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Organizing my office, or how I’m in love with my label maker

Categories: Decluttering, Organization, Productivity, Uncategorized


The last time we spoke about the office in my basement I was trying not to kill my husband because he has 4 boxes full of model cars. This, in addition to the 10 or so he already has displayed in the room.

logans cars

But since he’s out of town this week I’m not trying to keep my hands to myself this week. Instead I’m making progress on the office. The nice thing about the space we’re creating is that I have one wall to myself. My chair faces my wall so instead of staring at my husband’s clutter, I can find serenity in my things.

I spent the day yesterday putting up shelving above my ‘desk’ which is just a hand me down breakfast room table. I put these shelves up by myself. I’ll report back if they come crashing to the ground in a week or so.


It’s certainly nothing terribly impressive, I’d like a new desk, a lamp and a comfortable chair, but sitting down with my things within easy reach has been amazing. Anywhere you can create a work space for yourself I highly recommend it.

Since getting the basement closer to order, I’ve been thinking about how to keep my family organized. Honestly, I had it together fairly well with one child in 3rd grade and the other just in kindergarten. Now that they’re both in school full time the universe has spun around and I am riding a wave of panic that I’m not going to be able to keep up. I’m going under the wave of paperwork and activities if I don’t keep paddling.

That’s why this article about creating a central command station for your family at Real Simple came at a very good time.

From the article:

“When paperwork comes into the house, read it and route it. Attack — don’t stack. ”

I’m getting ‘Attack Don’t Stack’ tattooed on my forehead. Because that is exactly how I process our mail and the contents of our kid’s backpacks. I devour paperwork.

They recommend these wall boxes in the article and I’m debating picking some up. I just wish they were more attractive so I could keep them in my kitchen. Each family member gets a box in the Real Simple way but I think we’ll do a box just for each child. I’m afraid if my husband gets an inbox it will be full of items which will never see the light of day again.

This article recommends having a ‘Master Calendar’ for the family where everyone writes their appointments and schedule.

I use my computer’s calendar feature to track birthdays and any appointments I happen to make while I’m on the computer. Otherwise everything goes on an old fashioned calendar inside a kitchen cabinet door.

The only thing lacking in this system is my family’s investment in the daily schedule. I am pretty much the only person who checks the calendar. Mostly because I am the only person with a driver’s license and/or the person who is in the house all the time.

Generally this situation works pretty well for us, we don’t have an obscene amount of activities and since I have a flexible job we’re always able to make things work. However it does create residual resentment when my husband makes plans without thinking about what’s already on the calendar. I’m pretty sure we’d both enjoy dropping that argument.

Do you have a family calendar? How do you track your family’s schedule so everyone is on the same page?

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20 comments so far...

  • Ballard Designs has some attractive wall pockets that might suit you. They can be found here…

    Getting organized is tough! Good luck.

    Liz  |  September 27th, 2007 at 3:13 pm

  • I love your office space. I’m diligently working on a weird little space of my master bedroom to turn it into an office.

    We do have a wall calendar where everything for the family gets posted. It’s a basic, Staples-brand calendar with big squares to write on. I’ve tried using one of those family calendars where there’s a column for each family member but I’m too simple to be able to use that effectively.

    I’m saving for one of the new HP TouchSmart computers that I’m going to install in the kitchen and use the calendar function on that.

    Jenn Searls  |  September 27th, 2007 at 3:39 pm

  • This does it. I am getting a label maker. Today.

    About the family calendar - I’m in the same boat with you - I keep it, my husband reads it. I’ve tried to get him to put things on - e.g. going out of town on business would be a good thing to have on there - but it’s still mostly me.

    Nataly  |  September 27th, 2007 at 4:23 pm

  • As far as the calendar goes, we use iCal. This may change as our daughter, now three, grows bigger, but for now it works. I “invite” my husband (and he invites me) to calendar events and we have everything color coded. It works perfectly because we both have laptops. Even at work, I can pop it open and see what’s coming up. Now if I could have one of those new iPods, I’d have the calendar everywhere.

    You know, I like the idea of the wall pockets, but they never work for us. We end up having a wall version of the stacking problem. We hired an organizer to help us, and she helped us implement a filing system that really works. Also, we keep a recycling bin on the front porch and immediately place junk mail and the unnecessary portions of bills, etc. inside. (We still shred items, but much fewer now.) I’m sure our system will change when our daughter is involved in more outside activities.

    Sara  |  September 27th, 2007 at 4:57 pm

  • I use two calendars, a family calendar at home on the refrigerator, which doesn’t work very well and I’m probably going to get rid of, and yahoo calendar, which we always keep updated.

    I can access the yahoo calendar from work, so if I need to make appointments or check the activities scheduled for the afternoon or evening, I can check it at work during the day. And my husband has been pretty good about keeping his stuff up to date on it.

    Carolyn  |  September 27th, 2007 at 5:29 pm

  • I’ve always liked the wall-mount magazine racks in the pottery barn family of catalogs. Here is the link to the pbteen items:

    don’t know if that link will work - if not go to and search for magazine

    There are a couple that may work for your kitchen area.

    Alyce  |  September 27th, 2007 at 5:32 pm

  • Last spring, I bought one of those larger (18″x24″) dry erase calendar boards and it has worked out great for us. We hung it on the wall in the kitchen near the sink so it is highly visible. My son is nine and he enjoys cleaning it and writing the month and numbers in each month. I use the “notes” section at the bottom for upcoming events. It was a lifesaver during baseball season. It also helps to schedule events that my son wants to do so that he has a visible reminder of something to look forward to. Sometimes he feels like we never do anything “fun” and we can point to the calendar and say that we are going to the beach or to the arcade on such and such a date.

