Dealing with Emotions When Sorting Clutter, Family Photos and Heirlooms.

organizing with boxes and labels

I'm still sorting my stuff. It's been more than a month and I would guess that I'm only half way there. Wherever there is. You know. The place where everything has a label and a shelf and a reason for being there in the first place. There.

A friend told me that before she and her husband moved in together she had taken boxes of stuff to the dump without even looking inside to see what was in them. I guess the fact that I'm still thinking about it so many years later means that what she did scared me a little bit.The deeper I get into my own project, the more I envy such a decisive action. What progress have I made, really, by sorting through all the old photos and letters?

Just two more boxes of personal papers wait on my nightstand for sorting. Every photo in every little box gives a little tug on the heart strings and after so many weeks - I find it quite exhausting. There's a part of me that would love to just pick them up and throw them away.

And then there is the art studio. It's difficult to pick up so many half-finished art projects and accept that they will NEVER be completed and can and should go in the trash. It says something about you, artistically speaking, when that happens. Or at least it feels like it does which is maybe the same thing.

All the same, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. The effort in the office made it into a sunny, pleasant spot to work. I want to feel like that all over this house, eventually. And so that is driving me at the moment. Distracting me from so many other worthy tasks - because those tasks might become easier if I can clear my space. But a month is a long time to get distracted - it's time for me to get to work.

And no - that photo isn't of my space. That's from a post on Apartment Therapy called "Organizing with Boxes." Click through to check out other, visually unachievable ideas.


Organizing the Office Starring Lissanne Oliver of Sorted! Fame: Update

Lissanne Oliver writes the ultimate guide to organizing your life - Sorted!


I've been working on organizing the office and art studio for two weeks. Or two years. Depending how you look at it. It's been great to chuck things I no longer need but it has also been tough. Sorting and donating items from the fabric closet brought up a series of complicated emotions - so many unfinished projects - but the art supplies? Not at all. Curious, that. The last layer of personal papers has been difficult. The I-don't-have-any-children-to-dump-this-stuff-on-woe-is-me phase continued as I struggled through my Mother's "treasures." 

Throwing away family history seems to violate some kind of primal instinct from the yet unwritten Hoarder's Book of Rules. What am I supposed to do with my Grandmother's handwritten recipe for Sour Cream and Raisin Pie? I mean, how gross would that pie be, if I actually made it? If anyone made it? I don't care if reviewers on give it 5 stars and say "sour cream is the perfect complement to raisins." That's impossible. Oatmeal cookies are the world-acknowledged "perfect complement to raisins." The perfect complement to sour cream is the enchilada.

But I digress.

Lissanne Oliver's book, Sorted!, arrived from Australia just time at the end of last week. I'd already chucked all the fluff and was now staring at the real meat of the problem - MY stuff. My paper and digital archives. Our family accounts files. Piles of project materials waiting to be read, analyzed, and put into document form. Mail. I knew I needed to sort through it. I had a situation a few weeks ago when I needed to locate a tax return and COULDN'T FIND IT. Never o.k. for a self-employed person. Panic inducing, in fact.

So the day I received this book was the day I needed it and the day I made real progress. Other books tell me I need to organize - duh - but they don't really tell me how. I just wasn't born with that skill. My sister, on the other hand, was born with a Filofax in her hand. We shared a playroom in our childhood home and I was always trying to get her to "switch sides" with me. Her side looked better because it wasn't a cluster-f*(^ of toys. Being good-hearted, she'd switch with me until I wrecked that side with my own stuff and begged her to switch back again. Her grown-up house is so neat that when you visit you feel like you're making dirt just by standing there. When I ask my sister for tips she says, "Just start in a corner." Which doesn't work for me at all.

Sorted! gives you "recipes" for solving clutter problems. Always the "missing piece" for me. So, when Oliver tells me exactly what to do with my papers, down to the kind of folder I should put it in and the marker I'm going to use to write the label? That works for me. And bonus points to Lissanne Oliver for being willing and able to print on actual paper that many traditionally shoved-on-you organizing systems don't really work. Hanging files in a cabinet drawer is like a paperwork graveyard for most people and it is for me, too. A giant vortex of ancient mobile telephone bills and print-outs of my Outlook address book from ten years ago.

The book gave me permission to set things up the way I like them - nothing up high (because I'm not a tall person) and things stored near where I actually use them. No more running up and down the stairs to find that one little thing.

And so you see, I've made progress. From here to here:


That pile of papers to the right of my chair is today's project - to organize my unfinished writing ideas into tickle files. My shredder right next to the desk. My printers and important files on the shelves to the right. I still have work to do. You can see that the cord situation needs to be dealt with (no wiring upstairs in this old house) and I need to repair that hole in the window. With clear packing tape at least.

What do you think?


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