Friday, August 14, 2009

Organizing Systems

Being a librarian, books are of interest to me, even though they can add to the clutter if you are not careful. In the list I gave you Wednesday about the seven types of people and their problems with getting organized, I am most like the first type, someone who collects organization tools, references and ideas but never gets around to implementing them! I don’t need any more clutter control books, but I was curious just how many of them there might be out there. I did a search in on “clutter control” and 840 books came up for that subject including 7 e-books for their new Kindle! A search on “organizing” came up with 272,264 hits! Yikes! I could be in much worse shape!

Over the years I have collected a large variety of organizing systems that I have started to use but for one reason or another, I have abandoned in favor of something else. Finding just the right system is as expensive and frustrating as trying to find the best book on clutter control (even thought they are pretty much all the same). You should be careful when you evaluate a system you have bought into; make sure you are not being too much of a perfectionist and see if there isn’t some way you can modify the system you have (or your behavior) to make it work better. Or, if you are waiting to organize some collection or pile of stuff, don’t hold back until you have the perfect system. If you can make do with something you already own, you will at least get the clutter under control and then you can take your time considering the organization problem and find, or devise, the system that will work for you.

There is a series of four free (somewhat amateurish) videos on another clutter control website that I found called The Organized Times ( that describes a way to sort recipes. In the video, Flo Feldman describes using a shoebox, with self-labeled manila folders, (helped to stay upright by using the tissue paper that comes in the shoe box) as an organizing system. Folders and shoe boxes are probably items that you may already own and setting up this simple filing system will allow you to at least sort and categorize a collection of papers until you decide if something more formal will be needed. You may decide in the end to just throw all of the information away!

I have not taken my own advice over the years, mostly because I love stationery stores, containers and all things made of paper but also I am a perfectionist (number 7 on the list)! I have purchased many organizing systems that run the gamut from calendar organizers to file systems to storage system for sorting notes, recipes, etc. to address books and birthday calendars. But I have found the perfect system for only a few of the many clutter categories that need organizing in my house. This will sound crazy, but I have a good system for organizing greeting cards, craft supplies (particularly sequins and confetti), powdered sauce mixes in the kitchen and writing implements. (Not many!) The only problem I have with these systems is that none of them are large enough and they are not easily expanded.

For greeting cards, I have two file boxes with dividers into which I put cards I like as I find them and then go “shopping” in the appropriate file box when I need a card. I have two boxes because I love cards so much! One box is for birthdays and anniversaries. It has dividers for each month on which I have written the names and the dates that I need to remember for each month and some dividers for the general categories of birthday, child’s birthday and anniversary. When I find a card for a specific person, for a specific event, it goes in behind the divider for the month that I will need to send it. With this system I can buy cards any time of the year when I see just the right one for a particular person. Once a month I look at the divider and send the card if I have one or pick one from the general folders in the back. (Don’t ask me, or my friends and family, if I manage to do this every month.) The other box has other categories that make sense to me. There are standard ones for New House, Wedding, Shower and Sympathy, but there are also folders for cards from me to my husband and visa versa, postcards, blank notes and my favorite category – “Girl Power.” That is were those great cards go that have humor that women in particular will appreciate! Sometimes the cards stay in the box so long the envelopes get yellow. This either means that I no longer like the card and I throw it away (not often the case) or that I like the card too much to send and I have to move it to another spot where I keep cards that I really like - either blank, or those that have been sent to me. I did say that I love cards, didn’t I? The silly thing is that I have a room full of rubber stamps and other paper crafting supplies with which I am supposed to be making my own greeting cards! I need to do this on a regular basis and fill the sections in the box by topic because I never have the time to make a card when a significant date approaches.

Those craft supplies I mentioned are all stored in clear plastic containers that are labeled as to the contents. Like supplies are stored together which makes them easy to locate. I have some strange categories that only I understand like things that erase, things that stick or glue, small parts, etc. We have a room set aside in the house that we use as an art studio. There are built-in cabinets, with doors, in that room to hold all of the plastic containers. This room has been very slow to get set up since our move to a new house several years ago. My confetti and sequins are stored in a spice rack (with matching bottles) that I abandoned years ago when I decided I didn’t like having to transfer the spices from their original containers. The size of the containers were never equal which meant I had to save the remainder of the spice to refill the uniform ones that sat out for view. I now only need to store the container that the spice comes in and I have a pull out shelf cabinet in the kitchen for that specific purpose. The old spice rack comes in handy to sort those little decorative confetti (that I often shake into greeting cards) and sequins.

My powdered mix envelopes (like Knorr and Campbells) are sorted in the pantry in a small upright letter sorter, the kind you get in the stationery store. This keeps them upright where I can see what I have and easily grab one without having to sift through a pile or a drawer. You will be happy to know that I stop short of alphabetizing them!

As to writing implements, because my husband and I are both artists, we like to have the right pen or pencil for each task. I have found a use for all of the spare mugs I have gotten over the years that I don’t really want to use when someone comes to visit. I have a cluster of them on the countertop in the studio, adjacent to my computer, on the desk top and even on a shelf in the kitchen. There are usually at least two to separate the pencils from the pens and I also include a letter opener and a pair of scissors at each location. Mugs work well for this purpose because they are short and wide making them very sturdy and not easily knocked over when grabbing a pen.

I’m sure that none of these storage solutions are unique or earth shattering, but I have been able to maintain them for about 10 years, so for me that is a good system! Tomorrow I will discuss calendar systems and the problems inherent with choosing the best one for the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment? Share your ideas with the group.