    Tammy  |  September 27th, 2007 at 5:57 pm

  • We’ve been using one of those family calendars with the columns. It works ok, but I’ve been grumpy about needing to enter everything into both my Palm (which I carry around and use at work) and the family calendar. So now we’ve made the leap to using Google Calendar, where you can have separate calendars for each person (or group of people) and toggle on and off which ones show.

    Elizabeth  |  September 27th, 2007 at 6:13 pm

  • We do have a wall calendar, which I have hung next to the computer in our office. Every date or appointment that we have is written on it, but if I don’t e-mail every date or appointment to my husband, it is somehow my fault that he didn’t know about it. Also, if I don’t mention each thing to him at least weekly, and daily in the week leading up to it, it is somehow my fault that he has forgotten. ARRGGHHH! Oh, and he prefers that we talk about these things in the morning before work, not when he is on his way home from work, or at work. Like I don’t have enough on my plate already…

    As far as label makers are concerned, they are one of my favorite things. I labeled the heck out of my classroom before I went on maternity leave last week, and my son’s DVD case is labeled in alphabetical order.

    Alana  |  September 27th, 2007 at 6:16 pm

  • We keep the family calendar on the refrigerator. It’s one of those dry erase kind. The oldest teenager and I use it. Hubby, the younger teenager and the 2 year old expect us to play secretary for them. I do birthdays and my appointments on my Yahoo calendar with reminders.

    As for mail, no one gets to sort it but me. I open most of it, throw most of it in the garbage and sort out what people need to see. If I’m in a good mood hubby gets his Cabela’s catalog, if not it’s trash! ;-)

    Melissa - I really like that wood 6 drawer thing on the bottom shelf. Where did you get it???

    CJ's Mom  |  September 27th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

  • my husband and I use google calendars. We share our calendars with each other. I LOVE google calendars. I even made a calendar for our weekly menus, one for soccer schedules, and the best thing is you can toggle whichever ones on or off if you want. I work full time, so this is all we do right now, but when I was at home, we did this and had a wall calendar (dry erase) that we’d duplicate everything on.

    LOVE the google calendars!

    amy  |  September 27th, 2007 at 7:26 pm

  • We (I) use Airset online calendar. Each person gets his/her own calendar and we have a family group calendar. You can have as many groups as you’d like. When I make an appointment that involves anyone else, it goes on the Family calendar and I can mark a checkbox to include it on my own as well. I also got our classic car club to use it, and our bi-monthly Euchre group, for scheduling.
    I can sync it to Outlook and a number of handheld PDA’s, so I don’t have to have more than one calendar.
    Of course, it really works well when everyone else in the family will check it occasionally, too. For the most part, though, it’s just me. ARGH!

    ageekymom  |  September 27th, 2007 at 8:49 pm

  • We use a Planner Pad calendar, , and we’ve finally been able to put all business and family stuff in one calendar. We can’t use a wall calendar because we live between two states and I need my calendar in the car for phone calls, so this works well for us. I love the way it’s laid out, I can track to do lists, calls, expenses, hourly appts and more, it’s awesome. Did I say I love it? It’s an obsession. I color code everything, pink for business, green for kids stuff, blue for adult stuff, yellow for other business appointments, orange for special events. Again, obsessed.

    Office organization, bookshelves with decorative baskets, tins, and shirt boxes have worked for me to hide paperwork, mail, brochures, etc.

    Misty  |  September 27th, 2007 at 9:24 pm

  • They have ugly plastic wall mount things like that at office supplies stores and you could cover them with contact paper. (I think I love contact paper too much.)

    Abigail  |  September 27th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

  • We’re in the same boat as Sara, except we use Google calendar. It functional and we can access it anywhere. We also have a “family” calendar which is mostly for me to look at since I’m one of those people who actually has to write things down in order to remember it.

    j3n  |  September 28th, 2007 at 3:37 am

  • in my house we use google calendar, and each can see each other’s, and can automate reminders (for self, spouse, or clients/students of mine). it works all right, but i also carry an agenda around and usually end up spending a bit of time sync-ing them periodically…
    i’d like to have a wall calendar as well, but i highly doubt anyone would update it except me.

    Ailidh  |  September 28th, 2007 at 5:47 am

  • I wish I could get somewhat organized just so I could get a label-maker. My sister got the organized gene…me…oh well, I’ll live vicariously through people like you and my sister and pray that, in my next life, I come back organized!

    Melissa  |  September 28th, 2007 at 2:10 pm

  • We use google’s calander. We each have our own calander but they merge together and we can check and update them as needed. Cool thing is I can import it into my work calander (groupwise or outlook) and sync with my blackberry. Every so often I print a copy too.

    lori  |  September 28th, 2007 at 4:13 pm

  • You should submit this to the Unclutterer Workspaces pool on Flickr. It’s so pretty.

    CJ’s Mom - that 6-drawer thingy is from Ikea. I just picked one up last night to make a “homework station” for my kids.

    Jenn Searls  |  September 28th, 2007 at 6:26 pm

  • Growing up, we were always told to “write it on the fridge.” If an activity or event wasn’t written on the calendar on the side of the fridge, we were not to anticipate anyone would be around to drive us, not make alternate plans, etc. It worked pretty well.

    chellebird  |  September 28th, 2007 at 10:00 pm

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