Saturday, February 28, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 9 - Creative Names for Filing Labels, and Other "Assign"-ments!

I am still de-junking the office! I haven't finished yet, but I haven't quit yet either. The sorting and purging goes on...and on...and on.  How on earth did I ever accumulate so much stuff?  On the bright side, I have purged enough papers that some of my file drawers are pretty empty and ready for the next step.  Under Julie Morgenstern's SPACE organization acronym, "Assign" follows "Sort" and "Purge. With 2015 financial papers piling up, it was time to assign them a new home.

There is room in the file drawer!

Of course, assigning means no more files labeled "Papers to File" or my favorite, "Miscellaneous." I had to actually make decisions about the papers. In the book "One Year to An Organized Life," Regina Leeds suggests several filing categories to contain the paper tornadoes that whirl through our lives. I read her ideas, and then went to work on my own system.

There just isn't a way to make file drawer photos interesting. But it IS all organized.

I have my prior-year financial information in one drawer, along with old tax returns, and then have my current financial files in the other drawer. Yes, that should keep me from searching frantically for my 2015 papers during next year's tax season. I also made files for insurance information (life, auto, homeowner's, health, and the insurance I bought on our aging water line that could disintegrate at any time).  Then I ran into paperwork on my AAA membership. Where, exactly, am I supposed to file that? Hmmm.  Miscellaneous? No, not again. I am NOT making new "miscellaneous" files.

I ultimately decided to file the AAA papers in a file near my auto insurance. After all, AAA is my insurance for roadside assistance, right? And I decided I am more likely to look for the information near my insurance policies than in a paid bill file.

After my files were set up, I took my stack of 2015 documents and filed them away. It takes a little time to get used to a new system, and it felt a little awkward at first. I am sure I will make adjustments to my files along the way. I am hoping as I use these files regularly, I will get more efficient at my filing.

The box pile is shrinking!

This "Assign" phase entails a lot of decision making. What will happen if I grow weary of making decisions about all of these papers? I think I will check a thesaurus and see how many other ways I can label "Miscellaneous."  (Sundry, Odd, and Motley all sound promising. I think I might be on to something!)

Happy Filing!

Friday, February 20, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 8 - Organized People Don't What???

When I was young, I shared a bedroom with my sisters. On Saturdays, we cleaned our room. Usually this was a "dust and vacuum" kind of job, but periodically it was time to clean under the beds and inside the drawers. My sisters magically whipped through this task, and I was left alone in my room with, well, stuff. I would organize and tidy a drawer, and then there was always this little pile of things left over. Things I wanted, but didn't really know how to categorize. How could my sisters put away all of their things and have their spaces look so tidy so quickly? What did they do with their little odds and ends?

I have since read that organized people don't have "miscellaneous." What? They don't have a miscellaneous drawer. They don't have a miscellaneous file. They don't have a miscellaneous pile of stuff left over. What do they do with all their miscellaneous?? Apparently, the belongings of organized people have a home. A place for everything and everything in its place. It makes sense. I mean, if I like an item enough to hang on to it, I should honor it with a place to stay, right? But all my life, I have had these little piles of things or or little stacks of papers left over when I clean. That is one habit I need to change!

I am determined not to have miscellaneous hanging around when I am through with this cleaning project. The office is testing my commitment, but I am pressing forward. As I cleaned out old files this week, I noticed evidence of my cleaning issues archived through the years. For your reading pleasure, here is a list of actual labels on old file folders I found this week:
  • Current!!
  • Immediate!
  • Miscellaneous (you knew it had to be there, right?)
  • To File (really? A FILE of things to file? Why didn't I just file those papers in the first place?)
  • And my favorite...RANDOM RECEIPTS.
I laughed, too. And I am not going to use those labels ever again.

Maybe new filing supplies will help?

Filing is taking a toll on my motivation, so today I sneaked in an errand to the office supply store. I love looking at new office supplies and notebooks. Maybe having new, colorful folders will make filing less of a chore. While at the store, I found a little notebook on clearance with a great Dr. Seuss quote. Maybe it will keep me motivated until the end of this project.

Great quote for inspiration.

Because the sorting is taking so long, I decided I needed to tackle one project that I could actually finish today and feel good about the accomplishment. I decided to sort, purge, and tidy up one shelf in my office. This shelf holds National Geographic magazines. I love National Geographic. I love it because it is a great magazine. I love the articles. I love the photos. And I have a lot of nostalgia for this magazine. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a bedroom in the basement they called "the library." Now, I have always wanted a library, so of course this room was a favorite place to explore. There were books on the shelves, some of which we read when we were visiting. And there were National Geographic issues. I could read current issues upstairs while the adults visited. But I could also look at old issues down in the basement. I remember following Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research through the years, and I eagerly awaited the regular updates that appeared in the magazines.

Sorting National Geographic

I don't have a library or the shelf space to keep all the magazines that come through my mailbox. And I have subscribed to National Geographic for most of my adult life. Today some more magazines had to go. It was easier than I thought it would be. I did a quick sort, let my kids save a few they were interested in, and fit them all neatly on one shelf in my office. There is even room for all of the new 2015 issues yet to come! I am happy to have something to show for my work today. Wish me luck ridding my life of "miscellaneous!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 7 -The Paper Chase

Place I Would Rather Be!

 Last week I was pretty hopeful as I dug through boxes and generated bags of paper for the shredder and the recycling bin. I cleared one file drawer, and could see the potential in a couple of other drawers.

