Tag: Organizing

52 Boxes – Cleaning the Garage as a Way of Life

My howling nightmare of a garage didn’t just get this way by itself. It’s been a thousand bad decisions over the course of years. So this year I’m committed to tackling one box a week and emerging with perfect order and clarity of mind.

Box of packing peanuts

Box 1 Styrofoam Nuggets

Because I’m getting a late start I’m going for the low-hangning fruit here. The only decision to make with a box of packing peanuts is how to recycle them. Our local curbside recycler won’t take styrofoam of any kind. There are other ways to recycle packing peanuts but I’m opting to reuse them. Dump the peanuts in a garbage bag, collapse the box. Boom. I’m done.

Get Your Garage “In the Zone”

The American garage is truly a multipurpose space. Part workshop, part storage unit and part garage there are so many demands put on this space there’s no wonder it can get out of control in a hurry.

Easy Closets takes a strategic view by breaking the typical garage into six zones – 1) Transition, 2) Need It Now, 3) Long Tall Thin Storage, 4) Large Item Storage, 5) Frequently Used Items, 6) Workspace.

One brilliant idea that struck me this past weekend – why am I putting heavy tubs filled with seasonal decorations up in the rafters? Instead I cleared out the camping gear shelves, stowed the tubs on the shelves and put the lightweight sleeping bags and air mattresses up in the loft.

[Image by Easy Closets]

The Day After Christmas and the Psychology of Storage

Credit: Florian Klauer

So here we are. Most of us just shelled out over $700 for Christmas presents – sure, that’s down slightly from previous years but it still means something on the order of five to 75 new objects joining the parade of crap that comes into our lives.

The neat freaks among us manage to prioritize and purge, clearing out their closets and donating stuff to charities where it either goes back on the market locally or gets baled and shipped abroad where our cast-offs compete against local industries in third world countries. The rest of us simply collect more junk until there’s no place else to stash the junk and it goes into storage.

Self-Storage Is Storage for Your “Self”

One of the things that makes it tough to let go of our crap is that we confuse what we own with who we are. As if that’s not bad enough, the brain interprets parting with belongings the same way it interprets physical pain.

For me personally it looks like 2014 is going to be a tough year. I’ve maxed out our closet space and garage storage and now I have my mother’s belongings to deal with. And the cost of storage is quickly going to add up to more than the stuff is worth.

The Trouble with a Cluttered Mind

The problem with clutter is that every time you see a pile of unordered junk your mind wants to start processing it and it saps energy from the task at hand. For me personally it has gotten to the point where it is difficult to navigate my space and find stuff I want. But I think there is another problem – all this clutteration becomes an identity issue – I don’t know who I am or where my focus should be because there are simply too many options.

2014 The Year of Living Dangerously

De-crapification has got to be my next big project if I want to keep my sanity and move ahead with my life. I don’t really have a plan. I accept that it’s going to be painful. And we’ll see how this adventure goes.

[Image: Florian Klauer via Unsplash]

Five Days to Perfect Orderliness

Everything has its place in a rucksack

I used to go backpacking with a friend who was kind of a schlump in daily life but on the trail he was in prefect control. His backpack was amazingly organized – everything had its place. When he needed anything it was instantly at his fingertips.

I made a vow, “someday, somehow, I’m going to get organized like that.” Now, twenty five years later, prompted by a LifeHacker article “The 5S Method Keeps Clean, Lean Order at Your Workspace,” I’m ready to give it a shot.

Last year I tried to implement the Japanese methodology of 5S into my daily life and I failed. I confused 5S with a method for getting things done, which it isn’t. There’s no do stage in 5S. It is primarily a way for organizing your physical space, not your task list. But it can easily be applied to computer files as well.

So here’s my plan, stolen entirely from the Wikipedia definition of 5S, for getting my life in perfect order:

Monday – Seiri, Sorting: Go through all tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.

