The Cult of True Organization

It all started with the bullet journal video:

Then, I found myself watching videos by people who had hacked the bullet journal system:

Soon, I was deep into the hard stuff, the crack of planner culture: the Filofax video. Most of them are astonishingly similar: a woman in her thirties or forties narrates a detailed exploration of her lovingly decorated personal planner. Everyone uses the same Martha Stewart stickers, they all love the “suppleness” of the Filofax’s leather, and they all wrap their extra washi tape around pieces of plastic they’ve cut to fit into the little front pockets.

In spite of this repetitiveness, and in spite of the fact that this sh*t is seriously the lamest, I can’t stop watching.

At first, I wondered what in god’s name had gotten into me. Part of me wanted to clear my browser history and turn on a documentary about Kathleen Hanna. But another part of me* can’t stop clicking on links to watch yet another Filofax setup. The only way I’ve been able to have any level of comfort about this is to affect a sort of anthropological stance toward these vlogs. So my time spent watching video after video is, like, research into a relic of 1980s white male corporate culture that has been appropriated by twenty-first century women who use it not for work, but to organize their household and personal lives.

But really, I think my obsession boils down to two things: my love for A System and the vicarious pleasure of watching other women Get Credit.

I have this illusion that if I only had The Right System, the messy pieces of my life would fall neatly into place. I wouldn’t panic because my to-do list was too long or because I couldn’t manage to finish folding the laundry that day. A System takes care of things like that. Like some of the women who make the Filofax videos I love, I’ve tried out several different approaches to organizing my life.

In my search for The Right System, I’ve experimented with intensive, all-encompassing approaches like David Allen’s Getting It Done . D might remember my foray into simpler project management systems like the sticky note board featured on Alejandra.TV:

No system ever lasts longer than six months, but implementing them gives me a satisfying, if brief, feeling of ownership and control over my life.** Like making New Year’s resolutions, it’s more about the fantasies you can engage in about a new you. It’s a glimpse into a worry-free, uncomplicated and sparkling clean future.

So watching women talk about their System is great, but the major appeal of Filofaxing is the fact that it’s all about visualizing and thus in some way getting credit for the mostly unacknowledged and unnoticed work of maintaining a household (work that is still largely done by women, whether or not they also work outside of the home). In a culture in which we no longer have the validation of the (thankfully) bygone Cult of True Womanhood, there still exists a desire to valorize and justify the actual labor it takes to maintain the home. Filofaxes and similar planners allow women the opportunity to make visible the largely invisible work of keeping house. The obsessive charting, recording and color coding of household and everyday chores makes quantifiable that which was formerly unquantified. All those hours you spent folding laundry, making meal plans, grocery shopping and taking your kids to ballet practice no longer slip away into the ether:



All of your unpaid labor, all of the time lost to what amounts to drudgery, is now beautifully and meticulously recorded for posterity.***



*The part of me that recently bought a scrapbook.

**I’m making it seem as though I have this really chaotic, hectic lifestyle. I do not. I am simply a lady of habit, and therefore have an almost comical need for structure.

***Or just recorded for you. Probably just you.

7 thoughts on “The Cult of True Organization

  1. Like W.’s post on feminist footwear, this post seems way too important for LoH. Pitch this shit to the Slate!
    I looooove your insight about the need for the visibility of home labor. That is fascinating.
    What is the deal with the non-digital element of this though? Is it some weird materiality fetish? I also have a deeply obsessive relationship to planning/calendering, but it is all within the realm of iCal.
    Also I think your new bullet system youtube binging and my beauty video youtube binging are all part of a new world where people watch youtube instead of tv. According to a tv business person I met at a party, this is how the youths do it. So really, we are on the cutting edge.

    • Oh man, a HUGE element of Filofax culture is about materiality/ism. Almost everyone begins their videos by stroking their Filofax’s (or Louis Vitton or Kate Spade or Midori Traveler) cover and commenting on the leather. And then there’s the name brand washi tape, stickers and other stationery supplies. As is the case with your beauty vloggers, many planner enthusiasts also feature stationary haul videos. Also, a big part of Filofaxing is the ability to decorate the pages, almost in a scrapbooking way, which is something I assume you cannot do in the digital realm.

      I want to know more about these parties where you are mixing with teevee people. Can you get any inside scoops on the broadcast world?

  2. Simone de Beauvoir would be totally pro-Filofax. This is a great post.

    Also I thought you were going to appropriate the end of Blade Runner in that last line, C.

    • What I wouldn’t give to watch a Filofax video by Simone de Beauvoir. You’re totally right, she’d be way into it. Sartre, on the other hand, strikes me as a bullet journal kind of guy.

  3. Pingback: iCal Habits | ladies of habit

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