Lost and Found

27 02 2010

HOW long has it been since I’ve posted here? A long time. What does that mean? That I’ve fallen off the wagon? Was I ever on the wagon? Yeah, it’s that bad.

Being organized and clutterbusting is something that has always been a luxury for me, an “extra” life item that I can only attend to if I feel like I have all of my other ducks in a row. My ducks have NOT been lined up recently and so the clutterbusting efforts have all gone to hell. And back.

Yesterday I felt both a tiny bit of breathing room AND an urgency to deal with some stuff. I needed to find a couple of items so I made it my business to start looking around for some things.

I work for an organization that generates a massive quantity of paperwork. We have to send master copies to some giant corporate office that I imagine looks like the labyrinthine mess in the movie “Brazil.” Well, this week I got an email that one of my pieces of paper from early December is “missing” and that I must find it and fax it to corporate. Hahahahahahahaha! I have to say, this really got my adrenaline flowing. Because in spite of all of my good intentions, I have not ever developed a good filing or organizing system for all the papers. I did try at first, but it quickly fell apart.

But guess what!!! After about an hour of running around the house and picking up ALL the pieces of possible paper, I DID FIND IT. It wasn’t ideal. It was LUCKY. Because if I had had a system, I could just say, “Oh! December 2? Piece of cake! Here it is!” instead of sweating bullets and pulling pink papers out of various bags, boxes, piles on the floor, nooks and crannies in the car, and finally coming up with it.

Then I had to find the receipt for a gift I’d given my husband for his birthday last weekend (thank goodness it was only a week ago!) that he wanted to exchange. I THOUGHT it was in the bag I’d brought the gift home in (when they ask, do you want your receipt in the bag? I always say yes! Yes to more chaos!), but no. Not in any bags. Finally, after much panicking and self-loathing, I found the dumb receipt scrunched up in a ball at the bottom of my purse. Niiiiiiice. But I did find it.

Last thing I found was the special credit card associated with our health insurance, which I am supposed to use when making any medical purchases. It was filed in a basket of Important Papers and Items, but which I did not think to look in. DUH.

Things I have Not Yet Found:

  • Major credit card I lost in mid-December but am loathe to change because it is associated with a ton of online accounts, which I will then have to go and change. I know it isn’t lost OUTside the house because it has not been used (except for online purchases) so I know it’s somewhere inside.
  • Residential parking permit for my workplace. This is a pain because now I am paying $2/hour for parking at meters. Which is stupid since I paid $90/year for the residential permit. Ugh.
  • Armband for my Bodybugg. Which renders it useless.
  • Charger thing for my phone. Stupid.
  • Of course, a bunch of other things I can’t even remember.

So, the state of the Clutterbrained union is: could be better. Could be much, much better. But until I prioritize this, I do not think there is much hope. In the meantime, I will bumble along, losing and finding things at random. Sigh.





I Put Some Stuff Away!!!!

28 01 2010

I know that this journey is all about little steps. I am so so overbusy these days (yes, I know, TIME the invisible clutter!) that I don’t have time for anything BUT little steps.

But I have to say, last night I did something that was SO small but SO significant I have to report on it. I’m patting myself on the back left and right.

So. I was rushing out to work. I tried on like 3 skirts and some other stuff. I was RUSHING. I left the un-worn skirts on a chair and (gulp) on the floor. I ran to work.

I came home. I was really tired. Now NORMALLY, I would take off the skirt from my body, throw it onto the pile on the chair or floor, and crawl into bed. But INSTEAD…. I:

1. took off the skirt I was wearing. Hung it on a skirt hanger!

2. PICKED UP the other skirts from the chair and floor. Hung THEM up on  skirt hangers!!! Then picked up the two pairs of tights from the floor (one I just took off, one from the trying-on period previously) and put them in the tights drawer!!

3. Went to my clothes hamper. My clothes hamper is really funny. It’s like a big basket with a lid. I never put anything (except occasionally socks and undies) IN the hamper, I just pile my worn clothes on TOP OF it until it is laundry time, “just in case” I want to wear anything again. It looks really bad.

