Mission #7: COMPLETE!

I'm more than a little proud of finishing this mission. It's not just a matter of my nightstand now being clean; it's that it barely looks like its former self.

The top of my nightstand now just has the essentials - my alarm clock, remote controls, tissues, water cup, lotion, and a lamp. That's it. And the only reason that the lotion gets to be on top is that not only am I disorganized, I am cheap. I buy lotion in ridiculously large containers at Costco, and the over-sized pump doesn't fit in the drawer. (and yes, if you are fan of Cetaphil, you too can own a vat of the stuff from Costco for the same price as a small tube at the grocery store. You're welcome.)

Inside the drawer are just the essentials - the medications and vitamins that I take every day, Tylenol PM, nail clippers, fancy hand cream, and the like. I got rid of all of the nail polish that was living in there, along with a slew of expired medicine and questionably old lotion. A surprising find in the drawer were buttons. Lots and lots of buttons. All of the extra buttons that come attached to a new shirt had somehow found their way into my drawer. I don't know why. Since I apparently throw them in my drawer anyways, I felt like they should probably live there permanently. I took a small candle holder, put it in the corner of the drawer, and filled it up. I know the picture isn't the best (by the way, if anyone knows how to reset the settings on a camera, please let me know - I apparently have set my camera to make all indoor pictures fuzzy, and I can't get it back), but you get the idea. It's a pretty simple fix, especially considering that the candle holder probably cost less then a dollar (buy a 4 pack at Ikea & put candles in the other 3!). And if I ever really do need a button, I'll know where they are. (you can see lots of other great tips over at We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday post)

Mini Mission: Nail Polish

For many women, a luxury that has been cut out in these tough economic times is manicures and pedicures. And while nothing really beats an afternoon of being pampered, it does make better financial sense to buy a nail file and some pretty polish and do it at home. But, did you know that nail polish expires? Ever wonder why your at-home manicure sometimes peels and bubbles moments after it's dry? It turns out that it's the age of your polish. So, as part of my mission to clean out my nightstand (there are a ton of bottles in there) and Works for Me Wednesday, today's mini mission is to clean out your nail polish.

A couple of nail polish guidelines for you. First, depending on which expert you listen to, nail polish has a shelf life of ONE to TWO years. Most actually say you should toss it after ONE year. This is hard for me, since I know I have not purchased any new nail polish in 2009, so I should probably toss all of mine. Aside from the whole germ thing (you're touching your hands with the brush, then it lives in the polish), the nail polish itself changes consistency as it ages. Once it gets thick and goopy, toss it. Notice how when you use an older bottle you get more air bubbles or it peels or chips more easily? It's not you - it's the age of the polish. And you know how after it sits for awhile, it starts to separate? That's a sure sign it's past it's prime. As for me, I'm getting rid of nearly all of mine. I found some super old bottles in my nightstand, and I know that a few of my more "current" bottles are actually nearly 4 years old. Ew.

Next, when you buy a new bottle of nail polish, write the date you got in on the bottle. The easiest way to do this is with a sharpie on the bottom. So the new polish you buy today (because, now that you've thrown away all your old polish, you need to buy new stuff, right?) gets labeled 10/09. That way you can easily see when it's time to toss.

Finally, storage. I know that some people store their nail polish in the fridge - don't. Nail polish is especially sensitive to temperatures and humidity, so keep your nail polish someplace dry and with a fairly even temperature. I like to also keep mine somewhere where I can see it - I'm more likely to use things when I know I have them.

Mission #7: Nightstand

Oh, the nighstand. Holder of alarm clock and remote controls; hider of all sorts of personal junk. I wish I was one of those people who had a tidy nightstand. You know those people - the top of it has their alarm clock, their remote control, maybe a box of tissues. Inside they hold their hand cream, some vitamins, maybe some other personal items. But not me. My nightstand is essentially a junk drawer for my bedroom. Some stuff in there is necessary - I take a few medications at night, so it holds those, plus vitamins & Tylenol PM (I could write an ode to Tylenol PM...oh, how I adore you...). And I suppose that the nail clippers and lip balm are necessary too. But the expired medications & old nail polish? Probably not. So this mission is simple - clean it out & organize it so I can get to what I need and let go of what I don't. Let's just hope that it goes more smoothly (and more quickly) then my desk. :)

Is That My Desk Top?

Well, in spite of more mess than I had realized and a couple of family emergencies that slowed me down, my desk is actually clean. That's right - there is an actual desk top where all the junk used to be! I can't even begin to describe how exciting this is. I haven't seen the desk top in at least a year, though considering some of the things I found living on it, it's likely been much longer than that. Just in case you forgot what it used to look like, here is my desk BEFORE...And now...here's what it looks like AFTER...Yes, that is the same desk! You'll notice that my old desktop computer is still on my desk. My husband says that there is something we can buy to transfer the files from it to my laptop, so that is a project for the weekend when he can help me. As soon as we do that, the old monitor, keyboard, and mouse are on their way out. But even without that, there is space for my laptop, which was the whole goal in the first place. :) And yes, those are all my little toys and tchotchkes still there - just because I'm organized (and, hypothetically, an adult) doesn't mean I can't have my fun while I work.

