Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sheila Curran's Organizing Secrets Revealed!

It was extremely difficult for me to choose between the topics for this blog cycle.  Should it be time-management or marketing?  

How about Sumo Wrestling?  Because I am sure that, were I to suit myself up in that butt-cheek dividing diaper and go mano a mano with some huge fat man with sleek dark hair pulled back just so, I could seriously be better at that than either marketing my own work or managing my time.   

 It’s not that I haven’t tried.  I have purchased many products.  Like the binder system pictured below. I got the idea from this extremely entertaining (I’m saying HOURS of enjoyment!) series on the organized home.   (I want to be this woman.  The labels!  The systems!  Everything in its place.)

I dutifully bought a 3 ring binder, put in the plastic pockets, and filled the first one with all the errands I would run on Monday.  Register the car.  Renew daughter's passport.  Mail back shoes at post office.  Yeah!  I had it going on!
 Except that on Monday, I discovered that along with Obama's inauguration, it was also (duh) Martin Luther King Day!  All of my places were closed!  

Still, as you can see, I was trying.  (As my good friend Jane Ulrich would say, "very trying.")

The trouble is, when I set out to ‘get things done,” which has become an inside joke since I flunked the lessons of the extremely popular book of the same name, I discovered things like federal holidays that I didn't think of!  

My self-improvement chronicle is one of false starts. Like the thingie below.  Which I bought in December.

So how does it happen that the folders remain empty?

Because, until two days ago, when my husband sat in my office and said, "That's a nice organizer," I had consigned the piece to some sort of back burner of the brain.  So much so that I had, when I went to Staples for the binder, come very close to buying an organizer broken down into this one's exact constituent parts.  TO DO.  TO FILE.  IN BOX.

In one in-box and out the other.   

Instead of using the perfectly nice organizer, I've clung to my default system.

I admit it.  I cannot seem to do this thing called time management.  Not even the first step involving getting all your papers out of the way so you can think and focus.  It's not that I don't love reading about how to declutter my life.  However, when it comes to following through, or EVEN REMEMBERING the last system I swore would change everything, I do some kind of eternal sunshine of the spotless mind kind of thing.

My only system, if you can call it that, is to contain clutter in some spaces, like my kitchen desk,

so that the rest of the room can look something like this.

But even in those places I try to keep clean, I cannot help but play around.  
See my great room?
Here's the top of the coffee table.

So, let's see.  My system so far? Contain the clutter, order other things in ways that might make you laugh even if no one else sees them, and ... use organizers you ADORE. Because they are PRETTY.

The only successful folder I've ever maintained is an accordian file I bought in Florence.  It is so PRETTY.  Or I think so.

Lest you think I am frightfully good at this, I must say I just stuff papers in there willy-nilly.

For example, the picture below shows what I withdrew from one of its sleeves.

From top left to bottom, I found the following traces of my life:  a picture from my six year old daughter,the publisher's acceptance letter on my first manuscript, my premature son’s birth announcement, a letter from my 8 year old daughter begging me to let her ride in a car that I wasn’t driving, a card, a photo, the set list from a favorite Bruce Springsteen concert.  Beside those were a letter I wrote my brother a week before he died, in which I told him everything I admired about him, and a letter from my siblings in 2010 when I was recovering from cancer and my dad was dying of congestive heart failure and we were all gathered in New Hampshire to be with him. 
My point?  I held onto these things because I knew they were precious.  (And also because I really wanted to untie the ribbon and use my PRETTY folder.  I love knowing my treasures are contained therein.)  So I guess if I were to advise all you wannabee sumo wrestlers out there, I’d say try doing what works for you.  Who cares if it’s not like everyone else’s system, or if it’s the opposite of a system?
Some of us were born to organize, others to run.   

Others still are just holding on by the seat of our pants to the things we know we need to remember.  And it’s not the errands that so dearly need getting done.  It’s not the passport that must be renewed, but those parts of time that have fled so fast, leaving in their place simply text on a page.  Or a photo of a child who looks so different now.  Or maybe it's just a perfect vase of flowers, long gone but not forgotten.


Sheila Curran's Diana Lively is Falling Down is available only as a digital book, unless you contact the the author who'd be happy to sell you a paperback copy.  Her second novel Everyone She Loved is available in digital or hard copy.  You can view a trailer about the book (and the author's television-watching-dog) if you'd like to know more.  



  1. Funny! Loved the photos. Makes me feel like I'm not so alone. :)

  2. ta, Sara...i think we writers might be a little less left-brained in general...

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  4. Your kitchen desk looks just like my kitchen desk!! Knew there was a reason I loved you.

  5. Oh, my, thanks for the laughs and the reassurance that I am not alone in my semi-organized chaos. Somehow, I birthed a daughter who is the queen of organization. When she's up for the challenge, she goes after my clutter. Sadly, it reappears weeks later.

    I really am contemplating an 8" strip of cork board on one wall of my office. I've decided I'm a horizontal organizer, and-if I can see it-odds are better that I'll do it. But then I have to remember to buy the cork board...sigh