STYLE Savvy: The Right Side of Tidiness

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"STYLE Savvy: The right side of tidiness" by Lisa Hess (CatholicMom.com)

Photo via Pixabay (2014), CC0 Public Domain

In our little Cape Cod, one of the bedrooms is downstairs, down the hall from the kitchen. This room has never been a bedroom per se, but over the two decades we’ve lived in our home, it has been an office, a dumping ground for all things to be kept away from curious toddlers, and a playroom. As my daughter outgrew the need for a playroom, the space morphed into a man cave before transforming bit by bit into a family room.

Because I work from home, I often work in this room. I have an office, but it is small and, shall we say, overstuffed. Now that my daughter is in college, I’ve gotten into the habit of settling in back here after dinner so I can spend time with my husband, and I have not only made myself comfortable, but also carved out a space of my own.

Digging into my office and unstuffing it has been on my to-do list all summer, but has consistently gotten pushed aside by more time sensitive tasks. Meanwhile, little by little, in the interest of keeping the back room on the right side of tidiness, I’ve been finding (and purchasing) homes for the things I use on a regular basis. Last week, for example, I replaced a stool that was standing in for a table with a wicker unit that has a slightly smaller footprint (and more storage) and I bought a unit reminiscent of a mini library card catalog to store office supplies.

In the midst of all of this nesting, it occurred to me that most of the materials I use on a regular basis have not only taken up residence in the back room, but they fit into a fairly small place — or several of them. This begs what is (now) a fairly obvious question.

What is all that stuff in the office?

Clearly, I’m overdue for some sorting. And I’m going to start with the maybes.

On a shelf that’s tucked away to the far right of my desk, I have two file bins with binders in them. I know that the binders contain course materials so, since I’m on a course-prep roll, I’m going to flip through them quickly, getting rid of whatever I don’t need. Whatever remains will go into a box that I will close up, date, and store in the basement with a December “expiration date.” Anything that’s left in the box at the end of the semester goes. No more storing, no more sorting. Out the door.

That was Plan A.

As often happens, writing this post got me motivated to actually do what I was writing about, so I headed into the office, pulled the notebooks off the shelves and started flipping through the pages.

Well, you know what happens then. Letting go of the contents was not going to happen quickly or easily.

I looked around the room to see what could put in the now-empty file bin that had housed the binders. If I filled the space that housed the binders, perhaps I’d ratchet the motivation to empty them up another notch.

I pulled some reference books off the counter and stashed them in the bin. Though I still want to be able to access the information they contain, I don’t use them often, so putting them in slightly out-of-the way storage makes sense. Even better, putting them away freed up counter space, which made the whole room look better (kind of like the effect making the bed has on the overall tidiness of a bedroom). While I was at it, since I was in quasi-let-it-go mode, I emptied out an accordion file that was on the counter beside the books, tossing most of its contents and removing it, too, from the counter.

Which still left me with the binders.

Since B is for binder, I’m hoping Plan B will be more successful than Plan A. Plan B? No flipping. Pull the pages out of the binders, tuck them into a box and resume Plan A. It’s been so long since I opened those binders, I don’t even know what’s in them anymore. How important could the information be?

I suspect that, in the end, the sorting stage will be a little bit of Plan A and a little bit of Plan B. I’m too curious to box the papers up without even looking at the contents, but I don’t want to get sucked into a lengthy keep-or-toss debate with myself either. One thing I’m sure of, though — what remains in those boxes at the end of the semester is going away for good.

Often, getting started on a project is the hardest part. Finding a way in can make all the difference. The way in can be starting with something easy to sort/get rid of (my accordion file full of outdated papers), choosing a project you’re already primed for (weeding out old Christmas decorations while you’re taking out the decorations to put up), selecting one hot spot to eliminate (committing to getting through that pile of mail), setting a timer (getting as far as you can on a task in fifteen — or even five — minutes) or something else entirely. What it is doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether or not it works.

So set a timer. Promise yourself a reward. Dance your way through the project. Whether it’s binders or folders, organizing or eliminating, let your styles be your guide.

What better way to uncover your own little corner of the world?


Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess

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About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at Catholicmom.com. She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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