Anatomy of an Organizational Project, Part 1

Deborah Health Guide
  • My dining table is a mess, which I have mentioned before. This has always been an issue for me. The dining table is the biggest flat area in the house, so it attracts all sorts of projects that don't necessarily get put away. But last year, when my son started kindergarten, it became a virtual blizzard of papers. Not only homework (can you believe that they have homework in kindergarten?) and classwork, but also drawings that he's done in daycare, drawings friends of his have made for him, and of course lots of information from the school and things that need to be filled out and returned.


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    My quickie solution last time we had people over for dinner was to put everything into a cardboard box. Of course, then we have a big old cardboard box sitting in the dining room, and if we actually had to find anything in it...well, forget it. Let's face it, that was a temporary solution, and an unattractive one.


    I decided that over Christmas break I had to do something about this mess, because it really was driving me nuts. I thought that it might be helpful if I detailed the process. Of course, the way that everyone attacks a problem is going to differ, but these steps still might help you next time you want to attack an organizational challenge.


    Identify the problem and the causes.


    You may think that this is so obvious that it's not worth spending any time on. I mean please, you know what the causes are, right? Well, maybe not. Let's say that you, like me, have piles of books all over the house. It could be magazines, CDs or DVDs, too. Why are they in piles instead of put away? I thought about this problem a couple of years ago (with books) and realized that I would put the books away, but the bookshelves were too packed.


    Obviously I needed to prune the contents fairly frequently. I donated some books and also joined, where you post the books you have to trade and search for books you want. Not only did this get rid of some of my books and give me a healthy amount of credits on the site, but it cut down on my bookstore habit. I was paying full price for books far too often. By the way, there's also and in case those are your organizational challenges.


    Back to my current problem. Okay, my dining table is a mess because of lots of paper. But I really had to think about why these papers are there. Why aren't they just thrown away, for instance? I considered that tempting idea for a few minutes, but nixed it. I was nervous about tossing any of his homework or spelling tests. I thought at some point that we might need to review them.


    Since tossing everything as we got it out of Lawrence's knapsack was not an option, I needed to find a way to file the paperwork that would be quick and would also allow us to retrieve something easily when we needed it. If it was just a matter of keeping the papers, just in case, I could throw it all into a box in the closet. But I knew that occasionally we'd have to review the papers, so that wouldn't work. We'd spend too much time looking for a specific paper.


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    I'd love to toss most of the artwork. Lawrence is still in the stick figure stage, and honestly, two hundred stick figure drawings don't rate saving in my eyes. But of course, in my son's eyes, everything he draws is worthy of being saved. The only procedure I've found that works for both of us is to save everything for a year, and then go through it with him. Usually we end up throwing about 75% out. But what to do with the artwork in the mean time?


    In my next SharePost I'll go through the rest of the process.


Published On: January 07, 2010