How I Organize My Life

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Organizing my life is about finding flow. The less I need to think about organization, the more organized I’ve become. Over time this creates flow. And creating flow means I can refocus my attention on the important things.


This is not always easy. But for now, here’s what I try to do:


CREATE SYSTEMS.


Keys. All of the keys reside in a glass dish on the windowsill—and nowhere else.


Phones. I put a pad and pen on the wall next to the home phone so I’m not scrambling when I get calls. All phone numbers are stored in the cell phone, though I still use a Filofax in case I lose the cell phone. Using just a cell phone makes the most sense, but with my luck, I’d lose it in a cab, so I stick with two phones.


Mail. I dispose of mail daily. I put a small wastepaper basket under the table where I open mail. If it requires destroying, I use my shredder. To save time and avoid junk mail altogether, there are now Web sites like 41pounds.org that will do it for me.


E-mail. It eats up my days. Will the phone ever make a comeback? I’m learning to check e-mail only three times a day so I can accomplish my priorities. As hard as that can be, I’m getting more done. I’ve also created e-mail folders saved by subject topic or project name, to quickly access correspondence. I used to print out e-mail, but the paper quickly invaded my desk.


Bills. I pay bills twice a month on the same night, and put it on my calendar. That way it’s already scheduled.


PLAN AHEAD.


List Making. I make one simple list of work items on a clipboard (a BlackBerry works too), rather than trying to remember too much. I then bold my priorities, so I still accomplish what I absolutely need to. A separate plastic folder contains a list of personal things I need to handle.


Events. I put birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and major events in my date planner at the beginning of the year, so I won’t forget. Ideally I will get Outlook and set reminders, so I will buy a present or card ahead of time. I’m tired of buying the “Belated” cards.


Shopping. I shop once a week. Occasionally, if I’m too tired to socialize, I do Friday night grocery trips. It may seem lame, but there’s no one at the store, so the shopping goes faster. An “All Out Of” preprinted grocery list sticks to the refrigerator. Each item is checked off as we run out.


Meal Planning. A three-ring notebook in the kitchen lists all our meal ideas. That way we don’t have to come up with creative ideas after a long day of work. And, it prevents me from eating too much take-out. (Of course, I do have a folder that resides in a kitchen drawer labeled “Take Out” when I get swamped.)


DO SMALL THINGS.


Picking up. I try to do it daily. Every little bit helps. This may seem obvious for naturally organized types, but for me, it was not. Saturday cleaning goes more quickly if I’ve been doing small things as I go on a daily basis.


Chores. I’d like to get a small dry board or cork board near the front door. It’s a simple, non-high tech way to write each other messages or reminders, sweet nothings—or my bad puns. It would also list long-term household projects, so we’ll actually do them, instead of thinking about doing them.


FIND ROOM.


Clothing. Less is more. In order to relax, I need a neat space—and that means fewer things. Healthy purging also means reevaluating what I truly need. If I haven’t worn an item of clothing in a year, I’m never going to wear it again. I give it to Goodwill.


Furniture and Art. In my experience, it’s not worth my time to sell furniture items or art online because I am not selling high-end items or collectibles. I give it away or let the Salvation Army come and pick it up for free.


Books. I try to rely on the library more and only buy books that I truly love. I sell hard covers to used bookstores, while paperbacks are given away or recycled.


AVOID OVERLOAD.


Get Sleep. There’s a lot I just can’t get to, but it should not keep me up at night. As it is, I suffer from insomnia. My solution is to put a pad and journal on my bedside table to list unfinished business or write down my dreams and thoughts. This puts my mind at ease. I know it will all be there in the morning.


Create Brain Space. So much of life can be put on my clipboard, the computer, or in a notebook for future reference. Otherwise the brain suffers overload. I try to reserve sufficient brain space for the important things in life: namely, remembering what work I need to accomplish that day; knowing my family and friends; playing music; coming up with ideas; writing stories; recalling interesting parts of books and songs; and memorizing a few select poems. Life can’t be all about work.

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