Purging and New Year’s all-or-nothing resolutions seem so pre-COVID. I’m finding the way I get things done lately is to be gentler with myself. Sometimes a big, clean sweep purge is called for, but following that, why not think of organizing your time and space and making habit changes as pleasant little editing choices made moment by moment?
Editing requires first getting perspective about what you’re trying to accomplish with your time and what you’re trying to do with your space and how you’d like it to look. Once you have the bigger picture sketched out, you can start editing.
Copy editors, like smart New York Times crossword puzzlers, work in pencil. A lot of the time you need to try out an edit and metaphorically read the change back to yourself before inking the change.
For example, you might decide your dining table is taking up too much space that could be used for another purpose. You can take out some leaves and take away a couple chairs and live with a smaller version for a while — the pencil edit. Maybe you like it but don’t want to store the leaves and chairs. You can make the decision to ditch the leaves and chairs or sell the whole shebang and get a smaller dining set. That’s inking it.
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With files that you might want to purge, you can take them out of your file drawer and put them in a plastic file bin in the garage, and see how that sits for a few weeks or months. Pencil edit.
Financial papers are easy because if you don’t miss them and your accountant gives the thumbs up, you can shred them. Old love letters and personal stuff is harder, but if you don’t miss them or even feel a sense of relief that they aren’t in your main space, you might do a burning ceremony or put them in the trash and pile wet garbage on them. Ink.
Your time, especially the time of day you have high energy (for me it’s mornings until noon and then later, early evening) you need to be a vigilant editor of the choices hurling toward you. Try not to look at e-mail and texts during your prime focus time.
If that works for you, ink it by putting in your e-mail signature that you do not look at e-mail between the hours of [fill in the blank] and put a notifications silenced message on your texts (it’s automatic if you set your phone to “notifications silenced”). Don’t let other people’s sense of urgency or impatience derail you from focusing on an important task.
Clothing during Covid is still a tough one. Will we ever dress up again? Having a bunch of stuff in the closet that you don’t wear can be depressing. I recommend staying with a pencil edit here. Perhaps take your dressier clothing out of your main closet and store it on a covered rack in the garage or in a guest room closet until we see what’s what in 2022. Or 2023. Sigh.
I always feel more organized when I don’t have to worry about my weight and fitness. Over the years I’ve edited out a lot of foods and the key is to do the editing in the grocery store, right out of your cart. Don’t shop hungry. Some editing will be like getting rid of an obvious misspelling and can be in ink every time — if you know a box of cookies (or a bottle of Scotch or a cashmere sweater that will bust your carefully worked-out budget) spells trouble, edit them out before the purchase.
As your schedule, home and habits become more streamlined, the editing becomes more fine-tuned and fun. The decisions that you need to make become clearer. I’ve especially felt this to be true during the pandemic when I’ve had less going on to distract me. Getting quiet and turning the screens off makes each editing choice more thoughtful. Set aside a few moments, maybe at the end of the day or during your weekly review to ask yourself, “What could use some editing?"
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Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For more information about her services, call 707-738-4346 or visit houseinorder.com.