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

Categories: Decluttering, Organization, Productivity, Uncategorized

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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.

desktop

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?

Organizing a Home Office With a Pack Rat

Categories: Decluttering, Organization, Productivity, Uncategorized

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A couple weeks ago we had a yard sale and got rid of all the stuff we moved with us from the old place and didn’t really need to. Once that sale was over I told Logan we’d move to the basement office next because, and I don’t know why, his boxes make my anger burn with the heat of a thousand suns.

The boxes are full of nonsense, things he packed at his desk at the job before the last one and hasn’t touched in over a year. These are things he doesn’t need and yet can’t part with, no matter how many times I tell him if he ever needs a single iridescent sheet of navy blue paper again in his life, I’m sure he can locate it for purchase when the need arises.

I can’t entirely explain my unending commitment to pestering my husband about his clutter issue. All I can say is I work from home and I need our home to be a place with some sense of order so I am able to function well in it. I feel overwhelmed by chaos, which is why we had two kids rather than the three we always planned on.

As we started working on the basement I spent the Friday before doing a ‘Pre-Sweep’ of the basement, consolidating boxes and tossing out as much as I could get my hands on before my husband came home and stymied me. “Oh! An issue of Runner’s World from 1995. I need that!” I also found some items I was fairly sure he’d never miss, but was still hesitant to toss or donate. They’re hiding around the house waiting for the day he says, “Where’s that fart machine I used to have?”

Here is the mess we started with, please tell me how a human being can function in this mess?

boxes miles of them

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I will admit I had several boxes in this mess. I was hard on myself, that maternity sweater I started knitting eight years ago? I am never going to finish it. All those books I packed and had totally forgotten about for the last 9 months, gone. Sewing projects I started and never finished were trashed or donated and though it was hard it felt amazing. A fresh start, I never have to look at that half finished sweater again and berate myself for spending $100 on yarn and never completing the project. I never have to look at those drapery rods I never really liked but got a great deal on and feel stupid for spending money on something I didn’t love. I whittled things down and came up with four to six bags of trash.

trash bags

And then a trunk full of even more things to donate to the Salvation Army, including half my clothes I’d weeded through a week ago. If you live in the Detroit Metropolitan area I highly recommend a trip to the Royal Oak Salvation Army Thrift Store in the next week or so.

donations

Here is what we ended up with after some threats of hiring a professional organizer, tears and slamming doors.

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my side

Nothing special really, but a good place to start planning what we want the room to look like in the end of the process. Logan’s side of the office is pretty straightforward. He needs a place to keep all the stupid tiny things he likes to look at while he works. All the junk I would never in a million years want to look at in my bedroom, like vintage Vargas prints.

He also needs the typical office supplies within easy reach and we’ll have to come up with some sort of system for all the paperwork from his freelance work he collects and doesn’t know what to do with. Not only because I like a clean work area but because his clutter has an uncanny ability to navigate it’s way over to my work surface.

I am looking for a more flexible work space where I can bring my laptop to work from the basement but I also want to use my area for things like my sewing machine, stationary and the family’s gift wrap. I may also create a bill paying station down here but maybe not.

We’ll paint the walls, and since we’re leasing, we’ll hang a fabric wall to divide this space from the rest of the basement which will serve as a small hang out area for the kids once Santa relents and buys the family a video game system for Christmas. When we own we’ll build a wall and install a laminate flooring (after we live here for a year to see if and how much a problem water is). We are using most of what we have and wall shelving to keep costs down.

I’ve been collecting inspiration and ideas over the last few months and thought I’d share them here.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at Pretty Organized and the Craft Rooms pool watching what spaces real people have created. I love the wall shelves in this piece at HGTV, though I see mine having more color. These metal binder clips hung from cup hooks would be excellent for storing miscellaneous pieces of paper, especially with school stuff coming at me so fast my head is spinning. This image of a part time home office is lovely and I think the Elfa system at The Container Store is going to play into my office space design quite a bit.

We’ll be working on the basement office over the next few weeks and I’ll give updates as we complete our office.

Garage Sale As Decluttering Tool.

Categories: Decluttering, Organization, Uncategorized

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We recently moved to a new house and in the process I was vicious in my de-cluttering efforts. First in removing toys and extra ’stuff’ preparing our house for sale and then in the packing process when it became a lot easier to throw stuff into the car headed to our local Salvation Army thrift store than to carefully pack it for the moving truck. I was so vicious I even debated just giving away all our dishes rather than bother with boxes and packing paper and bubble wrap. This is either being lazy or a serious need to rid myself of extra stuff.

Even with the heartless trashing and donating I did before the move I still found myself filling the garage with more donations once we were settling into the new place. Fairly quickly I realized I wouldn’t even be able to get all this clutter into my car for the Salvation Army. Then a neighbor announced she’d be holding a yard sale and four more neighbors said they’d join in.

At the end of the weekend I had 120 extra dollars in my pocket and room in my garage for both cars. We haven’t had a garage since the winter of 1996 so this is big news, something I would have paid someone $120 to achieve.

You can find all sorts of tips for organizing a yard sale, the simplest in my opinion can be found here, here and here. As for my particular sale, I’m not going to lie, it takes time to organize your crap stuff to sell. You have to clean everything off a bit, price everything and spend a day at least outside dealing with a lot of people you may not normally want to deal with.

