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??





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).





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!!!!)





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!!