Home Organization: Making Room For The Future

Home OrganizationI’ve spent a lot of time writing about computer organization. Starting about mid-May I expanded into home organization.

Computers lend themselves pretty well to folder organization. Houses, not so much. Something within a box within another box underneath and on top of two other boxes behind some other boxes in a room I hardly ever enter.

A couple months ago I took a wide-angle view of my home and didn’t much like what I saw. I have about three times more living space than I was actually using. I was pretty much focused around an office and a bed. Every other inch was piled high with assorted STUFF.

I knew there were things I wanted to do with some of it but the thought of finding ‘the parts’ was daunting and I gave up over and over.

I got to thinking more and more about what’s most important to me NOW and how I was going to make it possible to re-focus my life to allow the space for some new things to happen. Starting with clearing out The Past.

As a genealogist it can be hard to think in terms of the future instead but that was the plan.

The Overview

The first thing I did was make a rough sketch of my physical space. Then, with an eraser handy, I started placing the bigger items in the drawing. I figured if I could get that right, the smaller things would fall in where they needed to. As it turned out I was right.

I felt my way through rather than being ‘logical’. I prefer sleeping in my living room so I put my bed there. I put the office in one of the bedrooms. I put my workroom in the dining room. I went back and forth with a tape measure and the eraser.

When the picture looked right to me, I moved everything. I move slow so it took more than a week. No click-click here.

Sorting Stuff

To keep myself motivated I put a colored sticky dot on every box, bin, drawer and cupboard that needed to be sorted. One to be done per day with a goal of giving away or throwing away at least one item. When I found that one thing (or ten things) I would allow myself to consider that day’s work finished.

If I couldn’t decide to let something go that meant I was keeping it. For now. There’s no grey area here but no pressure either. Someday I’ll do a second pass through and maybe change my mind.


There’s no such thing as a project put back into hiding. Either it’s something I’m going to do or it isn’t. If it’s a ‘maybe’ it still goes on the list.

As I was sorting I created two lists:

  • incomplete projects
  • shopping for items that were needed to complete projects

As the rooms began to define themselves by function I listed projects by room. As I did them and crossed them off the list I moved the remaining less-than-10 to my calendar spaced one day apart. Any project that I decided I would never complete went to give-away or throw-away.

To keep myself sane, I’ve committed to only one project a day. If it’s a multi-day project so be it. An hour or two of effort pushes things along.

The results have been surprising and very satisfying. Fixing, finishing and cleaning my way through it all.

In case you think this has nothing to do with genealogy or computers, you’d be wrong. One of the unfinished projects I unearthed was 150 pages of legal-size documents that I photocopied into letter-size so they’ll fit on my scanner.

Shopping List

I created a shopping list by folding a piece of paper. In each rectangle I wrote the name of the place I had to visit and the list underneath.

Each time I went out I would plan to go to only one place. If I had more time or energy I’d go to a second or third.

As of today, the shopping list is down to 7 items, the projects list to 5. I’m aiming for mid-month for a clean slate.

Maintaining Organization

As things became clearer to me I wrote a Maintenance list, i.e. main areas of focus in my life that need to be maintained. It might seem silly to have Cooking on there but sometimes I need to be reminded to start something mid-afternoon or I’m fudging something else at 6 o’clock.

From time to time I glance at the list and something stand outs. Otherwise I can dream the time away. And that’s not so bad either.

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