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Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Bang for your Organizational Buck

Greetings, Martha Stewart Wannabes!

The other day, I had this sudden urge to post some Martha Stewart Know-It-All-ish piece of housekeeping advice, what with all the holidays coming up. Like, "Ten Steps for Surviving Thanksgiving With That Obnoxious Aunt!" or, "Make All of Your Holiday Gifts with a Ball of Yarn and Five Bucks!"

Then I was like, who on earth am I to give housekeeping advice?! Puh-leeze. I'm about as un-Martha clueless as they come. So I thought I'd talk about what I consider to be a useful tidbit from work last month, something that's stuck with me ever since, and has lately been governing the way I "keep house." Let's see what you think of this idea.

This idea came out of "Professional Development Day," which is where all faculty and staff at my school get to ditch work, go to taxpayer-funded yoga and sustainable living workshops that supposedly make us better employees, and take lots of cookie and coffee breaks. Hey, I can handle that. The workshop I reluctantly attended was called something like, "Balancing Your Life and Maintaining Sanity." I know: SOOO Women's Day Magazine, the same old crap we read over and over again while standing in the grocery store check out line, right up there with "Lose 10 Pounds in Two Days!" Tell me something I haven't heard before.

It was, in fact, basically a bunch of fluff talk, and I ended up doodling swirly designs on my day planner and daydreaming about cupcakes heaped with frosting. But there was one zinger the speaker tossed out, pointing to it enthusiastically on her Power Point presentation, and it has stuck with me ever since. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like this:

Economize your organizing efforts to get the most bang for your buck.

In other words, figure out those little things that take a mere five minutes to do, but that produce hours and hours, possibly even days or weeks, of positive, stress-reducing results. Five minutes??? That I can do. So here are a couple of my personal examples of Five Minute Sanity Savers (gak! already, I'm sounding like a magazine). There are many more - I've got a growing list that numbers at about six or seven.

ONE, inspired by a recent e-mail from a hoardworthy friend, is: CLEANING OUT THE FRIDGE. This is a classic example of a Five Minute Sanity Saver. First, I scrounge around in the back for "mystery Tupperware containers" filled with god knows what. I use my breath-only-through-the-mouth technique (a skill learned in the Peace Corps, back when I had to use pit toilets brimming with foul-smelling excrement); scrape the contents out into the trash (if I recall it being something particularly gross, like ancient refried beans from the Aztec era, I might pitch the entire container...wasteful and politically incorrect, but nobody's keeping track); purposefully unfocus my eyes so that I don't inadvertently see a carpet of fuzzy mold covering the contents; and immediately scrub the empty containers out with hot water and a soapy sponge. Next, I pitch any jars that contain just 1/8 an inch of content left - mayonnaise, jam, BBQ sauce, etc. Finally, I toss anything else that can be tossed, and reorganize everything left - putting veggies, meats and cheeses in their proper drawer, shoving beer cans onto the correct shelf.

Five minutes of mad organizing, dealing with potentially disgusting food matter, and inevitably feeling like a bad, food-wasting person, and then BOOM - it's done. And the benefit is literally days - weeks, even - of feeling more in control, more organized, more sane.

TWO would have to be cleaning and organizing the surface of my office desk space. Seriously. Every so often, I feel buried under grading and planning and going to meetings and everything else that teaching entails. So I discovered a few weeks ago a simple trick for feeling infinitely more on-top-of-my-game: staying five minutes late at work to organize my papers into neat and logical stacks, throw away unneeded things, put the pencils back in the pencil drawer and paper clips back in the correct metal compartment in my desk, and run a wet paper towel over the entire exposed desk surface. Five minutes, but MAN, what a difference.

So there it is: economizing! Bang for the buck, that is. Cleaning out the bedroom closet, on the other hand, can wait. It's a complete wreck, but I never look in there anyway - and that's a project that will surely take me more than five mere minutes. Bah!


Anabelle said...

i'm so glad my hubs is a virgo and is OCD about the house being clean.

he does everything lol

Monica LeMoine said...

Anabelle: I wouldn't say mine is OCD, but a clean freak, nonetheless. He avoids fridge-cleaning like I do, though, although he knows it's a good thing to do. We have to collective force one another to do it.

Michelle said...

I think I need to send this to my sister. Her refrigerator is a VERY SCARY place. I try to avoid as much as possible! LOL

As for me I am the one with OCD when it comes to organization. I am constantly cleaning the frig or closets just so I can stay sane. I am crazy like that. :)

Rebecca said...

Like my sister, I am a HUGE fan of the daily organization strategy (we are both so anal, but she wins!), although the fridge project does not happen nearly often enough.

I find the hardest thing is that one's partner does not always have the same philosophy on this... I go through the mail-and-other-crap on the table several times a week trying to have a few days where it is blissfully clutter free, but he doesn't even take the hint when I helpfully point out to him that all the documents in the stack are HIS and I just thought he'd like to know just in case there are any bills or anything he needs in there. Sadly, I did that on Sat., but his stack is still sitting next to me as I type this....

The New York Times has a really interesting article about the struggle for equal housecleaning/ parenting on June 18, 2008, called When Mom and Dad Share It All if anyone is interested in reading that on their website. (my girl friends all found it very interesting, and male friends all seemed a little too defensive after reading it, which I found fascinating).

Monica LeMoine said...

Rebecca: totally with you on the clutter-on-the0-table. I want to read that NYTimes article - sounds interesting. I'll go back and look for it. By the way, it's your very sister who inspired the clean-out-the-fridge post. We had a whole e-mail exchange about it.

julian + jen said...

aw shucks!