The Chaos Whisperer

Helping you tame the Chaos at Home & Work

My Resolution #1: Work the Space

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“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” -Mary Shelley

My first resolution for 2012 is to tackle the area where I work and need to be most productive, organizing the clutter and Chaos into a space where I can truly concentrate and create. For me, that means the “production office” at the home of my business partner, who also conveniently happens to be my boyfriend. If that didn’t complicate things enough, the room we have to use for the production office also doubles as the bedroom. So making this an effective and efficient work space has been extra challenging, hence the resolution to really focus on it now.

In order to tackle this, I am utilizing one of my top 10 tactics to break up this resolution into smaller, actionable steps. I set aside one whole day to start breaking it all down:

1. The first of these was to sort all the clutter in our production office space into individual piles, to get a good condensed look at just how much and what range of clutter I’m dealing with.

2. From there, it was easier to sort out and categorize the clutter based on the function it serves or the action it requires. For example, I ended up with a lot of loose paperwork that needed a better system for sorting & filing. Previously, these papers had ended up just getting left out and scattered about so that it was difficult to know what to do with them and they often got forgotten about.

3. So I created a new space for these papers, which is the next step for each of the categories of clutter. I sorted the papers into filing cabinets, giving the folders new labels according to the purpose or action associated with each group of papers. Now these loose papers have a better home than in piles on the dresser, and will be much easier to find when I need them. But beyond that, I also now have a new easy & accessible means of putting away more loose papers as they come up.

Now if I can impart one piece of wisdom, it would be this: don’t force yourself into a new system of organization that doesn’t feel natural just because others say it’s the best way. You need to develop a system that works with how you already naturally operate, so that as you accumulate more things, it’s not a huge chore to continue putting stuff away.

Personally, I work better when things are categorized and put away out of sight. I hate having too much stuff lying around. If I don’t have a good system for where to put everything away, I will just end up shoving stuff in random drawers – which eventually catches up with me. So what I need is a better way to put things away so that they don’t get lost later on.

However, I also have the out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem – in that once I shove stuff away, I am in danger of completely forgetting about it. So I created my new paperwork filing system in tall, obvious filing cabinets so as to keep them front of mind. I also put the folders with the most urgent paperwork needing immediate attention & action at the front of each drawer.

Then with the less important or urgent items, I found better places to store them away that didn’t need to be as visually obvious. For example, I also found that we had a lot of film equipment and props lying around the home office that are quite bulky and take up valuable space. These items also don’t have much frequent use, since we only bring them out when we are ready to film another project.

So for these items, I chose the basement storage space below the apartment. I identified what didn’t need to be out in the open for frequent use and moved it down under there to be stored similarly in bins based on category and function, and keeping the most frequently used items toward the front.

Lastly, I encountered a great many nick knacks and miscellaneous items lying around that either are too small to keep filed or stored away, or simply don’t belong to any larger group of similar items. For these, I’ve discovered a love for cute containers. By this, I mean small woven baskets, old mugs, unused vases, decorative pencil trays – take any old or odd containers you were going to throw away and put them to good use instead.

The box you bought that pack of Christmas cards in makes a good holder for the loose receipts that you’ll need to go through later. An old mason jar is the perfect place to collect loose change. Clean out that tin can you had dinner from last night and put your pencils in it. That fun little box your mother bought you at the flea market can be a great place to toss extra paperclips, tacks, rubber bands and other misc. items on your desk.

You can’t avoid having some amount of small, loose clutter – so having different containers to put them in keeps them easier to keep track of and more pleasant to look at.

Now that I’ve started getting my work stuff better categorized and put away, I know I’ll be able to quickly locate anything I need at any time, even if it is put away out of sight. And if it’s something urgent that I need to not let myself forget, I know I’ve got it at the front of the pile (or cabinet, drawer, basement, etc), so I’ll be sure to see it first thing.

This is the system I’ve discovered I need for my work space. Now you’ve got to figure out what kind of system you need – and would work best with – based on your natural tendencies.

And it doesn’t stop there either. I’ve set up the start of a new & improved system, but it’s going to take some initial effort to remember to maintain it. As much as I focused on using a system that works well with me, it still requires some small changes of habit and self-discipline to keep it up. So I’m giving myself the rest of the year to get completely comfortable with my newly organized work space, and make sure I don’t muck it up.

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Author: Rebecca Ahn

Writer. Producer. Editor. Warrior. And one Tough Cookie!

2 thoughts on “My Resolution #1: Work the Space

  1. Pingback: How To Identify Your Goals « The Chaos Whisperer

  2. Pingback: How To Identify Your Goals « The Productive Artist's Guide to Life

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