Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Mission Impossible

This week I've been writing, cleaning, and watching TV, mainly Deep Space 9 and Mission Organization. The latter is inspiring, ladies (and gents -- you could benefit too, you know).

I'm not naturally organized. Stan Plumly once noted I "give the impression of organization without actually being organized." My kindergarten teacher made a similar comment on my permanent record.

"Mission Organization" follows a comfortingly predictable pattern, beginning with a client with one room so messy, I feel much better about my home until I remember our basement. The show varies from a major reorganization of a well-decorated, out-of control room, to complete overhauls. The show encourages me to handle just one room at a time, clearing corner-to-corner. Their plan is usually:

Throw out trash (after widening your definition of trash)
Collect misplaced items for removal to their proper room
Create ergonomic, logical workspaces, and group items together.
(MO likes baking areas, for example, or bill-paying desks)
Buy bins, drawer sorters, dressers, a system for your needs
Reorganize, keeping work areas clear

My favorite episode so far: A daughter hires a pro organizer who, it turns out, is her 65-year-old mother. Yikes that was a scary show. The daughter bit her lip a lot. Imagine your mom going through all your stuff and telling you how to organize your life? They did well, actually. The mother just kept repeating "You'll be so happy when it's done." and "see, here, you need to just get rid of this."

Standard Operating Procedures...

I labeled bags for everything from Magazines for recycling to donation Books; Upstairs, Downstairs, North Carolina, wherever it's going. And a laundry basket for stuff that’s in the wrong room. Once set up, it's easy to go throw everything that doesn't belong into the basket, straighten, clean, and reorganize from the drawers and shelves out. Then I unload the collection basket.

I’ve finished three major rooms. I've also reorganized our unbelievable mess of books, two-deep on the shelves. I’ve cleaned, sorted, and managed my To Do list.

It "tickles" Chel that I'm maniacal about my lists. Lists are reliable management tools. I keep a detailed To Do list on my laptop (which I download to my ZIre 21) digital 'cause I'm a nerd. It’s comforting knowing what’s on my radar.

The danger is that it's easy to confuse planning the work with doing the work, a classic procrastinator tactic. Still, it's effective to devote a few minutes three or four times a day to review and plan.

My other procrastinator tactic is losing track of time. Solution: Timers. I have two. The downstairs one’s cheap, no clock. The kitchen model has three timers and a clock. I set it for a bearable amount of time. Kitchen clean up? 30 minutes. Heavy cleaning of a big, messy room? 1 hour. I never schedule more than one hour for cleaning. When my timer beeps, I finish what I'm doing, pick up the crap that's leaving with me. This week I've taken breaks at the beeps, restarting the timer as often as it takes to finish the room.

It seems impossible, but I think I may actually make it pretty far down my list this week. I have to.

After all, I’ve chosen to accept the mission.

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