So we have a few bookshelves in our house–one of which is in our kitchen. Only one or two of the shelves in this bookshelf actually house books, most of which are food-stained cookbooks. The rest of the 4 or 5 shelves are given over to photographs, albums, pamphlets from schools, framed pictures, compact discs, pencils, letters, screwdrivers, coins, candles, bills, artwork, crayons–basically the knickknacks and detritus of daily living. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so it’s convenient and handy to just stash stuff there.

The only problem is IT DRIVES ME INSANE!

The randomness, and perceived messiness of the bookshelf drives me crazy. I look at it and I see chaos, complexity and disorder. I know I have a problem, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to help. I am constantly shuffling things around, grouping things, moving things, throwing things out while more and and more things are quietly added. I’d almost prefer the bookshelf to be somewhere out of sight, but then we’d probably use something else in the kitchen.

This morning, on my way to work, I got a call from Kesa asking where two flower petals were that needed to be ironed on to Chloe’s Girl Scouts uniform. They were in the bookshelf at one point. Did I throw them away? I can’t remember it’s all a blur. I admit that I probably did. I can hear Chloe crying in the background. I feel bad…and resentful about having to keep this bookshelf organized.

Why am I writing here about this? Well mostly it wouldn’t fit within a 140 byte limit. But srsly – I guess I just feel like this bookshelf is a living emblem of my professional life as a software developer at a library. I strive to create software that is simple in its expression, that does one thing and does it well, and which is hopefully easy to maintain by more people than just me. I relish working at an institution that values the preservation of objects and knowledge.

But I threw away the flower decal …

It’s important to remember that real life is complicated, and that the messiness is something to be relished as well. The useful bookshelf, or bag of bits, chunk of json, or half-remembered perl script in someones homedir are valuable for their organic resilience. Or as Einstein famously said:

Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

I’m sorry Chloe.