Organizing Memories

I took a break from my desk today (because, yes, I am still working on it) to sort through a stack of papers in my spare bedroom/storage space/black hole. The stack I grabbed happened to be high school newspapers. I worked on our paper all four years of high school, and was the Associate Editor my senior year. Not a big deal at some high schools, but I went to a school where we published and mailed home a full issue (18 pages) every 10 school days. So it was a huge deal - huge enough that I saved EVERY issue. On the early issues I found post-it notes, carefully detailing what I had done in each issue ("wrote headline for varsity football story"). And as I looked through I found some of my earliest published writing and memories of fun times at late night deadlines. I can't save them all, nor do I want to. But I do want to save a few, especially the articles I wrote.

Looking through this stack today brought back a lot of memories, and a definite sense of pride. I was involved with something much bigger than myself, and while I didn't stick with journalism in college, I developed the strong writing skills that would last me a lifetime. But more than anything else, I was struck with a sense of time and place. In the newspaper were commentaries on issues of the day - some school related, some of a broader concern. We wrote about the new bell schedule, the lack of privileges, the election of Bill Clinton, censorship, and the Persian Gulf War. I read about the controversy surrounding a presentation on AIDS, the portrayal of a gay couple in a student skit, and the visit from a POW, and was struck by how far we have come. While I would like to keep politics and religion off of my blog, my one true belief in life is that we should treat others the way we want to be treated, and I am so proud that my high school self felt that way as well. I took a stand then against animal cruelty and bullying, stereotypes and censorship, just as I would now. I am shocked by some of the letters in the editorial section; I hope that the ignorance of 15+ years ago is not as prevalent in high schools today. I cut out my commentaries and articles, carefully saved the masthead with my name on it, mailed a picture of an old friend to him, and recycled the rest. And I know that what I learned from 4 years of journalism will stick with me forever.

Cleaning vs. Organizing

The theme of this week's "Works for Me Wednesday" over at We Are THAT Family is cleaning. Which is perfect for this blog, since for me, cleaning and organizing are one in the same. Yes, there are some things that are purely cleaning - washing the dishes, swiffering the floor, etc. (and, by the way, how great is it that Swiffering is a verb?) But I don't think that there are things that are purely organizing - even tasks like filing the bills or organizing my sock drawer help to keep my house clean. I do know that it takes me ages to clean my house because I am so unorganized. And I also know that as I complete each of my missions, keeping the place clean also becomes a bit easier.

So, in the midst of my longest mission yet (seriously, why is my desk taking so long??), I share a combination cleaning-organization tip with you. It has to do with the mail. I love getting mail. Even junk mail makes me happy - there is just something about going outside and finding a full mailbox. So sorting through the mail (and paying the bills) is a chore that falls to me. I sort my mail every day - waiting only makes it harder. I can go through it quickly and throw the junk mail that doesn't have my name on it in the recycle bin. Stuff with my name on it, especially credit card offers, get shredded (and yes, the shredder bin gets emptied into the recyling too). I pay bills each day - doing it online takes less than a minute. And anything that my husband should look at goes in a big green poly folder on our kitchen table. It keeps us organized, keeps the paper clutter down, and makes it easy for my husband to know what he actually needs to look at.

Tales from My Desk

I shouldn't be surprised. But, here I am. I have been working on cleaning off my desk, admittedly slowly, for nearly a week, and I don't think that I am even making progress. I looked at it this morning, thinking that maybe I would take a picture to show you how much I've accomplished. But it looks almost exactly the same as it did last week. I wish I was joking. I mean, I know that I am baring my mess every week for the world, but this is just ridiculous. Where is the mess coming from? And why am I not making a dent in it? And, perhaps most importantly, if you know how to keep your desk clean, please share your secrets. I'm begging you.

Mission #6 - My Desk

In our little townhouse, we are lucky enough to have an extra bedroom to use as an "office." I put office in quotes, because we barely use it as that anymore. Back in the day of desktop computers, we spent a lot of time up there. In fact, we have THREE desks in there - one for me, one for my husband, and an extra one that I use for scrapbooking. For a long time, if I had work to do on my computer, I needed to sit upstairs to do it. Then came the laptop, and the need for a desk flew out the window. So, what do I do with that desk now? Pay bills, keep my laptop, work on my writing? No. I stack stuff on it. It is just a spot to stack things that I don't know what to do with. And that's about to change.

I really want to reclaim my desk. I would like to make writing my career, not just my hobby, and while I like to sit on my couch and write, I need a place to write undisturbed. I would also like a place to take care of household management stuff (like paying bills, keeping track of appointments) so that stuff doesn't get stacked on my kitchen table. So Mission #6 is to reclaim my desk. And it's going to take some work, which is evident when you see what my desk looks like now...
Yes, this is really what my desk looks like. I didn't add or move anything for the picture. And yes, that is a computer under all of that. My desk does have drawers, but for this mission we're just going to focus on the top - desk drawers are a mission unto themselves. My plan is pretty simple - sort everything into piles (scrapbook ideas, pictures, papers to file, etc.), then go through and put them away. I honestly have no idea what's on here...this one should be an adventure...