Tuesday – Seiton, Straighten or Set in Order: There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly labeled or demarcated. Items should be arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow. Workers should not have to repetitively bend to access materials. Each tool, part, supply, piece of equipment, etc. should be kept close to where it will be used (i.e. straighten the flow path). Seiton is one of the features that distinguishes 5S from “standardized cleanup”.

Wednesday – Seiso, Sweeping or Shining or Cleanliness (Systematic Cleaning): Keep the workplace clean as well as neat. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. This makes it easy to know what goes where and ensures that everything is where it belongs. A key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.

Thursday – Seiketsu, Standardizing: Work practices should be consistent and standardized. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.

Friday – Shitsuke, Sustaining the discipline: Maintain and review standards. Once the previous 4 S’s have been established, they become the new way to operate. Maintain focus on this new way and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways. When an issue arises such as a suggested improvement, a new way of working, a new tool or a new output requirement, review the first 4 S’s and make changes as appropriate.

Resources: Rowdy Kittens social change through simpler living.

5S Related Resources on Amazon

Crazy Thought Question: Why are all the visual resources linked to 5S so unforgivingly horrible?

Photo credit: Joadl

Why I Stopped Blogging

I started this year with a goal to better focus my writing and blog every day. I did a pretty good job of it until February 15…and then I stopped. Why?

My attention shifted. The things I’m interested in at the moment don’t necessarily fit the theme of this blog…which is loosely defined as “things for the suburban frontiersman.” I’m caught in a dilema. Do I post these things because they are close to my heart? Or do I reframe them to stay on-topic with this conversation? Or do I, like the Protestant Church when faced with a dilema, start another conversation elsewhere?

So I am doing what I typically do when faced with a confusing choice: nothing.

Some blogs manage to pull together very eclectic conversations by having a loose but persistent focus.

  • boingboing continues to amaze, delight and surprise me. (Happy Mutant Culture)
  • LifeHacker is regularly useful. (Simple tricks to boost productivity)
  • KK Lifestream produces “Oh, wow!” moments (“Out there” meets “in here”)

Other blogs make me wish they would get back on track. For instance I wish Geek Hiker would post more of his excellent trail reports (SoCal hiking scene from a guy who is hopelessly single).

I’m toying with the idea of adding a “BrainBucket” category as a place to talk about some of the ideas I’m having. Such as The Permeable Organization – Crowdsourcing Marketing Conversations from Within. Then again, that’s way far afield from “stuff to feed your suburban adventures.” I’d also like to talk about Hunter vs. Farmer – Tips for Hunter Personality Types, Viewing Church Splits as Conversations and Using Music to Reset Executive Function Meltdown, Out of My Head: Tips for Creative Types Who Are Poor at Making Social Connections.

In other words, an explosive hodge-podge of conversations that dont’ fit any particular theme. Do I put them here and blur the focus of “suburban frontiersmanship” that has had moderate success over the past month or two or do I need yet another platform?


Redecorating with Jesus

My desk, as with the rest of the office, is a shocking horror

If I’ve harped on this before, someone should hit me over the head with a sack of oranges. I continue to have the feeling that there should be some kind of way to organize my life so that it wouldn’t be such a horrorshow. One central focus that brings everything together. You know what I’m talking about…the notion that it takes big rocks to be effective in life.

In church today Pastor Matt talked about being willing to rearrange our lives to make room for Jesus. Right on. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I want to be able to pick up my Bible first thing in the morning and have the rest of my life flow out of that. Seamlessly. Effortlessly. Yes there would be tough decisions but they would follow Jesus,  a beacon to a better place.

Instead, life seems to be a zero sum game, a series of Sophie’s choices between paying bills, writing a novel or putting away the socks and underwear. Focus on THE ONE IMPORTANT THING first and let everything else go to hell. Problem with this approach is that everything else goes to hell.

The only Scripture passage I’ve found to date that suggests Jesus had any interest in organization is John 20.7. Everything else I’ve Google-up is Productivity Porn (go ahead and click on that, a little taste won’t kill you) with a thin icing of Jesus on top.

