Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cataloging my stuff

I don't know if it's some kind of teacher nesting instinct, but as the "official" school year approaches, I get in a very organizational mood. Because this is not something that comes naturally to me most of the year, at least in terms of "stuff," (as opposed to time, schedules, etc.) I have to take advantage of the mood while it is here.

In previous years, this mood has been very focused on my sock drawer. I guess that's because when cool/cold weather comes, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for a matching pair of socks. Even in the winter, when I like to wear pantyhose for warmth, I still put socks over them to wear under boots.

This year, however, my efforts have been more expansive. It started over break when I started organizing my scrapbook stuff, including photos. Then I started organizing my bathroom stuff because our new, fancy master bath is almost finished, thanks to my husband's dedication and tunnel vision when involved in a project. He is a very good man, but an example of his focus is less than 24 hours after my (minor) surgery, he asked me,

"Hey, can you help me carry in a board?" (i.e. a giant piece of heavy wood).

"No,honey," I replied. "Remember that piece of paper they sent home from the hospital saying no more than 5 pounds?"

"Oh.Yeah." He thought about that for a few seconds, and said, "How long is that gonna last?"

Because I now have a Jacuzzi tub and a steam shower that plays music, he is forgiven these occasional slips. Plus my response was that it would last as long as I could milk it.

Anyway, back to organization. Here is the problem: I get somewhat befuddled when something can be classified in multiple ways. In going through the existing bathroom cabinet, I discovered I have a plethora of bath and shower gels, scented lotions, body butters, etc. I also have accumulated quite a pile of cosmetics, primarily because I go through periods where my use of them is quite minimal.

I divided the cosmetics into plastic bags of lip stuff, eye stuff, skin coloring stuff (foundation, blush, concealer). Then came the compact mirror. That would go into a new bag classified as "tools." That created a new problem...should the lip brush stay in the lip bag, or should that now go into the "tool" category? Same with the eye makeup brushes.

And do scented body lotions go with "stuff that makes my skin soft" or "stuff that makes me smell good"?

I had run into the same problem with scrapbooking stuff. I had long ago made a macro decision that most of my albums would be chronological by year, with special albums created for special events (big trips, milestone anniversaries, etc.) But I decided to organize my photos in boxes by person and person's descendants. The problem I ran into there was representatives of multiple nuclear families in some of the photos, creating a new subcategory of "grandchildren" or "nieces and nephews." And where do the photos of my now deceased cat go?

Then there are the accessories. Scrapbookers usually have cardstock and decorated paper in various sizes, stickers (pictures, letters, borders), die-cuts (pictures, letters, borders), a variety of adhesives, stacks of quotations on vellum, markers, chalks, stamps, dies for making their own die-cuts, etc, etc, etc. One can easily see the nightmare there. Do I put things together by what they are, and what are they? All stickers together, or all borders together? Or should I organize by theme?

I have actually discovered the cataloging class ("Organization of Knowledge") that I took last summer has been helpful in making this a little less stressful. I realize organization is all about retrieval, but I feel like I will forget my "micro" decisions and lose track of this stuff all over again.

However, that always results in the most delightful part of the organization process, wherein one says happily,

"Hey, I forgot I had this. Cool."

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