Thursday, March 4, 2010

In praise of putting your feet up

This is the story of how I re-organized two filing cabinets of old notes, threw out 28 boxes of junk and finally sorted out the outside closet. All while sipping tea with my feet up on my couch.

Time to read this post: 3 minutes

I like the idea of being organized. I go to friends' houses and admire their zen-like living rooms. I buy books like "Getting Things Done" by David Allen and put them neatly onto my bookshelf. But whenever I write "organize junk in home office" on my to-do list for Saturday morning, I am always unable to complete it because I urgently need to read the new Economist. For three hours.

I recently picked up a copy of "Organizing from the Inside Out" by Julia Morgenstern. It has 320 pages of proposals to analyze your clutter, creating action plans and getting the job done. I tried to read chapter 17 on "Closets. What's working? What's holding you back?". I read Julie's No-Brainer Toss List for Handbags and Briefcases. I even tried to diagnose whether the root cause of my issues were
Level 1: Technical errors - simple mechanical mistakes in my organization
Level 2: External realities - as far as I can work out, this one basically means that you're screwed
Level 3: Psychological obstacles (e.g. #12 Are you a highly visual person? #19 Did you have a traumatic childhood?).

Now I have no doubt that everything in the book is extremely sensible but every few sentences I found myself urgently needing to take a twenty minute nap. So what to do?

Well the answer is extraordinarily simple. Get someone else to do it for you. Lots of people love organizing things. They write books about it. They buy all the books about it. They do it for a living. And you too can pay them to do it all for you. Without having to address any psychological obstacles or technical errors. And they're surprisingly good value.

So my wife and I contacted Nicole at Genius Organizing and booked ourselves in for a home session with her. Nicole told us to order in some good food, have some good music ready on the iPod and she'd show up at 6pm for a 3 hour blitz. She sent us a nice email telling us not to think about our clutter a moment longer and she would fix everything. And, quite to my astonishment, she did.

The actual evening was somewhat of a blur. It involved Nicole marching around demanding things like: when we had last ever opened a particular filing cabinet. "Um" I would reply, "about twice a year". So she told us that 'We're going to scan it all in so you can have it all electronically and pull it up faster than you can find it in the piles of junk'. And by "we" she meant her and her colleague, Julie.

Julie arrived to pick up piles of my MBA lecture notes. She would scan them all in for us, categorize them into electronic folders and deliver them all back on one USB stick. Then I thought our closet was in reasonable shape. Apparently I was mistaken. We were able to throw out 28 bags of junk including many random objects that have followed us around the world as we moved and I didn't even recognize. And by the way, I don't mean plan to throw it out, I mean throw out. By 9pm it was all sitting outside ready to be picked up by Brooklyn's loudest garbage collection men at 4am. This really was genius.

So that was it. Oh and I just found out this week is National Procrastination Week. Watch this for a brilliant guide for how to procrastinate properly:

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