Like the lady who smelled faintly of cat urine and insulted my lovely barely used candlesticks as “ugly”. I’m sure she’s lovely, but smelly, in real life. However, in the scheme of a yard sale where I’m selling candlesticks which currently retail for $40 a piece for just $8 for the pair, she wasn’t someone I’d choose to spend my Saturday with is what I’m saying.

If you donate your extra clutter through out the year and get really hard nosed with yourself for the sale you won’t have as much to organize for the sale. If you can get your friends or neighbors to participate in your sale you’ll end up having a fun afternoon.

For our sale in particular my neighbor put together a binder with dividers marking pages to track each neighbor’s sales with all the money being collected in one pot. Each person had unique tags and when an item sold the tag was put on their specific sales page with what the item was for our personal information. I thought this was an incredibly effective method and one I wouldn’t have thought of.

Another neighbor set up my daughter and her oldest daughter at a table with lemonade and cookies. This is something in our old neighborhood my daughter was dying to do and I refused to allow because of the registered sex offender (victim under 15! Wooo!) two doors down. Their sale netted $12 in non sex offender dollars.

My daughter decided she’d like to sell a few items herself to save up for yet another stuffed animal. Stuffed animals drive me so crazy my head explodes, they reproduce using the contents of my brain as stuffing. I swear this is true. Using another neighbor’s tip I told her she could buy another stuffed animal with the money from her sale, as long as she put stuffed animals in the sale.

To weed through them (and cut their numbers in half) we pulled them all out and did a one for one sort, one for sale and one for keeps. I love this method because it truly helped her to evaluate each animal and it’s value to her. At the end of the trade off, she realized she may have been hasty putting the small bear with the “I Am Hott!” t shirt into the ‘keep’ pile, so she traded it out for one of her larger animals. We’ll use this method again in November as her birthday approaches and I may very well sit my husband down with his t shirts for a little one for one trade off.

September and the start of school is, for many families, more the start of the new year than the actual calendar new year. This is especially true for me because my birthday is in early September as well. I always feel an intense desire to get everything in order as we start the school year but this year it’s been intensified further by the move and unpacking.

Unloading all the extraneous items from our house has invigorated me for the school year. As I tossed certain knick knacks, my husband watched with terror in his eyes. “But! We’ve always had that hanging in the kitchen!” Yes, and we’ll find something we like even more to replace it.

Now we have to tackle the growing school paperwork and scheduling chaos. My daughter has been in school for the last 5 years and I thought I had a grip on it. Suddenly adding a first grader to the mix has resulted to kitchen counters and dining room tables stacked with paper.

Next week we’ll be looking for inspiration and I’ll be tackling the project as well because there has to be a better way. If there’s not the kids have to go to boarding school.

Organizing my workspace.

Categories: Organization, Productivity, Uncategorized

3 Comments

Since I’ve pried my daughter off my head and sent her to school, the adjustment has been rough for her, it’s time to add my second column to Ordering Disorder. I thought today I’d share what I’ve done with my inbox and my bookmarks to make my job easier. I write for several blogs so my work space is generally my computer, but I think what I’ve done can easily be utilized for anyone who uses email and the internet for their work. Which you do, unless you’re my mother and still boggled by your vcr.

This is a very helpful article over at Freelance Switch outlining great tips for bloggers trying to track their work and stay organized. I’ve utilized their bookmark organization with great success, as I see something of interest I add it to a folder or create a folder for these ideas. Currently my research folder for my column at AlphaMom.com is the most organized and full of potential ideas.

bookmarks

Additionally I try to keep everything in a folder, keeping my work folders at the very top of the list. Once I have 5-10 un-filed bookmarks I start to feel anxious because I have a touch of the OCD. Currently I have just two un-filed bookmarks and I’m not telling you what’s in my ‘private’ folder even though you’re now dying to know.

clean bookmarks file

I’ve also organized my feeds in Bloglines to maximize my ability to research for my columns each day. It’s not all work feeds there of course, but I find keeping everything in different folders allows me to read what I need at any given time. If I’m reading for pleasure I go to the personal blog folders. If I’m reading for work, I go to those folders and read up during my ‘work hours’.

bloglines screenshot

Finally over the summer I made a limit for my email inbox, after years of being entirely overwhelmed by its contents. I like to keep no more than 20 unfiled emails in my actual inbox. To do this I’ve set up several filters using my mail program’s ‘rules’ function so a lot mail goes to specific folders immediately as it comes in.

I also try to answer email quickly so I can delete it, if I can’t immediately think of something to say in response to a note, I leave it for a week. After a week, if I haven’t responded, I’ve given myself permission to decide I have nothing witty or clever to say and I can let it go. If I truly want to respond to something but need more than a week, I file it in a folder titled “Respond to these”. This morning I had 42 emails in my inbox, now I have 8 and the joy and calm this gives me is sort of embarrassing.

email inbox

Now if only I could apply these rules to my husband’s clothes, I might actually have room for my clothes in our room.

This weekend my neighborhood is hosting a garage sale, accordingly my next organizing piece will cover garage sales. Once the garage sale is complete the real fun can start, you’ll watch over the next few weeks as my husband and I have fist fights over the condition of our new shared office in the basement.

You will pity me when you witness the power of my husband’s ability to cling to the most ludicrous of his belongings and I’m not even referring to his underwear drawer.

But I will if you want.

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