4. Gathered up all of my “can be worn again” articles of clothing from the top of the clothes hamper, and HUNG THEM UP in the closet!!!!!! CALL THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!! Put the truly dirty stuff INTO the hamper, and shut the lid.

5. Took off my earrings. Did NOT toss them onto my bedside table as per usual, but walked ten feet and PUT THEM in my jewelry box! EEEEEEEEE!!!

6. Put away three or four other random things that were lying around on the floor.

Did you all feel the tectonic plates moving underfoot last night?!? This was some real change, people!!

I noticed two big things WHILE I was putting stuff away last night.

1. It was not HARD to put away these things, and it did not take much time at all.

2. I felt like I was going against every fiber of my natural being.

Habits die hard. They really do. But I’m trying. I really am. And I feel like I deserve some kind of medal for that little 15 minute burst of Putting Stuff Away last night!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right??





Stuff (thank you George Carlin)

25 01 2010

And thanks Phoebe for pointing this out!





Guest Post! “Putting Things Away” by Caitlin

25 01 2010

This is a guest post written by Caitlin of Cluttercubed as part of a swap with Clutterbrained. Check out Ito and LM’s take on the subject over on ClutterCubed.

You’ll note that Caitlin has things together and is a lot further down the road then we are. Hers is a fantastic guide to PTA while ours is more like a stereo cry for help. We appreciate any and all comments!

Caitlin says:

Getting organized is simple! All you need to do is put things away after you are done using them. Easy as pie, right?

Wrong.


Photo by camknows

For people who have never struggled with clutter, it’s easy to assume those that do are lazy, undisciplined, or simply don’t care. “Just put things away”, they say, “It’s not that hard”. If you have struggled with clutter, you know it’s not that easy.

So why is it so hard to put things away?

Three major reasons are:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of motivation
  • Unsure of “proper” storage location

Lack of Time
When you’re standing in the middle of a cluttered, messy house, it can seem overwhelming. It can seem like it’s going to take weeks to put all your stuff away, and you’re a busy person. You just don’t have that kind of free time. Or do you?

Solution

Break the task down into smaller, bite-sized chunks of time. Cleaning up for 2 hours a day might be difficult for you, but anyone can find 15 minutes in a day. Get an egg timer if you like, but make sure you tidy up for 15 minutes each day. You can go longer if you like, but do at least 15 minutes. You’d be surprised how much can be done in that amount of time!

Lack of Motivation
It can be frustrating to spend hours cleaning up, only to have it seem like you’re not making much progress. You may feel like there’s no point in putting things away, you’re just going to get them out again later so why bother?

Solution
Remember that decluttering is a process, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Keep in mind that everything you put away is one less thing cluttering your house. The more you put away, the more often you’ll remember to put things away when you’re done using them. When you get up to leave a project, put it away. If you put it away in he same place each time, you won’t be tempted to leave things out in order to remember to work on them.

Unsure of “proper” storage location
This one is a biggie. If you’re not sure where something should go, how can you possibly put it away? If you set out to declutter for 15 minutes and then pick up and item and are not sure where it belongs, it can be tempting to just set it back down and let it keep being clutter.

Solution
Don’t worry about creating elaborate organizing systems just yet. Simply focus on putting like with like. Keep all your office supplies together. Paper, pencils/pens, stamps, stapler, etc. Put them neatly in a desk drawer, so you’ll always know where they are when you’re looking for them. Put batteries in one location, and keep your medications grouped together. If you’re still not sure where things “should” go, try organizing them into bins for now. If you don’t have a designated craft area, put all craft supplies (paint, glitter, scissors, stickers, etc) into a craft bin. That way, these items will have a proper home, and you’ll always know where to look for them.

Putting things away is one of the most basic aspects of decluttering, but if it were easy for everyone, we’d all have photos of our homes on Apartment Therapy. We all have reasons that make it difficult for us, but following these steps should make it easier.

What’s your biggest stumbling block when it comes to putting things away? Let us know in the comments!