So, I still don’t know what to do. I can organize a project like there’s no tomorrow. But I can’t get a rein on my stuff. Sigh.

Here’s what Google coughs up:

Four Biblical Keys to Time Management – Turn your to-do list into a prayer list.

Jesus on Time Management – There is a job only you can do. Do only that. Delegate everything else.

Jesus’ Guide to Time Management – Be ready to drop everything that’s important to you.

Time Management from an Orthodox Perspective – We don’t manage time. Time manages us.

On the Road Again


Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

I had good intentions. As I wrote earlier, my plan was to follow Mr. Walsh as if I was following a seasoned trail guide and get my life in order. Purging my life of detritus and crap-ola would reveal my life’s true purpose.

Two weeks later I still believe that. But it’s harder than it sounds. Following Walsh’s advice I did a quick de-kruft and now I’m at the “ten minutes a day, two trash bags” stage. Unfortunately I started Twittering. (You can follow me on Twitter here.

Of course, if I’m going to use Twitter to post updates to my blog then I had better spruce it up a bit. I decided to bite the bullet and install the Woo Themes Papercut  premium theme because I wanted “works out of the box” goodness. It seemed to be worth real money to save some time and have something that just works, wham bam thank’y ma’am.

It turns out that “works out of the box” doesn’t mean that it works the way I want it to. For instance, the Woo Themes four button-ad widget doesn’t accomodate AdSense ads. Bummer.  You can insert the AdSense script into the sidebar php but you must disable the Papercut widgets…meaning that you have to code in your blogroll tags and other sidebar goodies and by that time you’re just pissing upside down. Feh.

I figured out that you can put your Adsense scripts in a Text widget and it kinda works. At least you have your widgets back. But there are other pitfalls. If you want a “leave a comment” link on your front page article you have to hunt down the Word Press tag for a comment link and then you have to crawl through more php code, and if you’re not a programmer (I’m certainly not) it means taking a shot in the dark and stabbing the code between to endif statements and seeing if the whole thing works. Double feh.

None of this is getting me any closer to “Ten minutes, two trash bags” and my ultimate purpose in life. Maybe this is my true purpose, to wander aimlessly past the gates of the great inferno. 

Do you love my new theme by the way? Leave a comment if you do.

By the way—if you used to follow me through an RSS feed you’ll probably have to update your subscription. I’m using Feedburner now because….well, Google made me do it.

You and Your Junk Are One

“I know it sounds strange, but if you start by focusing on the clutter, you will never get organized. Getting truly organized is rarely about ‘the stuff.'” –Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much

Reading these words I had the feeling that Mr. Walsh knew me, knew my struggle, knew my despair. After all, I’ve been trying wholeheartedly to get more organized. As a writer my career is all about organizing words and thoughts, and I’m pretty damn good at it. So why do I have such trouble in my physical space?

For some years I’ve felt that there must be some kind of Ariadne’s thread that could lead me out of the maze of confusion and crapitation that I’ve created for myself. After all, being uncluttered is pretty simple–when you’re done with something, put it away.

So why the persistence of chaos crapula and smeck in my life? Despite persistent efforts at GTD and the 15 Minute Clean Sweep?

It must be that kruftitation reflects something that’s going on inside me. There’s not such a clear line between the stuff on the outside and the stuff on the inside, a notion that I first got by reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “This eternally dualistic subject-object way of approaching the motorcycle sounds right to us because we’re used to it. But it’s not right. It’s always been an artificial intepretation superimposed on reality. It’s never been reality itself.”

I have only a casual grasp of what Pirsig must mean when he claims that there is a nondualistic relationship between the motorcycle and the rider, or in my case between me and my crap. I’d need a pocket philosopher to go any deeper than that.

Nevertheless I’m going to take Mr. Walsh at his word and shift my mind and my priorities toward decrapifying my life, in hopes that I’ll find a larger sense of purpose at the bottom of the pile.

“…from the clutter and disarray you are going to unearth those things that are most important in your life.” –Peter Walsh, It’s All Too Much