Just a little bit tricky

I thought that Mission #2 (organizing my china) would be a snap - how hard could it be to purchase some of those quilted china holders, neatly put my china in it, and neatly put it away? (please, hold your jokes about how if I could put something away neatly I wouldn't be in this mess to begin with) But I was wrong. After measuring all of my china and pondering why I have 24 tiny dessert plates (pondering both the number and the size...you can barely fit a brownie on these things, let alone a slice of pie), I set out to buy the holders. (quick side note: I went on this side mission a few weeks ago, shortly after I moved the china to my spare bedroom...it's not important that I did this part early, but I figured it would make more sense if you knew)

Now, I live in Northern Virginia, a major metropolitan area. So you would think that a quick trip to the mall would be all it would take. But, you would be wrong. I started at Bed Bath and Beyond, where I quickly learned that my antique china is also in antique sizes - none of the holders they had matched the sizes that I own. Not even close. So I asked them where else I could look - they sent me to the mall. This is where it got "fun." Macys sent me to Williams-Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma sent me to Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn suggested Williams-Sonoma (sigh...)...each and every store in the mall suggested a different store. Then, the other Macys (yes, our mall has 2 Macys, each with practically the exact same stuff for sale - it's very strange) suggested I go down the street to HomeGoods. HomeGoods suggested I go to Kohls. Kohls suggested Target. And, of course, Target suggested I go to Bed Bath and Beyond. It would have been funny if it wasn't me.

So, I ordered my containers online. They're still not quite the right size, but at least they will fit (I think). They arrived over the weekend, so I can get started loading them up today....

Mission #2: China

I am very lucky. When I got married, I inherited my grandmother's china. Aside from the fact that it meant that I didn't have to pick out and register for china, it meant that I have a very special piece of my grandparents' lives. And it would be great if I hosted fancy dinner parties where I could use it. But in the nine years that I have been married, we have used it exactly once. I would never in a million years think of getting rid of it, even the pieces that I cannot identify (seriously, I have several pieces that look like nothing I have ever seen before - I can't even make a guess as to what they are). So I need to get it organized. I don't have a good "before" picture, since I moved all of the china upstairs to my spare bedroom to move the furniture for my new floor. But you get the idea...yes, that is my Nana's antique china separated in stacks by party napkins. It's a good thing that my family loves me.

So, mission #2 is simple - organize my china. Even if I'm not going to use it on a regular basis (it does have to be handwashed, so it's not like I'm inclined to pull it out too often), it needs to be kept neat and safe. I'm also fully aware that by getting my china neat and organized, I will also have far more space in my cabinet for other items that should really be put away. So it's win-win. If you have china, it's your mission to get it neat and organized as well. Donate the pieces that you no longer need, and make it so that when you do have a nice family dinner you can easily get to your china and find the pieces that you need. Good luck!

Mission #1 Completed!!

It took longer than I expected, but I finally completed my first mission to tackle the magazine infestation in my house. Any guesses on how many magazines I cleared out of my house today? It's embarrassing to admit, but 168. Yes, you read that right - I dropped 168 magazines off at the recycling today (before you ask, I recycled them because no one else wanted them - freecycle, the library, the thrift store...they all said "no thanks"). The magazines were clearly more of a problem than I thought. Thankfully, I didn't take too many "before" pictures. But from the sight of all of the magazines before I loaded them into my car, you get the idea. The few magazines that I did keep are now neatly organized. My shelves in my kitchen that used to be overstuffed now have lots of space and are neat. The giant IKEA magazine rack is empty and ready to be listed on freecycle. The magazine organizers in my office only have the two current years of scrapbook magazines in them (and they're organized too so that I can actually find and use them!). There are no longer stacks of magazines on my coffee tables, dining room table, bedroom floor, desk, and pretty much every other flat surface that could hold a magazine. But I think that the best part is the feeling of accomplishment from completing my first mission. It's great to have all those magazines out of my house, but even better to know that this is really something I can do.

Where do they all come from?

Seriously. Where on Earth did all of these magazines come from? They are everywhere. Every time I think I have them all, I discover another stack. It's like they are reproducing. How else could you explain this? I am on my THIRD box, and there is no end in sight. What have I gotten myself into?


One more clue that I have a magazine problem? I started to list stacks of my magazines on Freecycle...no one wants them.

Magazines are Sorted...

Ok, I have WAY more magazines than I thought I did (and I thought that I had a LOT). There are easily a hundred here - probably more. How on Earth did I get so many?? And why do I have this strange compulsion to look through each and every one of them? I may have a problem. It's hard to know for sure.

Mission #1: Magazines

I love to read. And I really love to read magazines. When I was growing up, my grandmother sold magazine subscriptions. For every birthday and Chanukah, we would get to pick out a magazine subscription as our gift. My sister and I treated this like we were picking out a car - we had to do the research. We went to the library to read back issues of every magazine out there, narrowed down our choices, and finally called Grandma with this year's carefully selected choice. Our choices evolved over the years, but there were always plenty of magazines coming into our house to enjoy.

