Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Clean Up or Shut Up

Dear Auntie Shrew,
Here's the problem in a nutshell: Not enough time, too much paper. Now that I'm in my mid-50s, I keep telling myself, my life should have calmed down. I should be into a "groove." I should have FEWER things occupying my time, not MORE. Trouble is, I keep coming up with new projects, or new spins on old ones.

For example, I recently started blogging -- even though my evenings are already too often spoken for, and even though I can't work very much on it during the day because my employer monitors employees' Internet usage. (Not complaining about them, I mean they have every right to do so.)

In the meantime, I haven't really let go of OLD projects and ways I like to spend my time. I still like to read. I still like watching movies. I still have a couple of steady writing-for-pay projects, which I both enjoy and can't afford to give up. I still have guilty pleasures like certain mindless TV series (American Idol, anyone?)

And in the meantime, I'm inundated with paper. As long as I'm sitting before the computer monitor, I'm oblivious to my surroundings. But when I approach my chair, or when I get up, I do so with a feeling of dread. Stacked around my desk surface I've got canceled checks, PostIt notes, unopened mail, greeting cards, dozens of printouts of one thing or another, Zip disks (okay, not paper, but they might as well be), CDs...

None of which I can attend to, of course, because all the projects and other claims on my time prevent it. I've read a good number of those "how to organize your life" resources but frankly they seem to me to have been written for an audience which is already pretty damn well organized. I'm overwhelmed. Hope you can help!

Signed,Nostrils Barely Above the Water

Dear Nostrils,
Well, that’s a pretty big nutshell. Auntie’s still trying to crack the thing. No wonder you’re drowning in paper. Look how much you generated in just one letter asking for help! Have you never heard of the word edit? (Speaking of which, Auntie took it upon herself to edit your question. Can’t have our readers falling asleep, can we?)

Now for that nutshell. Can you spell slob? Okay. First, you must ask yourself if you’ve actually looked at any of those notes, cards, papers, etc. in the last month. If not, you’re not going to any time soon, so get a cardboard box or one of those plastic storage bins and throw every single bit of paper into it. Include the zip disks and CDs, too.

Then, and this is very important, disinfect your desk surface. (Lysol works fine.) God only knows what’s been living and/or hatching under that mess. Set the box aside to be gone through later. Try not to let too much time go by or you’ll end up with several of these things stacked all over the place.

Next, take a piece of chalk and draw a square on the desk surface, no larger than 2' x 2'. That’s the only place you are allowed to place print-outs and post-its. Do not let them cross the chalk lines. When they do, it’s time to box them up.

Buy a CD rack for the desk. Buy a letter-sized basket for un-opened mail and a small basket to hold the zip disks. You might want to save the greeting cards in another basket. When these containers are full, you either toss the contents or find a place to store them out of sight.

Auntie has found that knowing where things are, like your un-opened mail, makes it easier to deal with it. Once you’ve contained the environmental clutter, she assures you that your mental environment will be a lot less cluttered, also. Good luck, and Auntie fervently hopes that you do not misplace her excellent advice before it’s been put to use.

Yours shrewdly,
Auntie Shrew


Blogger AG said...

good advice again, auntie shrew. i also recommend turning off the t.v., which breeds mindlessness, and using that time to get organized. (go to the container store and get some cool gadgets to help.) then, you will be clutter-free, and you will have time to get back to some of your passions and interests.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Auntie Shrew said...

My dear ag,
Getting some cool gadgets is an excellent suggestion. Anything that helps make chores more fun is fine in Auntie's book.

Thank you again for more fine comments. You sound like you have a sensible head on your shoulders. Do let Auntie know if she can help you in any way.

Auntie Shrew

3:28 PM  
Blogger AG said...

i heart auntie shrew!

11:56 PM  
Blogger madgamer said...

great advise! i like the box thing very creative! actually i have been looking to start like an advice blog.... i want to graduate from college and become a marriage, family, and personal counselor... great advice and keep up the good work...

7:19 PM  

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