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.





Tantrum –> Cleanathon

1 01 2010

Last night I had another mini meltdown that almost put me over the edge. Luckily, I was able to channel that distress into an incredible New Years’ Eve office cleanathon! The things I found!! (more on this later)

But first, the meltdown. My husband got a notice from Fastrak, the electronic toll collector, that he had violated a toll passing. It included a bill for $29. But we HAVE a paid account, so this was an error. Tried to call and go online to clear it up. But couldn’t because we did not know our account #, OR the PIN they had sent us like 5 years ago. I had signed up for automatic bill pay (good, right?) and then basically forgot about it. When a payment notice comes in the mail, I usually just toss it, thinking it’s been taken care of.

So basically, without the account information we could not deal with this bill.  I could feel my frustration mounting as we kept hitting dead ends because we had no account number or PIN. And to me, it was just another indication of how messed up we are that we can’t keep track of our lives, and we have no file, either paper or online, that is accessible to us. That once again we are at the mercy of our insane disorganization.

Well, I could’ve downed an entire bottle of champagne OR eating a box of truffles, but I did neither. Nor did I scream at my spouse, but I wanted to do that too. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH UUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSS?!?!?” Instead I came into my total pigsty of an office, and set to doing the homework that LM set for me last week. I took out some empty cartons and set about Removing Things From My Office that Do Not Belong Here.

I found: a soccer ball, a sheet of Christmas tags, a pile of random clothing, a half-finished hook rug, a sock monkey dog toy, a bunch of CDs, a pair of fuzzy rabbit ears, two silk scarves, a Tide destaining pen, some earrings, a purse, a bunch of Weight Watcher snack bars, a Chinese takeout menu, a loofah sponge, some soap, a necklace, kids’ school notebooks, DVDs. I sorted these into two boxes: My Stuff and Other Peoples’ Stuff. Amazingly, as I searched around for the Stuff that Did Not Belong, the surfaces began appearing.

And guess what ELSE I found: two manila envelopes, one full of stamps and the other full of address labels. (I did not blog about the other internal meltdown I had last week when spouse asked, “Where’s a stamp?” and I COULD NOT ANSWER.

AND: (this is the cherry on top of the sundae) Underneath all the debris, a plain little envelope, SEALED, with my mother’s handwriting. Happy Birthday. (note: my birthday was in AUGUST) I opened it.

Here’s what was inside. 🙂

And here’s my  after.

Note: this entire process took ONE HOUR.

Happy New Years to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





A Million Little Choices

31 12 2009


Hangers

Originally uploaded by Marc Pinter

I would not be the first person to point out that decluttering/organizing is very much like losing weight/getting healthy and fit. But oh it is so true. And it’s interesting to be aware of this right now, since the healthy part of me is pretty much on track, and the decluttery part of me is just learning the alphabet and veering around wildly. It’s just interesting to observe myself.

I can pretty much rely on a year of good habits to carry me through for the most part, even though there are certainly moments/days of veering off. But I have NO good habits to go on as far as organization goes. It is incredible to watch “what I would normally do” and to try and replace some of these habits with better ones. Sometimes it is almost physically painful and I can feel some wild beast inside me trying to resist, resist, resist.

I read recently that habits are “first cobwebs, then cables.” Which I think is such a great analogy. And it goes for both bad habits and good ones. Sometimes those bad habits feel as strong as steel cables, impossible to break. And the good ones are as fragile as cobwebs. But the more we do something (good or bad) the more it builds on itself.

I’m really trying to pay attention to myself these days. Carving a new way of doing things is, wow, just exhausting. But I do have some patience, and some confidence that I can eventually do this and eventually I will have some good cable-strong organizing habits. Just not yet. SO not yet.

