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.


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).

Baby Steps

30 12 2009

Things are moving very slowly, although I am still having daily mini-meltdowns over things that are lost. I am pleased to report that my bathroom counter is STILL clean. That is a huge victory in itself, maintaining a clean surface for more than a week! And I have another small positive step to share.

Yesterday, I was going to go work out and I opened my I-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-this-piece-of-furniture. It was originally an antique Japanese kitchen thing, but we have two in our bedroom which we use for clothing, instead of a bureau. It has three sliding shelves and then two big deep drawers underneath. This thing holds all pieces of clothing that aren’t hung on hangers in the closet.

I really WISH I had taken a before pic, but this decluttering happened so fast I barely knew what was happening. It took me about 15 minutes. Started out with a minor tantrum because I couldn’t find a shirt I wanted in the smashed in piles of random clothing. Each shelf was just a mishmash of shirts of all kinds, in no order, and not really folded, just stuffed in there. I started to freak out but then just said, I’M DEALING WITH THIS. I started throwing stuff I know I’ll never wear again (or which got misfiled in my room but actually belongs to one of my daughters) onto the floor. Here is that pile.  It’s now sitting against the wall, and I swear I am taking it out of the house tomorrow!!

Then with what was remaining (a lot less!) I organized into: camisole tops, tank tops, logo Tshirts, “nice” Tshirts, and (haha) “performance” wear (ie. wicking shirts). And a little pile of tights that are too big to go into the tiny drawers for socks and underwear.

Literally, it took me 15 minutes. And the absolute relief and pleasure I now get (instead of homicidal rage) when I open these drawers, is indescribable. Ahhh.

But there is much still to be done. MUCH. I am really beginning to understand how very very long this project is going to take. But there is no turning back now.

BAD THINGS THIS WEEK: bought my 3rd pair of exercise headphones. Lost the first, then bought a truly sucky pair of replacements, got frustrated and bought a 3rd pair of nice ones. THEN found the first one in an (of course) un-unpacked suitcase. Grrr.

GOOD THINGS: At least I now have 2 pairs of nice headphones and one pair of stupid ones, just in case. AND, I was able to readily find my passport when I needed it today for a job application. That was very, very good. NOW, I just have to remind myself to TAKE IT OUT OF THE CAR and PUT IT BACK IN ITS SAFE PLACE. What is wrong with me?!!!!!? (oops, that good thing just almost turned into a bad thing. As soon as I hit “publish” I’m gonna run out to the car, promise!!!!)

The Most Cluttered Day of the Year

26 12 2009

I think the day after Christmas has to win the prize on this one. Even the normally “neat” areas of our house are just a crazed jumble of boxes, presents, wrapping paper, STUFF! There is stuff everywhere. I’ve finally hit my low point (or high point, of piles!) and am SO READY to tackle this. And even though we had one of the nicest Christmases ever, I am so relieved it is over and I can just DEAL. I am thrilled that my schedule is pretty empty this coming week, and we have no plans to travel, so I am just going to spend it trying to find my way out of these piles.

I almost had some mini (and maxi) meltdowns this past week. The things I couldn’t find (which I’m updating on Twitter) really threatened to send me into a very dark spirally self-loathing place. STILL can’t find my Mastercard, but I was reluctant to cancel it because 1) I know it’s LOST and not stolen, 2) I really needed it for online shopping for the holidays. But I may have to break down.

Lost my work keys. This is so bad.  I have a bright orange lanyard thing (SO I WOULDN’T LOSE IT) which has keys to two separate work sites. It is a huge, huge deal to obtain these keys (it took MONTHS) and if  I lost them it will be a very very very bad thing. I HAVE TO FIND THEM.

Lost my ankle brace, so had to do stupid modified workout. Happily, it showed up yesterday, in the guest room.

I’m actually pretty proud that I think I did not “lose” any Christmas gifts this year.  This happens to me every year: I buy stuff, then “hide” it but I hide it so well from myself, I do not find it in time for Christmas. I think I managed to give all my gifts this year! But how sad is it that this is like some big victory.

My declutter partner is returning midweek. I cannot wait for her to get back. I’m desperate, in fact. And I’m getting as much of a head start as I can before she arrives. For one thing, I have to do my homework from last week.

