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.

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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.





The Dream of Simplicity

18 12 2009

I have piles. Giant piles of papers. Boxes of papers from classes, research I’ve done, research I’m doing, projects I have, bills, taxes past and present, scrap paper, art paper, post its. I have piles of books that don’t fit into my bookshelves, I have piles of papers and articles in my closets just crammed on top of each other and those big giant plastic bins that are NOT see through piled on top of each other filled with more crap. My office, is in my front room. There is a constant and growing pile of papers littered on both the left and right sides of my desk from the projects I’m working on.

I have a bunch of bins that supposedly hold all of my tools and household hardware ‘thangs’. Please. I have no idea what are inside those bins. They are piled in the guest room closet.

My bedroom is a constant pile of clothes, clean clothes never make it into my closets. I have about 4 or 5 clothes baskets that you cant tell what is clean and what is dirty. My hamper is always full to the brim with dirty clothes. When people come over, I sweep the clothes off my bed, onto the floor and then shove them into my closet with the baskets piled on top of them.

I have a storage that I’ve had for about 6 years. Why? I don’t even know what is IN there aside from my camping stuff which makes sense because I live in an apartment without a garage or outside storage space. Its packed from the floor to the ceiling with … stuff. I don’t know what’s in there! Stop harassing me!

oh… sorry.

Whenever I’ve traveled out of the country, or gone on extended vacations or been somewhere for more than a few weeks, I always come back to my house wishing I could just gut this thing and start over. I look around, having lived with nothing but the clothes on my back, my computer and a few toiletries, I always think, I don’t need all this shit. Yet, somehow I hold on to it. My style is not a sleek, modern style, I’m definitely a gal who loves a little shabby chic, but messy and cluttered – NOT. However, I know there has to be a way I can marry the lessons from modern style and its simplicity to help release me from all this stuff. I’ve always been someone who believes the way that someone cares for their space is a reflection of themselves in some way. If this is my reflection, um, ew.

Its time to let go, release and get down to the simple things. I’m finding it hard to focus on my work with all these things piling up around me.





Hope and a New Start

18 12 2009

So my friend LM came over today. She has agreed to be my partner-in-organization. She’s going to help me with my house, and I’m going to help her with hers. I’m so excited about this. One, because doing it with someone else and that immediately lessens the sense of isolation, shame and sadness. Two, because I really think she Gets me and that it is not simply about getting enough clear boxes from The Container Store to deal with the stuff. Three, because I think it’s going to be fun.

I am feeling better already. We started this morning. She came over and I took her physically on the Tour of Shame. I gave her a tour of every nook and cranny of the house, and she took notes on a writing pad. It was all very liberating, calming and horrifying all at once. But really good.

We talked for a long time about my history of clutter, my patterns, the things I have tried (including mega expensive Professional Organizers) etc.

We agreed that this is not going to get “fixed” overnight. But we are committed to each other for the long haul. I decided that my two main priorities are: getting my home office in functional, nice condition (it is currently serving as toss-place for junk from the rest of the house, and so cluttered I cannot think, write or concentrate in it) and getting my bedroom in restful condition.

She gave me two homework assignments. (YAY I love this kind of homework)

1. Writing assignment (Double YAY): write about my dreams/hopes/etc for my office space and what it would ideally look like/feel like/function as. This will be my next blog post.

2. Doing assignment: remove everything from office that does not BELONG in office. Leave other stuff. Then, BRING other things to office that are scattered in rest of house that actually belong there. Do not sort, toss or otherwise organize until Lisa returns.

3. Read one organizing book and see what stands out/makes sense/resonates. I’m choosing Unclutter in One Week (HA, yeah right) since it is the newest one in my collection.

That should keep me busy! But yeah I am energized!!





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??