Robinson Crusoe and Essential Organizing

Essential Organizing!

Robinson Crusoe organized
Illustration by Lynd Ward, 1946

While visiting my mother recently, I picked up a few of the books I had read and loved when I was young. One of them was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, which I recently read again. It is still a wonderful story of one man’s journey being washed ashore onto a small desolate island in the Caribbean. Once he realizes his solitary situation, he raids the shipwreck of anything useful and begins to construct a life. And here was my big surprise; after making shelter and finding food, the very next thing he does is organize!


After he makes a table and chair, he constructs a shelving system:

“…I made large shelves, of the breadth of a foot and a half, one over another, all along one side of my cave, to lay all my tools, nails, and ironwork, and, in a word, to separate everything at large in their places, that I might come easily at them. I knocked pieces into the wall of the rock to hang my guns and all things that would hang up.   …and now I began to be in some order withindoors.”


Later, he builds a sizeable sailboat. No sooner is he finished fitting it with mast and sail, he is organizing:

“Then I made little lockers and boxes at each end of my boat, to put provisions, necessaries, and ammunition into, …and a little long hollow place where I could lay my gun, making a flap to hang down over it to keep it dry.”


As time went on (spoiler alert: he was stranded on that island for just over 28 years), he figured out how to make baskets and clay pots – essential containers for daily use and storage – and expanded his “castle” with more closets for storage.


There are moments, as I forward along with this profession of organizing, that its value is questioned of me by others in conversation. What I know is this: as it was then, in the 1600’s, it is now – organizing is an essential part of life. It is a skill many have, a few revel in (me!) and some don’t have at all, be it because they suffer from a disorder that prevents it, never learned it, or simply dislike the process altogether.

Everywhere there is a need to be organized, “to separate everything” so that you “might come easily at them”. In restaurant kitchens; in any well run shop, childcare center, office or business; in anyone’s file cabinet where key life paperwork is stored. Without some semblance, there is time and money wasted.

I am certain a man of less organizing capacity then maestro Robinson Crusoe could not have survived so well and comfortably. Luckily today, save the deserted part, he can call upon a Professional Organizer.

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