nemesis. His jackets are still always stuffed with maps or flyers or interesting scraps of information. But you don’t get to be a trivia expert by not reading anything and everything.

The room was worse than I imagined. Crumbled papers literally everywhere. I stood at the door and my face fell.

“Mom? You okay?” Freddy timidly asked.

“Yes. I thought I knew what to expect.” I replied.

“But Mom. It’s not really that bad.” Freddy insisted.

“Ya. It is.”

I cleared a space on the desk. Put my hair in a ponytail. Took a long drink of hot black coffee and set to work. We were filthy and exhausted by the end of the day. Well deserving of long showers and a delicious meal at Freddy’s favorite restaurant. There was more to do the next day before we boarded the plane. But the campus storage company was booked. The books had been sorted into save, return to library and sell. And summer clothes were packed to be shipped home.

My initial thought was, I’ll teach him how to do this and from now on he will do it himself.


The next year Freddy came down with the flu during exams and it was all he could do to study. The following year, he had a local job and needed help moving into an off-campus apartment. And senior year, it was graduation and he was moving out for good.

Flying to help Freddy became an annual occurrence. Did it get easier every year? Maybe? We have an amazing ability to block out those times that are difficult. And as much as each June I would gird myself in preparation for Freddy’s mess; I also looked forward to visiting. After that first year he made great friends and had nice roommates. Nothing made me happier than when I would take them to dinner and sit and listen to them banter and talk. More importantly, who doesn’t relish a little alone time with their kid and a pile of papers?

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