Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HPP: Calendar & Creativity

This is Week 2 of an 18-week Christmas organization plan from I am behind and trying to catch up, preloading my holiday stress so that I can enjoy Advent and the actual Christmas season.

The reading assignment for this installment of the Houseworks Holiday Plan was about decluttering and organizing craft supplies, and about organization in general. Since I don’t do a lot of crafts, I didn’t get much out of the first part of the assignment. The latter part, however, offered these principles:

- think function, not appearance
- think process, not product
- a place for everything (and everything in its place)
- get the family on board
- create activity centers
- think zones: hot, warm, & cold
- label, label, label
- store items vertically (when possible)

While none of these ideas was new to me, it was helpful to be reminded of them. Particularly helpful: a list of suggested activity centers. Unfortunately, Ms. Ewer recommended a one activity-one center plan, with supplies for the activity stored in the center if possible. Well, since I live in a small house, my activity centers have to overlap, a complication that forces a bit more thought about function and process than if I lived in a larger abode. Hence…

I am still working on one of the tasks from the first week of the Houseworks Plan: organizing “Information Central,” that wonderful desk environment where relaxation and planning are supposed to converge. Well, convergence in my home is taking bit more time and work than the Houseworks folks had in mind because my desk space has been a disaster for much longer than I care to admit. When the space is finished, I will post a picture (hopefully).

I did make one decision about my desk: I am no longer saving catalogs unless I have some pressing reason to do so (like Christmas shopping). Instead, I have created a shopping folder in my Internet browser. If the catalog has a companion website, the paper version goes into the paper recycling (unless, of course, I have a reason to save it). So, my “catalog procedure” is now:

1) look through the catalog
2) highlight any items of interest with a highlighter marker
3) dog-ear the pertinent page(s)
4) file the catalog in the bottom drawer of the desk filing cabinet

For more than ten years, I have limited my stash of catalogs to one file drawer near my desk, the result of a compromise I made with my husband over paper clutter. Well, by adopting this new “procedure,” I was able to fit my catalog stash into ~50% of the drawer. Not bad, especially in light of the fact that I live in a 900-square-foot house and I don’t really have the space to save every catalog known to man.

The holiday preparation checklist portion of this installment of the Houseworks Holiday Plan included:

- creating a holiday calendar
- planning holiday travel
- holding a scheduling session
- starting a tear file
- starting (and using) a shopping list
- inventorying craft supplies & unfinished projects
- making a “gifts to make” list

The calendar wasn’t a problem for me, as I always keep one on my computer and on my Palm. I prefer to add my Christmas events and activities to these “routine” calendars, rather than creating a special holiday version that will (inevitably) fail to reflect some run-of-the-mill activity. With my busy schedule, missed events on a calendar can wreak havoc on the time management system around here, not to mention the nerves of certain family members. My only challenge in this area is getting other people to commit to dates so I know the extent of our outside commitments. I am still waiting for a few confirmations. I am sure they will turn up soon.

As for holiday travel, with the price of gas and my daughter’s handbell concert schedule, no one is going anywhere. I was hoping to take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg sometime this fall, but I doubt that will happen. A few days off and a rendezvous with some friends from Washington, D.C. would be great (and very de-stressing) but we have too many projects and issues to address on the homefront this year.

I had to chuckle at the “scheduling session” idea and the suggested events that may need to be scheduled: carpet cleaning, chimney inspections, and furnace checks. I have no carpet, and to get a chimney or a furnace inspected or cleaned in my neck of the woods this time of the year would have required a call to the my oil company sometime near Memorial Day. Since that didn’t happen, I have no scheduling tasks to complete in that area. I am purchasing a new refrigerator this week. That delivery will be scheduled for early November.

Tear files. For those who are unfamiliar with these, they are idea files that contain pictures, recipes, and craft ideas that are torn out of magazines or catalogs. I really have to be careful with these. For years, I saved magazines in order to create tear files. All I managed to do was create a pile of magazines and catalogs. Lately, I only do this for Christmas (and for some current home improvement projects). I also try to cull through these particular tear files on a regular basis so they remain small and contained. My Christmas file is actually located inside my Christmas planning notebook, tucked inside protector pages organized by subject (e.g., gifts, food, greeting cards, etc.).

Start and use a shopping list. No problem here! I have been shopping for at least a week, maybe a little longer. My mail-away gifts are coming together. Hopefully, they will be finished by November 1st. My goal is to mail them just after Thanksgiving so I won’t have to deal with the crowds at the post office, and so I won’t have to pay an exorbitant rapid-delivery rate to get my packages there “just in the nick of time.” Fortunately, my friends and relatives have humored my early-bird shopping bug and given me some wonderful gift ideas.

The last two tasks on the holiday preparation checklist for this week are to inventory craft supplies and to make a “gifts to make” list. Neither of these activities impacts my family at this time. I am not making any gifts this year and if I haven’t worked on my Christmas craft projects by now, they have already been shifted to my 2008 off-season work list. The off-season is also when I plan to inventory my craft supplies. One great guideline here: the Rule of Four.
If you have more than four unfinished craft projects, or if any single project is more than four years old, don’t schedule any new crafts!
Using this principle, and given the number of unfinished projects that currently reside in my attic, I should be able to start a new project when I am ~80 years old. :-)

My progress is slow, but I am definitely making headway. How are you doing?

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