Friday, July 5, 2013

Come to Order: My Adventures in Organization

I'm a smart person. Like Mensa-smart if it weren't for all that math. So why was organization so elusive to me?  I read books and even took a seminar.  I did improve in some areas, but paper: Oh, Paper. Why must you torture me?  I learned fancy-acronyms like O.H.I.O.: Only Handle It Once. And I would think OHIO every time I picked up a bill or piece of paper & added it to The Pile; thereby not handling it once. It seemed that I was incapable of doing anything but shifting piles around. Maddening.

After years of shoulding on myself, I hired professional organizer Kathy Jenkins of Come to Order. In our initial phone consultation, she quickly assessed that I was a visual person. She asked about my filing system. I told her I had 3 fabulous file cabinets in my desk that I hadn't opened after setting up an initial system of files 6 months prior.  "THIS time I'm going to stick to it!" I had vowed.


"No, no, no," Kathy said. "That won't work for you. Out of sight, out of mind. If you haven't opened a drawer that is at your knee for 6 months, you won't open it if I set up files for you in there.  You have to see it or you'll forget about it."  Yes!  Someone who understands. We scheduled a 3-hour block of time. My homework was to get hanging files & a bunch of files in assorted colours: green for Financial, Yellow for Personal, Red for Household. She told me to get a pretty file box that I would like looking at. I couldn't find any, so I got a plastic file box and decoupaged it.

T-Bob thought I put the box on the table just for him!  I used Mod Podge & pages from one of those dollar books from Target. This one was The Secret Garden.  I added a bit of green paint to the Mod Podge to give it a bit of colour; green for garden, of course.
I had 14 boxes of papers. 14! Some of these boxes had gone thru 2 moves and hadn't been opened in 7+ years. "Well, if you haven't needed them in 7 years, you should just throw them out," said Mum.

"You don't want to do that," said Kathy as she surveyed the stack of boxes in my office. "You might have something important in there, like a birth certificate."  Oh.

So this is what we did: we set up the file system first. And she gave me a reference of what I needed to keep and for how long. And then we went thru a box. It was so easy to assess whether I needed to keep something or toss it. The other great thing was that because the file box was portable, I could take it to the living room with me and file stuff while watching TV. Now, when I do my bills, (always on the 1st of the month, thank you John Morgan) I just file things away immediately. No more piles.

And guess what I found?  My birth certificate.   :-)

This box is for the year. Once the year is done, I put the year all together in another box. Except for anything I need for taxes. Speaking of taxes, it was SO EASY this year! Everything was all in one place. I just grabbed my file and headed off to the accountant's.  We didn't do this because I only have one car that is paid off, but Kathy said you could use Blue files for vehicles if you had more than one or if you had car payments. 

I've had Kathy back 2 more times; all in my office again. We organized all my art supplies.
Everything's labeled. Like things with like.
As an afterthought, I asked her how I could be more efficient with my laundry closet. I had stacked a couple Ikea cabinets with doors removed, secured with duct tape-- but it was awkward. She told me I could put up those metal strips on the back wall and then use adjustable shelves. So I did. But I'm not showing you because it still looks a bit messy.
Well, okaaaaaaay: 
Keepin' it real. The first thing I did when I moved in  was get a drinking water system & replace the side-by-side W/D that came with the house. I got front loading, stacked so that I could have better storage space. Mostly for my vacuum cleaner. Initially I got the pre-made shelves, but returned them. I got a 10' X 10" board & had the guy at the lumber place cut it in 2-foot increments. Done: shelves! I have a couple extra shelves if I need them, and I saved about $10 DIYing it. If I were my mother, I would have painted them. As you can see, I am not. 

The last time Kathy came, we worked on my desk. She helped me set up a Tickler File. Now when I see the perfect birthday card for someone 5 months before their birthday, I know where to put it!

I think in terms of weeks in a month, so I have Weeks 1-5; but you could do a file for each day of the month &then number files 1-31. And then I have a file for each month. There's a b-day card for Brother Atlasta already in Sept. :-)
Desk drawer. This is 2 months after the organization, & I've kept it this way!

I'm a big fan of sticky notes. Also postal-type stuff: stamps, address labels, etc.

More stuff!
I think one of the great things that Kathy did was teach me a way of thinking about organization that was compatible with how I think. I've been able to translate what I learned from her to other areas of my home. Another thing that she has done was to create peace of mind. I think it's human nature to avoid things that make you feel less than. It becomes a vicious cycle: avoidance-shame-avoidance-I'll just watch an episode of Hoarders to feel better about myself.

There are people who are born organized and to them, it is unfathomable how a person could not be organized. When things are easy to us, we think they're easy universally. I can whip up a painting or Martha Stewart my way thru creating a birthday gift. That's easy. To me. There's a saying that comparison is the thief of joy. I was comparing myself to uber-organized people I know and then beating myself up for not being like that. But they can't do what I do. We all have different talents and skills.

"Progress, not perfection."

This is what Kathy says. I have it written on my white board in the hallway as a reminder. Perfection paralyzes. I'll wait til I have time to do a proper job. Perfection judges. This isn't good enough (which can easily slip into I'm not good enough).  Perfection is exhausting. Nothing is perfect, there's always more to do!  I gave up perfection a long time ago. Progress I can live with!


Kathy Jenkins said...


I feel so blessed that you asked me to work with you. You are an amazing person with such a caring spirit. I am so proud of the progress you made. And thank you for all the things you taught me (almond flour).
We all bring different gifts to the table. I love it when I get to share mine and others share with me! Thank you!!!


Labyrinth Gal said...

Thanks so much, Kathy! I am SO GRATEFUL we've gotten to work together. You have brought healing & order into my life. Which was no small task! Sending virtual almond cookies your way, :-) H.