A place for everything and everything in its place. My dad must have repeated those words to me a thousand times. Or maybe more. When I was a child, it meant “clean up your room.” I was a big fan of clutter and rarely put anything away. Cleaning up meant either dumping everything in a drawer or stuffing it into a closet. As long as Dad couldn’t see it, I was in the clear.
Once, in college, I checked out a cookbook from the library. I don’t remember the name or author of the book, but right there in the front, after the title page, was that quote: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” The quote continued with some reference to the kitchen, the exact wording of which I do not remember. After hearing those words so many times from my father, I was surprised to see them in print. I never considered that anyone but my father strung those particular words together into a phrase.
After a little searching, I found that the origin of the quote is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It is also sometimes attributed to Mrs. Isabella Beeton, who published “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” and “Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book” in the 1860’s. However, Mrs. Beeton’s books were published seventy years after Franklin’s death, so she must have been quoting Franklin. Perhaps Mrs. Beeton’s father admonished her room-cleaning skills with that phrase, too, and it became her mantra.
Samuel Smiles also quoted Benjamin Franklin in his book “Thrift,” published in 1875.
Thrift of Time is equal to thrift of money. [Benjamin] Franklin said, “Time is gold.” If one wishes to earn money, it may be done by the proper use of time. But time may also be spent in doing many good and noble actions. It may be spent in learning, in study, in art, in science, in literature. Time can be economized by system. System is an arrangement to secure certain ends, so that no time may be lost in accomplishing them. Every business man must be systematic and orderly. So must every housewife. There must be a place for everything, and everything in its place. There must also be a time for everything, and everything must be done in time.
There are many interesting concepts in this one paragraph written by Samuel Smiles, but clearly Mr. Smiles was expanding on ideas originating with Benjamin Franklin. And please note that Smiles did not mention room cleaning as a proper use of time.
The list of authors borrowing the quote from Franklin goes on and on. Even Budd Peaslee, first commander of the 384th Bomb Group used Franklin’s words in his book, “Heritage of Valor.” On page 41, Peaslee wrote:
…there was a place for everything and everything must be in its proper place so as to preserve the balance of the bomber in flight as its weight changed with the using up of its great fuel load.
Did those words become common around the Grafton Underwood airfield, surviving Peaslee’s command of the group? Is that where my father first heard them? I’ll never know, but I know those words still echo in my head to this day and when my piles of clutter get too big, “a place for everything and everything in its place” still means stuffing it all into the nearest drawer or closet. Dad, my room is ready for inspection.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018