Friday, August 27, 2010

The boxes are (almost) done...

The silence you've enjoyed since 17 August was partly me being painfully ill (is there any other kind of ill?) and me working feverishly to migrate stuff to the standard letter/legal storage boxes.

First, I love the Staples boxes. You can purchase them online and have them delivered to your door for only $18.99 for 10 boxes - at $1.90 per box, that's cheaper than anything else I can find. Plus, you can go to a store and get the same boxes for only $14.99 for 10 boxes - $1.50 apiece. They've undergone a minor design update in the last month and are now even easier to put together, IMO.

So now all my holdings are in these standard boxes, labeled, with the location of each box noted. I took a few videos over the transformation from embarrassing "before" state to organized "after" state. Video footage to be posted later (today?).

Part of the reason for the "feverish" effort was the availability of my college-aged daughter and two friends willing to trade hours of their lives for money I would have wanted to give them anyway to tide them over hard times. Win win all around.

I was close in estimating the amount at 300 boxes. I've got 295 boxes labeled, with 10 boxes of books yet to be labeled and about 6 boxes of games I'd forgotten my husband had in the attic. By the time I post video, I should know the total number of boxes we have currently. At that point the boxes go under "configuration management," and we can determine the baseline against which reductions in holdings will officially be measured.

Last night my friends came over, and we scanned books for 4 boxes and sorted "electronics." I now have a crate of old cables for "Keeping it Green" Computer Recycling. Plus we donated a large bag of stuff to whichever charity was driving around for pick-ups this morning. We have about 5 charities that call periodically asking to come to our house to pick up donations - how sweet is that?

I had been prioritizing boxes as:

1 - urgent
2 - easy to go through but not urgent
3 - hard to go through and not urgent

Once I had the list in front of me, I determined that:

2/3 of the urgent boxes will probably be able to disappear
5/6 of the "hard to go through" boxes will probably be able to disappear
1/6 of the "easy to go through" boxes will likely go away

So after all this is done, I'll probably still have 150 boxes. Bummer. At least I'll be able to find the stuff I've decided to keep!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Three down - a tale

I've been sick this past weekend - a night-time stay in the clinic for what turned out to be simple stomach flu followed the next day by sore throat.

Last night I felt well enough to sit up, and my husband brought me some boxes to "kill."

Box number one was full of "things" in good shape. In a few minutes I'd determined the only thing I wanted to keep was a medal from a marathon I ran in 2002. The rest went into the donate bin.

Box number two was full of mail and papers from 2005. Most of that went into the shred or recycle piles, though I have a daughter who adores crafts and another who adores food, so about 3 inches of magazines got saved out for them to consider.

Box number three was full of random books cleared from living room surfaces years ago. Took out my wand scanner, swiped the covers of all the actual books, put coloring books aside for trash or donate, and gave the box a label.

It didn't take much time to kill these boxes, which was good. More box killing tomorrow...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding what works, Freecycling the rest

I love organizing supplies. Truly do.

Here's the problem. Some of them don't fit my needs once I've got them in my house. Take the four examples above:

The tower of translucent bins in the black frame looks cool. But I found items went in the drawers and never came out. Hopefully it works for the person I'm giving it to (hooray for Freecycle).

The blue bins were great for storing big stuff (e.g., piles of toys and clothes) back when I had a little kid. But that was almost two decades ago.

The white bins were my mother's - she used them for art supplies. But I found things went in and never came out. Wouldn't have been so bad, but the bins weren't the same size as any of my other storage solutions.

I originally bought the 10 gallon grey bins thinking I would use them in sorting through my stuff. Alas, they are too big for me to use effectively for the intended purpose.

Speaking of solutions that fit my life - I like Freecycle. I've found eBay is too hard for anything but truly valuable stuff. I don't like the Craig's List format. And with my work schedule, dropping stuff off at donation centers is sometimes problematic.

Freecycle is locally oriented, is explicitly oriented towards keeping things out of landfills, and I don't have to haul my stuff somewhere to get rid of it (the folks who want the stuff come to me). Both giver and taker are happy.

Once we got a fridge via Freecycle. I felt bad as I drove away - it didn't seem right to get a full-up fridge for free. Then I caught a glimpse of the guys who'd given the fridge away jumping in the air and giving each other high fives. I didn't feel bad about taking the fridge after that, after seeing their joy in having the fridge gone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Incredibly Embarrassing "Before" Video

I used to love watching organization shows on TV. A particular favorite was "Mission Organization," where a family with a problem room would go through a major make-over. I'd sit on the couch, jaw agape, thinking how cool it would be if my environment could be transformed so painlessly. Elapsed time (for me), an hour.

The problem is this. To achieve the "wow" factor when the organization has occurred, you have to see the dire situation that existed before.

So this is the entirely embarrassing "before" video. If you watch it (like you didn't already click it before reading this) you might notice that there are a few empty spaces in the box shelves. Imagine those spaces filled with boxes, plus boxes stacked five deep in the middle of the room - 38 more boxes, in fact, than you see in this video.

It's overwhelming just typing about it. I'll be at this for a bit more than an hour.

At then end of this process, I hope to have no more boxes in the rest of the living areas of the house and fewer boxes in the basement room. Many fewer boxes.

But this isn't just about getting rid of stuff. It's about freeing the space to make room for something else that I really want to have. But more on that another day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Only 281 boxes to go...

My youngest daughter and I (finally!) got started on the boxes today.

I created labels in powerpoint - 5 per page. Each label indicates the priority, the box number, a description, when the box is from (if known), and who "owns" the contents of the box. A separate log sheet has columns for each of these as well as "where" so I can find the boxes in future.

I decided on three priorities:

1) Urgent - something that has to be gone through soon (like a box of papers that were recently swept from the dining room table to 'tidy up' for company)

2) Easy to deal with (like a box of similar items - books or games or electrical cables or ...)

3) Hard to deal with and not urgent (like random papers that someone other than me has been hauling around for decades)

Turned out the first boxes it made sense to label were filled with my husband's games. These are priority 2 (like items - easy for someone to go through but not urgent). We've already dedicated a particular room in the basement as the "Game Room," so there's even a logical space to put them. Since these are items belonging to my husband, my job is now done (for these boxes).

Would they were all going to be this easy...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Going Paperless with ScanSnap

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300, a tiny little duplex scanner that promises to allow you to load up to 10 pages.

You can load way more than 10 pages. Which is cool. I've been on a business trip with a packed briefcase. All the informtion that was worth retaining is now in digital form. Most of the paper can be dumped in my shred box.

The way I like to use the ScanSnap is to have a pile of papers. As I scan each, I go ahead and type in the right name. I like to name my files "yymmdd description." That means they sort quickly.

I had a big pile of business cards as well. The ScanSnap comes with a nice little business card app, that promises to upload the images into Outlook and other organizers. Very cool.

Loving this scanner!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Naked Came I Into the World...

Today I learned a friend lost all her belongings in a disaster. She has the clothes on her back and her memories. That's it.

Made me much more motivated to convert important documents to a form that won't be destroyed just because something hits my house.

I did the experiment with scanning a bunch of books - it went very well. I was immediately able to determine one of the books could be donated. As I was tossing the book into the "donate" box, a visiting child asked why I would do such a thing. It was a teaching opportunity.

Now to bed, to dream up ways of protecting my truly precious documents from possible destruction.