Monday, April 1, 2013

Dig In!

I hosted my family's Easter dinner yesterday, and so my house looks wonderful right now - clutter has been corralled and put away, rooms dusted and vacuumed and tidied up.

Except for the office.

I worked in there on Saturday, too, as part of the pre-company pick-up that is an essential part of entertaining. But as the sole surviving dumping ground for homeless items of the paper variety, the counter in the office - originally intended as an expansive work surface - has devolved into a testimony to my "I need to see it" organizational style.

95% of the things piled on the counter are things I want to read - files, clippings, magazines. The good news is I know what's there. The bad news is that it's not going anywhere in anything resembling a hurry. It takes time to sort through, and time to read, which means improvement is less than timely.

Finding the right solution also takes time. The office is a tiny space and storage is at a premium. And like me, the room is an organizational work in progress as I try to find a balance between leaving things in plain sight where they will remind me that I need to tackle them and putting them away where out of sight threatens to become out of mind.

I've tried file cabinets. A file cart. Clear file boxes. Shelves. Cupboards. All of these are currently in use in the office, and work to varying degrees. Once I find a logical home for something, the system works. Until then, limbo is messy and only semi-functional.

The trick, I have discovered, is to find a way to keep things visible but organized. To balance "at my fingertips" storage with "at a distance" storage, using the former for things I need often and/or need to be reminded of and the latter for reference materials and things I don't need to access regularly, but still want to keep.

Slowly but surely, I'm finding this balance - at least until company's coming and all of the paper clutter gets collected from surfaces in other parts of the house and comes to live on the counter in the office.

For the most part, I choose to view my collection of reading materials as a sign of an optimistic personality. If I didn't believe that I would someday get to at least skim all of the things in those piles - things that I'm certain will make me smarter and better informed on some level - they'd have been tossed a long time ago. But in the meantime, the clutter they collectively form is mentally exhausting, a constant reminder of things to do (sort, organize), to read (files, magazines, a stray book or two) and to file (clippings, notes).

Someday I will mine all of that information, page by page and story by story. And while I know that the best approach is to simply dig in, even if only for a few minutes each day, I find it difficult to make the time to do so. Avoidance is so much easier.

But it's not terribly useful, and so dig in I shall. It's the beginning of a new month, and so perhaps I'll employ a little positive reinforcement, making note of my successes by marking time off on the calendar. At the end of the month, I can reward myself for achieving my goal.

Hey, I like that. So, the goal shall be...what? Minutes spent? Hours accrued?

Inches of clear space.

The counter is 79 inches long by 20 inches deep giving me almost 11 square feet of work space. (Wow. That's a lot of (currently) wasted space). It's time to recapture that.

So, all April fooling aside, I'm setting a goal of roughly half - five square feet - to be clear by the end of April. If I accomplish that, I get to reward myself. (Chocolate? Starbucks? A Pandora bead?)

Stay tuned. This promises to be an interesting month.

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