How do the rest of you deal with post-Christmas clutter? Do you have a method? A plan? Tell me, please!!

Christmas Cookie Meltdown

19 12 2009

OK people, fresh off the victory of my pretty bathroom counter, I am now about to crash and burn. But this is a PERFECT example of the madness that will come from a cluttered life.

So. I’ll go waaaaaaay back to the beginning, to my lovely childhood in a hamlet in New Jersey, where our jolly neighbor Mrs. Kiesselbach would gift us with this incredible plate of buttery spritz cookies each year. We LIVED for these cookies. So beautiful and perfect and delicious. Imagine my delight when I reached adulthood and realized I could purchase this nifty contraption and make them myself. (Mrs. K was long gone by then)

I bought a fancy metal imported cookie press. I made spritz cookies which awed and delighted my loved ones. (and me, too) But then one year the little metal ring that holds the cookie mold forms onto the tube went missing.

You can’t make the cookies without the little metal ring.

I really wanted to make the cookies again. But I did not want to spend big bucks on a whole other fancy metal contraption. So I bought a cheaper plastic version. I made cookies.

You can guess what happened: THAT ring went missing, too.

You an see the photos. We also have these beautiful metal rosette forms for making these dip-and-fry snowflake and tree cookies that melt in your mouth and are so delicate and amazing. But guess what? THOSE forms, which I have managed to save since my high school days, came with a little metal stick with a wooden handle knob on the hand.  The stick screws into the form so that you don’t burn your fingers in the hot oil.

Can’t make those kind of cookies, either. And, we have been invited to a holiday cookie exchange party TOMORROW, which I was so excited about. Until now.

Now, I KNOW there are other cookies I can make that require nothing more than a bowl and a metal sheet. But that isn’t the point. The point is that I am so completely MADDENED by the absence of these small essential items, that render the entire collection of baking things USELESS, that I could jump off the roof. But I won’t.

But this very thing is what is emblematic of my Problem. It isn’t 100% about aesthetics, it’s about many aspects of my life NOT WORKING because I can’t find some stupid thing.

It’s ALMOST functional. But not. We keep all the baking things together in one special baking cabinet. The cookie cutters, and sprinkles and food coloring and other fancy stuff all stays together. So in that way, I know where the stuff is at least SUPPOSED to be. But then these small things go missing and the whole thing is shot to hell.

This is one of the functions of many people living together. AND we are fortunate enough to have someone who helps us clean once a week. (I can only imagine the sheer horror if that was not the case) But what happens is, these little things go in the dishwasher or the sink, and then Someone (I am not pointing fingers, it could be ANY of us) sees this random piece of plastic or metal and has no idea what it is, and maybe it goes in some random Junk drawer, or maybe the trash. I have sifted through the junk drawer and found no cookie-press rings. I am so sad.

Tour of Shame

17 12 2009

This post is the equivalent of standing and being photographed in my underwear before embarking on a weight loss journey. It is humiliating. It is disgusting. But somehow, I feel it is necessary.  It is like those 400+pound people standing on the scale on Biggest Loser. The only way they can survive such exposure is the HOPE that things will change, and they will be different. That is my hope as well.

Welcome to my house.

I Can’t Find My Stuff

17 12 2009

First blog post of the new blog. Emotion: overwhelmed but marginally hopeful.

Problem: I have too much stuff and can’t find any of it. Almost had a breakdown this week when I could not find:

  1. our Birthday Hat (shaped like a cake with felt candles on top) which I needed to make a Bday video for a friend. Never found it.
  2. DVD of a film that filmmaker loaned me so I could publicize her work. Status: found it in a stupid and obvious place but could not “see” for days because there was so much other junk around it.
  3. book that I know I own but cannot find in the midst of 3,000 other books we own. May have to break down and buy 2nd copy. 😦
  4. Working flashlights. We do have about half a dozen broken ones.
  5. Maroon sweater. Where IS it?!?!?
  6. My mind.

I am writing this blog out of sheer desperation. Earlier this year I had similar success with a problem that also felt utterly hopeless, that I had spent years struggling with, and partially through blogging, managed to overcome it.

Tomorrow I will meet with a friend who has promised to meet with me to help deal with this issue. I am hoping she can help me on a long term basis. Thus this blog, to describe progress (I HOPE), setbacks, challenges, success? Is there any hope for me??