An Organized Life


Organization is a good place to start.  It doesn’t require much long term thinking and it is easily broken in to smaller, simple tasks.  What are my goals for an organized life:

  • To reduce the amount of useless stuff
  • To ensure that the remaining good stuff is where I can find it when I need it
  • To store stuff so that it remains optimally functional.
  • Have things on shelves or put away.
  • To have everything arranged so that it is conducive to moving.

For me the best way to start to tackle these goals are fractional, spatial, and temporal thinking.  In other words, break the stuff into different categories, figure out where each group of stuff should be ideally stored, and identify the priority/importance of these tasks.

So Many Pictures, So Much information – Right now, we have computer files on at least four computers, two external hard drives and the “cloud”.  Some of the files are duplicates, backed up in multiple places, others are only stored in a single location.  With phones and digital cameras snapping away we have accumulated several tens of thousands of pictures onto my computer.  We’ve got double and triples and then sometimes can’t even find the important photos we are looking for.  Since computer storage space isn’t the limiting factor anymore (thanks to the smallness of terabyte hard drives) the big problem is organization.  My objective over the year is to make sure that even if computers are going to be used for different purposes, all the information is central and backed up.  This will be quite an undertaking and will take some time to break it down into smaller blocks that can be accomplished in the usually short periods of time I have to do such activities.

  • Create on the main computer a filing system that is self-explanatory
    • File names and group should be easy to recognize and understand.
    • Photos files will group pictures by people, topic, or event.
    • Individual file names should reflect the actual content.
  • Starting with the photos move from download files to organized file, one set at a time. This provides the discrete unit and can be usually done quickly, even while watching video or something.
  • Once the photos are done do the same for the other files.
  • Transfer information from hard drives and other computers to the main computer in small hunks so that only the non-duplicate/useful files are transferred over.
  • Once this information centralization and organization has been done, back up the shit out of everything (actually things should be backed up continuously, but that is outside the purview of this set of goals).

One Tub At a Time –  So far, I’ve managed to corral most of the unorganized stuff into tubs in the garage.  It at least looks organized.  There are tubs of Legos, outdoor equipment, fishing tackle, aquarium parts, Christmas decorations, and several tubs just labeled miscellaneous.  Lots of those are chocked full of items, stuffed in to facilitate transport from Duluth to Columbia.  Here I think that it can be tackled a box at a time.  It is going to start with a series of questions (some are in sequence but most need to be answered):

  • Will we ever use this again?
  • Does it work? – Can it be fixed? – Is it worth fixing?
  • Does it have value? – Is that value monetary or emotional?
  • Is this worth keeping?
  • Do we even want this? – Could some else benefit from having this more than us?
  • Is it part of a larger group of things that can all be stored together?

Going through the tubs of stuff is something that Sara and I likely need to do together (at least for some of them). Luckily I’ve got some empty tubs so that will make sorting easier.  This process can be done one at a time.  And it is not time sensitive, so a spare hour after Katie goes to bed should be enough time to get through most tubs.  Once the items in the tubs are sorted out, the key will that all the stuff that comes out goes back into tubs according to common groupings.  Once that is done comes the organization of the shelves.

How Many Damn Books Do You Own – Both Sara and I love books.  We have those that define our professional lives, those that made us laugh or cry or think, those that we’ve read dozens of times, and those that we’ve pretended to read to seem smart.  The books were packed without much thought as to their long term future (not their physical usefulness, as they were well packed with great care).  I built one bookcase and got some boxes out of the garage and onto shelves.  But some of those shelves got taken up by a mobile Katie.  So the plan is to build more bookcases is in the works (I actually own the wood now).  But, Sara and I have differing opinions about the utility of bookcases, she likes some shelves for photos and knick-knacks, I prefer only books.  Either way unless we are going to line every wall with shelves there needs to be a culling.  The book cull will follow some rules:

  • Has it ever been read? Will it ever be read? Would it be read again?
  • If it hasn’t been read, does keeping it around make me feel smart?
  • Do I want to keep it just because?

Once the book herd is thinned, they can be organized.  With enough shelves (hopefully) I can put books into appropriate grouping.

Why Do I Still Have Paper Records – I don’t know why this is true, but it is and those records need to be organized.  This is just a matter of sitting down and going through the paperwork and the file box.  At one point things were already in files, but this has gotten a bit jumbled over the years.  The other thing that needs to happen is that important files (birth certificates, car titles, etc.) should be moved into a water/fireproof safe.  I don’t own a safe, but am hoping to get one for my birthday perhaps.  This is the lightest of all the tasks and really just needs a dedicated few hour one evening.

Clothes Horse – I seem, despite being very picky about clothing, to have accumulated a lot of it.  I have lots of clothes that need to go.  I am not good at this.  I get sentimental.  I think that I will eventually be thinner and thus able to fit into that again.  I think well maybe I will eventually wear that terrible colored shirt.  Basically, to organize my clothes I have to get over myself.  It would be great if I could cut down significantly.  Even if I lose weight, shirts are still going to fit.  And maybe that new pair of jeans I need can be part of a weight loss incentive.  I think this has to be a single event like a band aide.  I can’t let it drag out or I will never be able to do it.  I just need to attack my closet on an evening when nothing much else is going on and when I can be sure to stop at Goodwill on my way home from work.  Once the clothing bulk is reduced then a better system of organization will be self-evident.  The most likely time for this to happen is when we bring in/put together our new IKEA dressers.  Since that is supposed to happen soon maybe the clothing thing can happen soon too.

The Shelf Plan – Once the individual things are all organized and the bookcases built organization will come down to shelf planning.  I’ve got lots of shelves, and I’m building more.  The big thing is plan according to usage.  Things that get used a lot should be easiest to reach.  This will also facilitate the next move so that if things are condensed and stored in boxes or tubs they are much easier to use.

If I Can Accomplish This – My life would be pretty organized if I can get these things done.  None of it is urgent right now, but I expect a move at some point in the future and this plan/goals/objectives would go a long way to making the next move a bit easier.  I’m leaving out things that I feel Sara will have the definitive decision on (decorations – where I’ve proved mostly to poor and/or fish related choices, knitting stuff, Pyrex dishes) or where it will be most appropriate to have discussions and make family decisions (kitchen stuff, Katie’s stuff).


GOGOBEAR ACTIVATE:  This was the first of the GOGOBEAR goals to be written.  It was probably the easiest to write and think about, but the reality of life suggest that it might have the greatest utility in the end.  If you read this far, congratulations, this was a lot of information that likely doesn’t have a lot of relevance to outside readers, but thanks for your caring and persistence.