Since I was a child, people have commented on how organized I am. Oh yes, they have said cruel words, or mocked me by presenting books on the topic of obsessive compulsive disorder to me as birthday gifts. Yet, whose assistance is requested when my grandmother needs help figuring out how many jars of marshmallow crème she owns, or organizing her pantry so as to more easily rid it of canned goods when they expire? When my grandmother hands a cousin a single-serve container of butterscotch pudding circa 1995, eyes lock and mouths mumble in unison, “Call Emily!”
While it has been suggested to me that I use my talents to help others professionally, via career as travel agent, executive assistant, or professional organizer, I find that I am unfortunately drawn toward the less lucrative vocation of writing. Therefore, behold my
List of Ways I Organize Everything:
When things cycle around my brain until their force becomes a mental tornado, writing them down lessens the tornado’s velocity. Most notes are eventually grouped into lists. An example of a note I’ve created lately is my “note to my future self regarding how to influence grandchildren in terrible ways in order to impose one hellacious man-made karmic sentence upon my own children” (this particular note may ultimately become a marketable book).
These are notes that are grouped together. Lists I’ve made include:
- Annual, quarterly, weekly, and hourly housecleaning tasks
- Inventory of my children’s toys; separate lists of toys bought for holidays/birthdays but not yet given; lists of toys to make myself or submit as ideas to toy brands
- Index of kid-friendly recipes, and the cookbook volume in which to find them (with asterisks noting recipes for which I’m still working for kid approval and have not yet succeeded)
Around age 9 I discovered the joy of the manila folder. I found it especially helpful in organizing all the travel brochures I’d been collecting. “Going to Sea World?” I’d ask a relative, “Oh, could you be sure and bring me back a souvenir? Just a brochure is swell. I’ll file it under Florida. Thanks!” (And no, I wasn’t a nerd, so you hush. Brochure collecting is a reputable hobby, somewhere.)
These days the folders hold groupings of boring adult things, such as:
- Things to Do in the Next 2 Weeks. Maybe.
- Things to Procrastinate More than 3 Months from Now
- Letters Pending Response. From the White House.
- Things to Consider Making into Lists
When folders get too big for their britches, and the manila fold starts to split under the weight of its contents, it’s time for a binder! Binders and transparent sheet protectors have been my lifesavers. I have binders such as:
- Recipes (different volumes for each course)
- Local restaurant menus and coupons
- Travel destinations (Local, domestic US and international volumes)
- Fun things to do with kids who claim to be bored (*this also references aforementioned toy inventory lists)
- Crafts that look amazing but I’ll never do. Sort of a physical Pinterest, if you will (kept in case Martha Stewart ever visits and also claims to be bored)
5) Planners and calendars
I rely on a combination of timekeepers to keep myself structured and ward off the temptations of spontaneity.
- My iPhone has alarms that differ by day, that alert me to pick up a child from school, put another down for nap; as well as a weeknight pre-alarm and true alarm to go to sleep. (Note to self: both alarms are consistently ignored; write on to-do list to create third alarm that is a self-imposed penalty reminder…)
- Family calendar on the wall near the house entrance, with blurry photos of us having fun with things like camping in the backyard (“See? Look how spontaneous we are!”) Or making snow offices (snow forts are SO impractical; I mean, is there a war from which that fort provides real shelter?) and gentle reminders of all the other things we have to get done
- A big, fat 18-month paper planner organized by both month and week, with enough room for to-do lists by date. Always in my possession, even on vacations.
Really the only drawback to all this organization is that it itself takes up space. Manchild will ask, “Can I help you move this pile taking over the entire kitchen island?” To which I will calmly respond, “DO NOT TOUCH THAT PILE!!!” He sighs and exits, trying to find a surface on which he can put his plate.
Such exemplary organization I demonstrate, that my tot children are taking after me and speaking my language! Why, just last month both of them asked me for a personal binder to store clippings of interest for themselves. And imagine my surprise when, instead of merely nagging me to play with them (I was shuffling paper, folder and binders around), they spoke these sweet words to me: “Mama? Can you put it on your list in your planner tomorrow to spend time with me?”
Why, of course I can! Item 1A, scheduled for 9:00 a.m.
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