2011: The Year of Staying Organized

As you may recall, I created and executed my own organizational project last month, called “12 Days of Productivity”. My goal was to tackle the clutter in my house which had become an obstacle to my head being clear enough to get other things–like writing assignments–done in an efficient manner. Certain areas of my house (two cabinets in my kitchen and a closet or two, most importantly) stood in my mental path on a daily basis, and I finally decided to just get going on it and plow through it all during the time of year when most of my friends were busy rushing around in preparation for Christmas. Hanukkah came early, after all, so what else did I really have to do?

This is what I completed (cleaned out/sifted through/organized) over the twelve fifteen days:

1. Work space/computer area in the basement
2. Kitchen junk drawer
3. Kitchen cabinets over desk
4. Master Bedroom Closets
5. Boys’ Bedroom Closets
6. Switched out boys’ rooms
7. Front coat closet
8. Upstairs hall closet
9. Dressers
10. Family room DVD closet

I have a couple of tasks (under bathroom sinks, bathroom closet) that were on the calendar but didn’t get completed; I’ll tackle those in the next week or two. No worries.

I donated a bunch of our unused stuff to Goodwill: the bags filled up the back seat of my car as well as my trunk. We threw out about nine bags of trash. I am breathing a little easier, having a little bit of extra storage space–which I have no plans to fill in a hurry, by the way. Space is good.

Some of my favorite finds, besides what I already wrote about?

1. A bunch of workout CDs I forgot I had. These are very, very expensive (about twice the price of a regular CD unless you find them on sale!) because they are 32-count song arrangements specifically created for exercise, and I felt like I won the lottery when I found them. Whee!

2. This organizer (how ironic), which I found at (I think) Urban Outfitters a few years ago, and totally forgot about.

3. Deep in the recesses of three old gym bags that sat at the bottom of our family room closet, I found about twelve pairs of my workout socks. (I was wondering where all of my socks went.) Yes, they were dirty. No, I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Yes, I have since washed them, rolled them up, and put them away properly in my dresser drawer.

4. This. From the era when the boys loved “American Chopper“. Right click it to open in a new window, for reading ease. You’re welcome: “I’m just here to help”.

5. Speaking of the younger boy, I found–in the front coat closet–a note to his dad that said something like “Have a safe trip. I’ll miss you. GO CUBS!” In the bottom corner, I had written, “Hidden in Jim’s suitcase for his Japan trip” and then the date. I thought it was adorable and, when I handed it to the younger boy so he could read it, he looked at it, smiled, and then proceeded to throw it in my trash pile, at which time I scolded him and snatched it back for placement in his keepsake box. Boys. Sigh.

6. I “found” (though I always knew it was there) the older boy’s half-finished Bar Mitzvah scrapbook. From 2005. I am ashamed that I never finished it, let alone never started one for the younger boy’s Bar Mitzvah. I have decided that I will finish the one book and begin (and finish) the second book, hopefully over the next couple of months. Scrapbooking isn’t something I choose to take time for these days, but these books in particular are important. I have also decided that I will start making photo books through Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly with all of our digital pictures from the last few years. Why take pictures if nobody ever gets to see them, right?

I must say that the project was a great success, and I can tell you–should you be considering your own productivity project–that there were two main elements I highly recommend:

1. Use your calendar. I actually put each day’s task on my online calendar (with reminders) at the very beginning of the project. By doing this, I was able to schedule each project according to how much time I’d have that day (on a workday I cleaned out one drawer; on a weekend day we switched the boys’ bedrooms). Using my calendar also made me look forward to certain tasks, and it certainly made me hold myself accountable.

2. Flexibility. Not only did my 12 days turn into 15 because I elected to postpone a couple of things by a day or so due to other schedule changes, but more importantly, I was fine with the extension. I completed more tasks in my house (where organization is concerned) over those fifteen days than I normally would in a year. If I had to move something to another day (or trade one “job” for another), I forgave myself, committed to do it on the second choice date, and moved on.

By conducting this little project, I know now that, if I fine-tune my focus, things can get done around here. I wasn’t on the computer as much and therefore I started to fall behind in some of my writing tasks, but that’s part of life: I think it’s very difficult to balance everything and still be able to complete tasks. (For me, attempting to balance everything out has always led to starting but not finishing everything, and that just doesn’t make anybody happy.)

And now? When the kids start back to school this week, I’ll be ready to conquer my work with a new excitement, without being mentally dragged down by the surrounding clutter. It’s a great feeling!


  • I am a Tech Teacher

    You should also check out the photo books that are a part of iPhoto!

    By the way, if you are still hankering to organize and clean out, there's plenty to do at my house! I did accomplish my goal of going through pile of paper on my kitchen table. Unfortunately, I start back to school tomorrow and didn't accomplish much grading over break. Looks like that's on my agenda for today!

  • Mrs4444

    Nicely done! I only started organizing today, haha. So much to do, so little time. I should probably start a list. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Michelle

    You. Are awesome.

    I love his letter – surprisingly, we loved American Chopper around here, too. Ahhhh Paulie Sr.

    I did get all our Christmas (day) mess cleaned up today which felt SO much better (coming home from vacation to a sty was not pleasant), but I have so many things I need to do that it's … depressing. And keeping me from doing what I need to do because I'm procrastinating even starting. I need to calendarize myself. Just like you. 🙂

  • Heather

    That is so awesome! Congrats on all you accomplished girlie! You are ready to face the new year head on now! 🙂

  • seashore subjects

    Wow.You got a ton done! And you are so right about pictures, we – me put them on the computer and there they sit (which really annoys my mom who loves to flip through them) You are inspiring me to make some photo books!

  • Tara R.

    I am really impressed. Would you be interested in coming to my house to do the same here. I pay in Trident Layers.

    (how cool you found all those 'lost' treasures)

  • NYCPatty

    Love your idea of scheduling tasks! I'm going to try that. I need to clean out so many areas of my apt.

  • Otter Thomas

    That is like a lifetime's worth of organizing. Lots of work. Good for you. And finding an organizer while organizing is the king of all ironic things.