An Organized Life: Part 2 of 4
If you read part one of this series, you now know how to get your paper under control. If not, I recommend that you go back and read that article. You will be amazed at the difference it makes getting your loose papers and files organized.
However, if you have already gotten your paperwork organized, it's time to move onto the next phase of organizing. We are going to organize our books and magazines.
First, books. Some of you bibliophiles, like myself, cringe at the thought of getting rid of any of our precious books. But the fact of the matter is that we can only fit so many bookshelves in our homes. And if the book is doing little more than taking up space, why keep it? Are you that keen on dusting? I didn't think so.
So, let's get started. Unlike sorting and organizing your papers, this process takes about an hour start to finish. Like the previous article, I will lay it out step by step. Before you begin, you will need three boxes marked Keep, Store and Give.
As with your papers, gather all your books in one place. Scour bedside tables, hidden nooks and other places you keep books for that down time you never seem to have. If you plan on getting this all done at once, which you should be able to do easily, I recommend piling the books in the room where most of them will be kept. If you fear you will be interrupted and a pile of books on the living room floor just won't do, choose a table or couch you can live without for a time.
Once all the books are gathered, break out the dustrag and clean all of your bookshelves, particularly those you plan to use for the books you keep.
Sort the books in the respective boxes. Don't agonize. If you aren't sure whether to keep a book, store it. You will still have it, but it won't take space on your shelves. Don't keep books you don't actively use. By actively, I mean at least once every six months. With fiction, this can be extended to once a year. I have favorite books for re-reading, but only once a year or so.
You will notice I didn't recommend a trash bag for this process. The very idea of throwing away a book is abhorrent to me. Unless a book is damaged beyond repair, beyond readability, it should be given away, not trashed. Schools and public libraries appreciate such generosity.
Once you have sorted every last book into one of the three boxes, mark the Store box with the date one year in the future and store it where it is not impossible to get to, but not so easy, either. If you have not rummaged in that box by the date marked on it, give it away unopened. Odds are that those books took up space but didn't get any use.
Haul the books in the Give box to Goodwill or the local public library or literacy center. If many of them are children's books or appropriate reference books, your local public schools might like to have them, too. You could even make a bit of spending money by bringing the books to a used book store that will buy, rather than just give you credit toward future purchases. Keep in mind, though, that these stores only purchase according to need and may not need many of the books you have to sell.
This is the last step. Put all of the books in the Keep box back onto the clean shelves. Leave some open spaces. This gives the impression of having much more space and it's soothing to the eye.
That's it. You started off with books crammed everywhere, stacked on end tables, piled on the floor. Now, you have neat, clean bookshelves and all your favorite, most used books right where they belong.
So, the books are taken care of. What about the magazines? For magazines, there is a simple rule of thumb. Keep the current month and the previous month, unless the magazine is a collector's item. In that case, be sure to place it in plastic sleeve and keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. This keeps bugs and fading from ruining the beauty and value of the magazine. Just be sure the magazines you keep are worth collecting.
If, however, you have older magazines you'd like to pull information from, but don't know where to start, here's an idea.
Gather together all the magazines you want to harvest from as well as a marker, a pair of scissors and a number of pocket file folders (these that have closed sides to keep small items from escaping). Figure out what information you are taking from these magazines. Label your files accordingly. For instance, you might have "writing ideas," "recipes," and "how to write." You can add folders as needed. These will be filed in your reference files (see Part 1).
Now, one magazine at a time, get into a frenzy of clipping and filing. As you finish with a magazine, throw it away. Don't worry about being neat. Just get the information you want or need and file it. You can take some time to clean it up later, or as you use the information.
After you get that done, you will have only one month worth of magazines to harvest each month. Unless you find something on every page you want to keep (at which point, I'd advise just keeping the magazine), your monthly harvesting should take ten or fifteen minutes.
Like everything in life, there is an exception to the magazine rule of thumb. This exception applies to those with children in elementary and middle school. Often, they are assigned poster projects or some such that requires them to cut out pictures. For this purpose, consider keeping two or three months of magazines in a box in a closet near the extra school supplies. If you don't have children, or your children are grown, follow the aforementioned rule. You'll be glad you did.
The magazines you to keep can be displayed nicely on a coffee table, if feasible, or in decorative stand up racks you can find at the local office supply store. You can even make these racks with large empty cereal boxes, but that's another article altogether. Keep in mind that if you are going to keep it, be it a magazine or book, it must have a designated place. This is the key to getting and staying organized.
If, by this time, you've done the steps in Part 1 and in this article, take a good look around. Can you see the difference it is making in your home? Not bad for about half a day's work. We are half way there.
By Mary Klaebel (Writergypsie), author of Affirm Yourself as a Writer, available now on Lulu.com, Amazon.com and BN.com.