I notice that when I come home, my tendency is to:

1. leave all the crap in the car. I have to nearly twist my own arm out of its socket to get myself to bring even 50% of it inside, unless it is something perishable, like vegetables. Otherwise, I’m likely to just think “I’ll bring it in later.” It’s not like I have to haul it up Mt. Kilamanjaro or something, I only have to walk it through the garage and into the house. But the idea often exhausts me. Why? I spend hours at the gym exhausting myself way more. Not sure I understand this, but there it is.
2. Arrive in house, and disrobe (jacket, shoes) wherever is most convenient. Thus, you will find my shoes (and I will later be UNABLE to find them) next to the couch, under the dining room table, against the wall, in the middle of the kitchen (I am not kidding). Same with coats and jackets. Tonight I just gathered up all the jackets and coats from various pieces of furniture, and HUNG THEM UP in my closet. Which actually shocked me, how weird and foreign that felt.
3. Bring mail in from mailbox. Open and read in the most convenient/comfortable spot. Like my bed. Toss a few magazines into recycling basket nearby (that’s good, right?). But inevitably, bills or Important Communications will end up under the bed, behind the bedside table, or buried under a mountain of books and socks and stuff.
4. Get ready to go to bed. Disrobe. Toss the socks and underwear in hamper basket (that’s good, right?). But if any clothing stands the remotest chance of being worn again before laundering, hang on bed. Do this until bedpost is completely obliterated. Tonight I took off my sweater. I HUNG IT IN THE CLOSET. I took off my skirt. I was momentarily befuddled because I currently have more skirts than I own skirt hangers. Considered tossing it on the floor. Instead, folded it in half and hung it on a regular hanger. Felt INORDINANTLY proud of myself.

So this is how it goes, right? I’m just trying to develop some mindfulness and stop myself in these moments before I add to another one of my hundreds of piles. If you were to come in my house you would not know I had made the tiniest bit of progress. But I have. Believe me.

And it’s kind of exhausting. But I will keep moving forward.





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!!!!)





Unbelievable! It’s Contagious!!!

21 12 2009

I can’t believe it. This blog has been in existence less than a week, and already the decluttering energy is spreading throughout the country! I just got an amazing email from one of our readers, who read this blog and was immediately bitten by the declutter bug. See her incredible laundry room before and afters!!

Our friend says:

I made 3 piles to take to the garbage and 3 bags to Goodwill.  I even cleaned out the cupboards hence the Shake and Bake (expiration 2006, purchased in 2003!).  The bakers rack has been a pain since I got it and is now going to Goodwill as well.

A few things I realized in this:

I keep things that I think can be used.  I may never use them so the fact that someone may be able to makes me hold on to them.  That is why I thought of the Goodwill pile.  It does not seem like a waste.

Solution: I am going to keep a tote out and fill it up all week for Goodwill until I no longer have things to put in it. And to make sure not to have an issue drop it off once a week.

As for the good stuff I kept.  When I clean the not good stuff out of the cupboards there was room to put it properly away.  Who knew! LOL

Thanks for the motivation. I will keep going and sending you the pictures.  You really have motivated me.  I needed this so thanks so much!

Isn’t that AMAZING!?! That laundry room is incredible! GO GO GO girl (who wishes to remain anonymous) AND I invite all Clutterbrained readers to submit your photos and stories to us! Pile by pile, we will tackle this!





OMG! My first “After” Pic!!!

19 12 2009

Some wise people say, all you need to do is to set an Intention to get things moving into place. I’m finding this is so true. It was only two days ago that I started this blog. Yesterday that I met with my decluttering partner for the first time. And today, I felt a great shift inside me.

I was standing in my awfully cluttered bathroom, surrounded by a ridiculous number of containers and products. And this terribly ugly, empty, nonfunctioning stone zen fountain thing.  That I had asked for for Christmas like SEVEN years ago, because I thought it would be lovely and restful. Well, it wasn’t. The sound of the gurgling fountain sounded a lot like someone was perpetually peeing. Soon I turned it off and the water evaporated and it just became this big heavy ugly plastic bowl o’stones. BUT I could not give it away or throw it away because it had been a Gift from my Loved Ones. (does this sound familiar anybody???)

Somehow this morning, it felt like getting rid of this dumb fountain was the catalyst I needed. I picked it up and put it on the floor. And suddenly the rest of the countertop almost cleaned itself. I swear. Suddenly I realized (??!?!?) that I have about eight DRAWERS in this bathroom and a huge under the sink cabinet as well. I could even ORGANIZE my multitude of products into: makeup, hair stuff, eye stuff, medicine stuff, etc. Which took me about TEN MINUTES to do, once that dreaded fountain got out of there. Now every drawer is not in the most pristine shape, and could probably use some micro-organizing, but… STILL.

LOOOOOOOOOKK!!!!!!!!!!!