It started with a dining room set…doesn’t it always?
With the stipend I earned for my teaching and speaking engagements, I bought a few inexpensive but efficient pieces of furniture for my dining room. That purchase resulted in switching around the living room, my bedroom and my boys’ room. Nice and tidy, everything seemed to have its place.
Except the piles of paper, file folders, binders and notebooks which looked even more overwhelming in a “cleaner” space. I’m a saver. But I needed to purge. So, I used this system, which will be evolving as I tweak and grow with it.
- PREP: I moved my desk chair to another part of the room and aimed all lamps to the floor, desk and bookcase I would be organizing. Grabbed a big garbage bag and tall cool drink (water, the wine comes later when the job is done.)
- BABY STEPS: My writing and teaching opportunities have grown quickly in the last few months, and with them, the paperwork. So, I started with one lil’ pile at a time.
- CODE IT: I used 4 colored Sharpies (love those babies!) to create an organizing system: code and zone each item properly. Blue: teaching items; Green: markets for my writing; Yellow: books/resources; Pink: CCYW, the nonprofit organization I volunteer with.
- PRIORITIZE: As I color-coded, I sorted out the items I knew needed immediate action (or within the next week) These items were later looked over and given a deadline date and a day on my weekly to-do list with a big green “A” circled on the front for “Action”
- FILE: Sorting each item to its coordinating colored “zone”, I used my other favorite office tool: the Dymo label maker, to name and file items simply for easy retrieval later. (i.e. Teaching items were sorted under “Lessons Plans” either as workshops I did or want to borrow from; Resources were those loose post-its and note cards I wrote book recommendations on or links to cool, helpful sites. These were then filed in one big red folder labeled: “Research on-line”)
- DIRTY LITTLE DRAWERS: I emptied the two small side drawers and the pull-out keyboard drawer of my desk. I restocked the right hand drawer with post-its, 3×5 note cards, a stapler, Dymo Label Maker and 2 colored highlighters, all for easy reach when I’m in the middle of working. My left-side drawer holds a big Websters Dictionary and small Thesaurus, my business cards and cute Mary Engelbreit note cards w/envelopes. The keyboard pull-out drawer holds two piles: the Action pile and a pile of almost full spiral notebooks, each opened to stories, essays or fillers I need to type up and find markets for. This way, my to-do’s are right where I need them without appearing overwhelming and messy.
- AT MY FINGERTIPS: I have a portable plastic file organizer where I keep my most referenced files. Currently those have to do with my young writers workshops and projects and the Capitol City Young Writers organization which I board (tracking meeting minutes and editing the qtrly newsletter.) I keep this close to me and clear of clutter, so there’s no excuse not to replace a file. If I seem to get a few paper items all pertaining to a similar topic, it gets a file folder named (i.e. Board Meeting Notes, Events, My Education, Teaching Characterization, Setting, etc.)
- BOOK ME: With my growing library of writing books, I now have a small, cheap but efficient bookcase near my desk to house all of these resources. I no longer have to dig behind my husband’s Dean R Koontz paperbacks to find Writing Down the Bones for quick inspiration.
- WORK IT: As my writing goals and schedule changes, so will my set-up. But for now, I can write, read and research in an organized environment. Now, my only time-waster will be Facebook!
Do you have any organization or spring cleaning tips to share?