Project & Vision Wall

19 01 2010

A few months ago I was introduced to an amazing blog, New Faculty Success, a great blog for graduate students and faculty of color who are working in academia, learning the ropes of university institution and trying to balance teaching, department service, student needs, our own writing and research projects. (whew!) The author, Kerry Ann Rockquemore, has an amazing blog and weekly email called the “Monday Motivator” where she has friendly, practical and gentle support and ideas around focusing and refocusing our priorities throughout the semester and academic year. In her Oct 09 motivator, she talked about her own method for having her office space reflect her semester goals and spoke about her own organization of her work and her development of a “project wall”.

At that time, I had been thinking a lot about the spatial relationship between my own productivity in my writing and research, other projects and my workspace / meditation space, because all of these things, quite suddenly, had meshed, together. I have for a while, much like Ito – in my life and work, been feeling out of control with all of the projects I take on, my inability to say no, how that has an impact on my sometimes lack of focus.

I’ve always loved the idea of a vision wall, imagining things that I want, but as an artist, I just want to put things that inspire me to stay focused or inspire me with beauty or words that move me. But as an academic, my life is filled with deadlines, paper, books and gah! So this struggle to balance all of the work I do without going insane is a major stress in my life, and because I don’t have an office on a campus that is permanent yet, I also do a lot of work from home on my scholarly work AND my projects in the community or in the theater. Thus, my home office is a reflection of my crazy life, and somehow it always, always seems that there are multiple piles (and when I say multiple I mean piles and piles), it seems my project files never stay current, and my bill notices just pile up. (I’ve got a major addiction to paper. For some reason I have this fear of not being able to have track of my bill history and I continue to harbor a fear that technology will fail me and then I wont have a paper trail. I plan to write about this for us soon!)

A few years ago I wanted a separate room for my office, wanted the office door to be able to close, so I could be away from my work if I wanted. But I realized that, (by choice) a huge part of my life was taken up by my work and my second bedroom, was just too small for all of my office materials and project stuff. More importantly, it was constantly a mess, piles of papers, nothing could be found or was organized, and even when I hired one of my undergrads to come over and help me wade through all my crap, I still didn’t get it finished and the room was overflowing. So last year, I went for it, and I exchanged my living room and my tv / chill room because seemed the logical answer was to move into a bigger space, my open living room, so I could spread my stuff out, could be better organizes, thus be inspired to ‘get shit done’.

So its been a few months now I’ve had my workspace in the living room, and I keep finding myself constantly rearranging the space because its not working for me. there are still piles and piles still on the floor, and while I feel the “openness” that I had hoped for, my organization system still sucks.

The Goal of this office / creative space:

Four spaces:
(1)altar/ meditation space, vision wall, project planning space

(2) computer desk

(3) work desk, books, readings, some files

(4) file storage / office supplies

So far, I finally did what I wanted and started a vision wall / project wall! yay! BUT my first attempt at my project vision wall didn’t work out well. I used giant paper stickies, tacks, photo stickies, I wrote out each of my projects, future projects, deadlines, goals and my ‘how to get there” plans. (sorry no before photo here) A lot right? But somehow it ended up being nothing but a project wall, with no room for visioning and beauty. and the flexibility of it was all wrong because things were written in pen. If I had changing deadlines or changing goals, it just wasn’t functional. Additionally, it just looked messy with the big giant stickies and things written in colored pen, and I kept feeling self conscious because its so extremely personal and since I’m constantly having meetings at my house, it just wasn’t working.

So taking Kerry Ann’s idea about creating an organized project wall with my writing projects only on it, I rearranged and came up with this. My mediation/ vision wall on the left and my project wall on the right. I need a lamp but over all im totally happy with how it turned out.

You can see I am still and will be constantly in creation of the vision wall, as I want it to grow as I grow. The other photo is a moveable, changeable project wall with deadlines and projects for this semester attached to each clip.

now if I could just get the rest of the office. These are photos of the entire office with a below closeup of ONE of my piles of papers. If you look carefully, you’ll see the strategically places table and table cloth to cover up the files when company comes. and the left side… the red bookcase, yeah.. no organization there, I just picked up stuff off the floor and put it in the bookcase. It only looks cute.





