Thursday, February 18, 2016

Organizing 101...or 2

Years ago, when I was first starting to work from home full-time, I decided to declutter and organize my home office. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward task, but it turned out to be much more involved, layered, and difficult than I had imagined. The problem was, I'd been using my office as a catch-all for everything else. Everything I didn't want to see went into the office. Everything I planned to do later went into the office. Everything I didn't have time to do at all went into the office. Everything that didn't have a specific home elsewhere in the house went into the office.

I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, so I was trained to keep stuff, to repurpose stuff, to make stuff do, to fix stuff. Tossing stuff wasn't on the agenda most of the time.

Ask my brother or my daughters about the time we tried to drink all the juice left over at the end of  our vacation. It never occurred to any of us until we'd almost made ourselves sick that we could throw perfectly good juice away. That mindset sometimes makes it difficult to declutter and organize.

The idea of reorganizing the office became critical when I realized that I was having a lot of trouble working in there. I took a good look around and tried to figure out what te problem was. It had lovely windows looking out on the street, lots of good light, a big desk, bookshelves, and a closet for storing stuff, so I didn't realize the problem immediately.

It took some time to figure out that I'd filled the room with all kinds of things that needed my attention--bills to pay, clothes to iron or mend, papers to sort and file away, photographs and mementos to organize and scrapbook. Every time I walked into the office, I was pulled in a hundred different directions, and that made it really hard to be creative.

After a while I realized that in order to make my home office a workable space for me, I had to allow only the things I needed to practice my craft inside the room, and I needed to ban everything that needed me.

It was a great lesson and one that served me well for a long time. I got pretty good at following the advice to handle things once (mostly.) Instead of carting the day's mail into the house and creating a pile of paper to be sorted later, I tossed what I didn't want before I even walked through the door. I tried to move through my days much like my mother had, more slowly than was my usual pace, but more focused, working on one thing until I finished it and then moving on to the next task instead of rabbiting around the house doing a little bit of everything and never really getting anything "done."

And then I moved. And then I moved again. And then life happened. And now my home office is right back to where it was before. I'm ashamed to admit there's even an old TV sitting in there in the middle of the floor. Good grief! How did that happen?

Isn't that how it goes? (Please tell me that's how it goes at other houses besides mine!) I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

photo credit: 2011.07.13 - Surroundings via photopin (license)


stanalei said...

Great post, Sherry. I keep everything! I try to keep it organized, but I don't throw away as much as probably should. Even my computer files, while organized, go back decades!

Sherry Lewis said...

Oh, don't get me started on computer files. That's a whole 'nother can of worms!