As an adult, I've continued the habit of reading magazines. I have subscriptions to 4 or 5 that I look forward to getting each month, as well as several extras that I picked up for free. This wouldn't be a problem if I were a normal person who read the magazine the week it came in, tore out the occasional recipe or idea, and recycled the rest. But I am not that person. The magazines stack up, and stack up quickly. I try to at least keep them neat and tidy...a cute basket by my side of the bed for the ones I am reading at night, a basket in the living room, holders on the bookshelf in our office, and two (yes, two) shelves in our kitchen. And, of course, there are the random issues that end up stacked on the coffee tables, kitchen table, backpacks, laptop bags, etc. I admit it - I have a problem.

Sadly, I don't think it's a problem that is going to go away any time soon. I'm not going to give up my magazine habit (though I have cut back my number of subscriptions over the past few years), and it will take some time for me to realize that I don't need to save every issue. One of the joys of magazines is that you can read them once and recycled them. There will, of course, be another article about how you can drop 10 pounds in 30 days next month - no need to hold onto this one. But even if I can't solve the problem, I can at least tame it.

This first mission is simple - find, sort, and organize my magazines into a useable and realistic system. That means just a few magazines to be saved and a ton to be recycled.

Like every "expert" tells you, you need a plan. And my plan for this mission is relatively simple:
1. Find all magazines in the house. ALL magazines. Look in the backpack I took to Mexico, the stack by my bed, the scattered issues on my desk - ALL of them.
2. Sort the magazines. I will sort by title, but you can use whatever sorting method you like. I am sorting them by title because there are some that I can recycle without giving them a second glance (alumni magazines, sorority magazines, etc), some that I would like to look through again (cooking magazines), and some that I want to save for inspiration (scrapbooking magazines).
3. Go through the magazines and get rid of the vast majority of them. I keep 2 years of scrapbooking magazines in pretty holders on my bookcase for inspiration and ideas (and yes, I do actually look at these, so I feel ok in keeping them). But I am giving all other magazines a 3 month "shelf-life". June, July, and August are in - everything before that is out.
4. Put away the few I am keeping - bring the rest to the library to donate or the recycling drop off place.
5. Pat self on back for completing a mission. Pretend that I never had 3 year old People magazines sitting on a shelf in my house.

I'm on a Mission...

So, I'm ready to get started on my Mission: Organization. But where to start? I always find it interesting that the organization "experts" (you know, the people who write books and appear on television shows) both over and under estimate the problem at the same time. I can't devote a day to sorting my entire house into piles. Nor do I think that I could - I have nearly 10 years of stuff packed into my house...if I could sort it all in 1 day (or, a few hours, as some experts think), I wouldn't need an organizational expert to begin with. I need something smaller and more concrete (doing the project one room at a time isn't a bad idea, it's just that my mess transcends doorframes).

Each of my missions will be small enough to tackle in a few days after work...a week tops. And while I hope that others will join me on each of my missions, you can take solace in my clutter whether you organize along with me or not. Yes, it's totally ok to look at your neatly organized china and laugh out loud when you see mine. Just don't laugh loud enough for me to hear it through the computer. If you have a tip or technique for the project I am working on, please share it (or if you have an idea for my next mission, drop me an email). And if you are really brave, post some pictures. I will too.

Let's get started...

Welcome to Mission: Organization

I'll admit it - I am hopelessly disorganized. Not everywhere, mind you. I carry a color-coded calendar everywhere I go, I love my P-Touch label maker, I have an elaborate coupon organization system, and everyone around me thinks I am the most organized person they know. I even had a company that I was temping for call my boss to add "organizational expert" to my skill list. But my house is a mess. A HUGE mess. Not everywhere - the places that people see are neat and tidy. But if you poke around my house you will be horrified.

I know that I am not alone. The sheer volume of organization books out there speaks to our national problem with stuff. There are television shows devoted to cleaning out clutter. Oprah even went on a national clutter tour last year. And the truth of the matter is that it could be a lot worse. My car is relatively neat (especially when compared to my neighbor, who has had a half-eaten large McDonalds french fries in the cup holder of her car for the past three days...it's 95 degrees out...I shudder to think what that car smells like...), I can usually find what I need without much trouble, and I am easily able to have people over to my house. But behind it all is an immense amount of clutter.

Like many others, it takes an event to realize how bad it's gotten. For me, it happened a few weeks ago. We are finally replacing the worn-out carpet and linoleum in the first floor of our townhouse. It meant that everything from our living room, dining room, kitchen, and closet had to be moved. I had to empty our china cabinet. I moved every appliance I owned from my kitchen to my basement. I carried armfuls of shoes out of the hall closet. And when I looked around, I realized I had a problem.

So here I am. Baring my mess for all the world to see. I hope you'll join me in my quest to de-clutter my house and my life. Mission: Organization starts now.