Time, the Invisible Clutter

15 01 2010



squared circles – Clocks

Originally uploaded by Leo Reynolds

I’ve had a really rough week of it this week, and it wasn’t because of physical clutter. It was all about TIME clutter. I felt like all of my overextendedness finally caught up with me, and my scheduling house of cards just collapsed.

I do a lot. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. But I’ve managed to somehow juggle a hundred balls in the air, and through optical illusion and a lot of denial, it’s more or less worked out.

This week I had the gnawing, then gnashing, then terrifying feeling that things are NOT working out at all. Anytime I began thinking about my various commitments, I started going into panic mode. I felt like I was barely hanging on. Yesterday I was really suffering.

It helped to go to bed at 9 last night and get a ten solid hours of sleep. That was so necessary. Then I got up and took a good contemplative walk in the woods. And I confessed my time-cluttering sins to a sympathetic, nonjudgmental and supportive friend. THAT helped.

Today I started taking things apart, one by one, just like one would start sorting through a cluttered junk drawer. I will sort it out, I will. But it’s been a humbling week.

Part of what catalyzed this little crisis was reading through the Time chapter in It’s Hard to Make A Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys (SO TRUE). As I read it, I felt stabbing pains of recognition. And I realized that the invisible clutter is just as disabling as the physical kind.





Why I Love Vacation Rentals and Hotel Rooms

9 01 2010

That moment when you walk in the door and everything is all pristine?  Oh, I love it. And I think, I could live here. I want to live here forever and ever!! WHY? Because there’s no STUFF everywhere!

And then I notice that there are no bookcases here, just like three coffee-table books on the coffee table. So I would have nothing to read (except the 6 books I stuffed in my suitcase). And there is nothing in the closets, just the clothes I brought.  But ahh it is such a clean, beautiful feeling. How can I bring this home with me? CAN I?

I was so happy for the first few hours we were here last night. Of course now it is the Day After, and all five of us are here, and we have strewn things on every pristine surface (ha ha ha, wah wah wah) and it looks almost Just Like Home. LOL

But, before we left, I did have a nice breakthrough. I was able to almost finish up my office, which I had begun over a week ago, found that nice stash of $$, and then abandoned. That was upsetting. I had joined an online site called The Clutter Diet (very helpful!!) and they have message boards, and professional organizing folks come and answer your questions and problems. I posted something called “The Eighty Percent Problem.” Meaning that I will attack something energetically, get about 80% through it, then run out of time (or energy), and then leave the 20% behind, at which point that 20% will start attracting more junk until it grows to be another giant mess.😦

The advice I got back was very wise. It said, basically, I am trying to do too much at once. It suggested doing ONE DRAWER or one small corner rather than a whole room. Or to set a time limit. The folks at Clutter Diet liken this “mass attack” decluttering to a crash diet. It isn’t sustainable over the long run. I get that.

So, my dear friend and declutter buddy LM came over last week (we go to her house next!!). She helped me unclutter ONE CORNER. But it was a corner piled high with crap that had been there a long time.  We set the timer for 30 minutes because that’s all we had. And we cleaned the corner. Including a bag of framed photos that had been there SINCE I MOVED IN. (5 years ago)😦

But it is now empty. And you wanna hear something realllllllllllly funny/sad? OK.

I have complained a long time that my office is too cold to work in. Well, the other day I found a SPACE HEATER under all the clutter. Which was thing one. I had had no idea where that thing had gone to. It had gone nowhere; I’d just buried it.😦

AND yesterday I walked in and it was miraculously … WARMER. What did I find? I found that the room ACTUALLY HAS A HEATING VENT but I’d totally covered THAT up with a DIFFERENT pile of junk that I’d since cleared.

Red face. But warm feet.

And here’s the before-n-after of THAT side of the office (which I’d previously neglected to show you).








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