Organization: Asking What’s Working Well

I’ve been battling this same problem for years now: the papers on the dining room table.

You see, we have an 8 person table, and usually 4-5 people eating, so I’m able to use one end for the mail. And it piles up, and around, and occasionally down…as paper clutter will do.

So yesterday a question popped into my head. “What is working well?”

So I made a list:

The supplies drawer of the file cabinet is great. Need a spiral book? Pretty computer paper for a letter? A composition book? There they are, all bought on sale.

I love my little three drawer plastic organizer unit, one drawer labeled “Write,” the next “Calculate and Label,” and the next, “Cut and Fasten.” By using verbs, I was able to include a whole lot of stuff with only one or two-word labels. Eliminates questions such as, “Mom, where’s the tape?”

The wall calendar has all the family appointments posted, and I use my purse calendar in conjunction with it.

My daily to-do lists are written in a simple 8 1/2 X 11 spiral notebook.

We can find local numbers in the Rolodex, and older contact information in the “Addresses Notebook”…a simple binder with notebook paper and typed sheets.

The shredder and the hole punch and scissors are all readily accessible, close to my place at the table.

My online bill paying is under control and on time.

With streamlined ease, I can plan meals, make a grocery list, and find recipes.

I use composition books to plan, to journal, or to keep track of information I glean while on a trip.

I’m able able to grab my Neo (portable word processor), or one of my zipper binders, as I’m going out the door.

So, with all that working so well, what’s the problem???

The mail! Bulletins from church. Fliers from the apartment management. Any papers that come into the house. Oh, don’t worry. If you have ever sent me a card or letter, I joyously read it before it ever hit the table. But the rest? Not so good. I stack it to sort later. And later rarely comes. Sometimes it all ends up in a box because we’re having company and we need another place or two at the table.

So what can I do?

Hmm, well, I have notebooks for medical bills and EOB’s (explanation of benefits)…I just need to put the papers in there. I could put bulletins and flyers in my Household Notebook. I could make a thin notebook for bills that have to be paid by mail. Not all that much really needs to be changed…only two major things. I simply need a time and a place.

Perhaps I just need to pick a day of the week to process mail…and a place to stack or sort it in the meantime. I kept thinking I needed a desk with enough space to sit at it. No, I only need a desk or system for the mail, not for myself. I already love my place at the table, where I can look out the window…and I can bring one category of mail to my place at a time and process it.

This project suddenly appears do-able…all because I started with the question: What is working well?

How about you? Have you ever tackled a difficult project by asking what’s already working well?

Margaret Mary Myers is a Catholic wife and mother of six adult children. She has written articles for compilation books and for various homeschooling magazines. She homeschooled her six children for 26 years. She also writes children's books. Visit her blog at http://margmary.blogspot.com.

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