One File Drawer Ready to Go!

However, my clutter-attention span is notoriously short. And this week seems very daunting. Those tax back-up documents I need are also proving to be rather elusive, which should teach me to set up a good filing system right now for the 2015 papers. Then at least I will avoid the paper chase next year!

Before I dive into yet another box and chase more paper around in the sort and purge phase of this process, I am going to digress. Here are the things I would rather be doing right now:
  • Relaxing on a beach
  • Skiing
  • Taking a nap
  • Reading a book
  • Eating chocolate...
Oh wait! I can make those last two happen!!

What are your favorite distractions?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sophie Scholl and The White Rose - What Would You Do For Freedom?

I am a bit weary of film sequels and  remakes crowding the theaters with their long action sequences and heavy-CGI. The Sundance Film Festival just wrapped up in Utah, and the Oscars are approaching, so I was craving a movie that was a little different from standard theater fare. On a whim, I browsed the Foreign Film shelf at my local library last week and found "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" on DVD. (The film is in German with English subtitles).

Sophie Scholl particpated in the The White Rose resistance movement, along with her brother Hans, during World War II in Germany. I had actually seen a film about the White Rose at the International Cinema when I was in college, and then several years ago, I read a book about Sophie and the White Rose, so I was familiar with the story.

Sophie and Hans Scholl honored on a stamp.

In 1942, Hans Scholl (Sophie's brother) and some friends from the University of Munich started a resistance movement which Sophie (also a student at the university) joined. Over a period of about 8 months, this group produced and distributed leaflets that called for the German people to actively oppose the Nazi regime. One of the six leaflets they produced called for "Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states."  The pamphlets drew quite a bit of attention (anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 copies of the fifth pamphlet were distributed in multiple cities, mostly by mail). The production and distribution of these leaflets was quite a feat given the difficulty of acquiring paper, stamps, and the equipment to make copies in  war-time Germany. The Gestapo was working hard to find and punish the perpetrators.

Spoiler Alert:  the film is titled "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days." It takes place during the distribution of the sixth leaflet and shows Sophie's capture, interrogation, and trial. Sophie and Hans Scholl, along with fellow-resistor, Christoph Probst were executed on February 22, 1943.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst.

Is the film worth a look? Most definitely! This film was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for Best Foreign Film. The acting is superb. I loved this film for several reasons.

  • The historical account is fascinating, and much of this film is taken from transcripts of the trial and eyewitness accounts. The film manages to capture the drama and suspense of the events.
  • I think it is important to recognize that many Germans were not complacent during Hitler's rule in Germany, and not only knew what was going on, but were trying to unite other Germans to act against Hitler. 
  • Freedom of speech is something that is easy to take for granted here in America. Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were executed for speaking freely...a right that had been theirs in Germany prior to Hitler's rise to power.
  • This film makes me question what my actions would have been in similar circumstances. Would I have acted to reclaim freedoms of speech and religion? Would I have spoken out against the murder of fellow citizens? This is a very thought-provoking film.
  • Sophie Scholl was an incredibly intelligent and articulate young woman, and this film portrays those qualities.She and the other members of the White Rose were not trying to be cast as heroes. They simply wanted to do the right thing.  Watching Sophie (played by Julia Jentsch) handle her interrogation and trial with strength and dignity is amazing.

Sophie Scholl was only 21 years old. Her brother Hans was 24.  As Sophie walked to her death, she said "The sun still shines." 

Sophie Scholl

Yes, Sophie, 72 years after your death, the sun still shines on you and others like you who stand for what is right with courage and grace.

For more information on Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, check out these links:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 6 - If I Don't Come Out, Send a Search Party!

Home Office Space

I am loving the organized kitchen, and we are happily maintaining clear counters and clean sinks (no dirty dishes piling up!) The whole family is on board, and it is great. That almost gives me enough courage to tackle the catch-all space we call the "office."   There are lots of reasons to tackle this space next. The biggest reason is that this space is probably the most difficult space in the house. I believe if I am able to get this room organized and functional, then the rest of the house will be much, much easier.

My kitchen flows in one straight line into my dining room. It is all one big room. We did that intentionally when we remodeled, and I love it. At the dining room, however, the space turns north 90 degrees forming an L-shape. It is this northern open area that is our family disaster area. It holds books, scrapbooking supplies, photos, files, magazines, crafts, school supplies, office supplies, family history records, the home computer, and more. It is used by the entire family.

Books, scrapbooks, Lego and more!

 There are also some boxes.  What is in those boxes? I am not quite sure. But I am sure they all contain PAPER. Paper is my nemesis. Getting control of the tornado of paper that swirls through my home would be a major accomplishment and a big improvement in my life.

Dreaded pile of boxes

Since tax season is upon us, and since the papers needed for me to work on those tax returns are somewhere in this space, I figure it is time to go to work. I wish the documents I needed had a tracking beacon, but I know they are in here somewhere.

Photos (at least they are in boxes by year!)

I am planning to work through my office using organizer Julie Morgenstern's SPACE acronym.  SPACE stands for Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, and Equalize.  Today my goal is to sort and purge at least one of those annoying boxes. I have a feeling the office will take longer than the kitchen, but I am trying to stay optimistic.

Someone's projects.

If you don't hear from me the next week or so, send out a search party. I am lost in a mountain of paper!

Do you deal with paper clutter effectively in your home? What are your best tips?

Great link to tips on using the SPACE system