Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Organization For The Chronically Disorganized

I am not by nature a well-organized person. (Everyone who knows me in real life just nodded in agreement.) This has been an issue my entire life. Anne Cobb, my amazing fifth grade teacher, recognized the tiny disaster she had on her hands and taught me some basics which helped me be successful at school.

Her hints, which I still use today, are the kind of thing Maxwell based Apartment Therapy on! Get your stuff together the night before. Write things down. Write things down in one place.

Now I'm a freelancer (which has its own set of organizational issues), dealing with a husband with health issues, two pets, a house full of DIY projects, and a blog. If I don't keep everything organized utter, sheer I-can't-work-like-this chaos results.

Here are the internet and real life organizational tricks I use to stay organized.

Computer/Internet Organization

  1. Evernote. I don't even know what I would do without Evernote. At any moment I can be working on five freelance assignments, a month of blog posts, and my own private projects. Evernote lets me clip relevant information as I find it on the internet, and combine like things with like. I have notebooks for upcoming blog posts and each freelance assignment. It makes keeping research together super easy. It also helps nourish ideas because as I come across fragments or have thoughts I can clip or add to each note easily. 

  2. Library Elf. Library Elf hooks into your library account and sends you email or text messages about what materials will be due soon, what's due now, and what's overdue. It also sends you reminders when reserved material is ready for pick-up. We are both heavy library users and this helps us avoid overdue fines.

  3. E-Statements. I prefer getting bills through e-mail. As they arrive I move them to a certain folder and when payday arrives I simply open the folder and start paying. Bonus points for utilities that let you pay your bill online for free.

  4. Online Prescription Ordering. Our local pharmacy has a website that lets you order your refills online. This saves me so much time in trying to call in J's refills. It also sends email reminders when you are due for another refill. Some of J's medicines are take as needed, so it doesn't always match up, but it reminds me to check so he doesn't run out of a needed med.

  5. i-Calendar. Yeah, we all know about it. I use one main calendar to track due dates on assignments, bills, J's doctor appointments, pet information (like flea medicine), other assorted appointments, and DIY projects. It lets me see our month in a glance. And now that J has a smartphone, he can see the calendar even when I'm not with him.

Organization At Home

1. The Foyer. 
We have an actual foyer with a coat closet, which makes leaving/coming in a little easier. As soon as I enter the house I can hang up my coat and kick off my shoes. Speaking of coats, J taught me a great trick he learned in the Navy. When I take off my coat and gloves and slip a glove into each pocket. When I put my coat on I can just slip my hands right into the gloves.

2. The Landing Strip. 
As you walk from the foyer into the living room the credenza is immediately on your left. On the credenza is a little milk glass dish. I use this to coral my keys and sunglasses. Every time I come home I drop my keys in the dish. I used to be notorious for losing my keys. No more. The white vase is a change collector.

3. Get Out Of My House!
The small chair by the credenza serves as an outbox spot. Things I need to take with me (reusable grocery bags, library books, things to mail) get placed in this chair.

3. The Returnable Shelf
Library materials live on this shelf unless they are being actively read/listened to/watched. This way when I'm making a library run I know from Library Elf what's due and I know where everything is.

Blog Organization

If you don't blog you can skip this final section! I talked about how Evernote saves my sanity, but here are my other tricks for keeping Middle Class Modern updated and the behind the scenes stuff organized. I made a LOT of mistakes when I started out, which led to me stopping blogging and then blogging off and on.

  1. Monthly Calendar. At the start of each month I pull up a Word Calendar template. Then I figure out a posting schedule based on the projects going on around here and anything else I know I want to blog about.  I also note on each post what special actions I need to take. For example, for this post I noted what pictures I needed to take and then I took them while I documented another project. On other posts I'll note if I need supplies for the project we don't currently have. This is also where I track things like DIY Action Squad projects and upcoming link parties I want to participate in.

  2. Feed The Hopper. Life gets crazy. Sometimes I get absolutely slammed with freelance work, or J has a health crisis, or I get sick. I don't want to worry about writing a post, but I do want to consistently update my blog. So over Christmas I wrote five back-up posts. These are evergreen, stand-alone posts, not pieces of projects. Right now I have some recipe posts, a blogging post, and a couple of little DIY things. If I don't need them in the next month I'll post them in February and replace them with other evergreen backups. 

  3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule. After I had to spend pre-dawn hours finishing my first DIY Action Squad post, my beloved informed me of the utter ridiculousness of my actions. He had a point. So I now I work on the actual projects the week before. I write the posts over the weekend. For example, this weekend I worked on the curtains and making the curtain rod. I spent Sunday writing up all the posts for the week. I try to repeat this pattern each week.

So what awesome organizational tips do y'all have?

Linked up At Liz Marie's Organization Party


  1. Tracie those are awesome tips!!! I'll have to look at Evernote more, I love your outbox idea and I would have to pay so many fines if our library didn't have an email sent. I could definitely get better about keeping all my thoughts organized into one place. Right now everything is so scattered!

    1. Evernote is really, really awesome. I love it.

  2. I really need to be better about's the one thing I really really suck at.

  3. look, you already helped me! As soon as I saw the Library Elf thing, I remembered that my library books are due tomorrow, and I went and renewed them online! The sad thing is, the library already sent me an e-mail reminder 2 days ago, and that did nothing for me. Because I can sit there, realize the books are almost due, and think, "I'll just take care of that later" even though I'm already SITTING AT THE COMPUTER THINKING ABOUT IT right then. Maybe my subconscious just wants to pay more fines to help out the library?

    1. Heh. I actually have Library Elf send me an email and J a text message when something's due, because he'll annoy me about it until I do something.

  4. My life would FALL APART without calendaring.

    ... I should go to the library. I haven't been in years. I am a horrible uncultured person.

    1. We're just really, really cheap when it comes to things like DVDs and books. Also, I'm someone who would like to own ALL THE BOOKS so it cuts down on my hoarding instincts.

  5. on sunday i clean house. on monday i go through the bills and shopping lists. on tuesday i catch up and i paint my nails.on wednesday i spend time with loved ones and pre-cook the weeks meals. on thursday i make up the juices, flavored drinks for the week. on friday i email, make calls and write. saturday is my day off to just sit

    1. That's something I need to get back in the habit of doing. The house runs much more smoothly when I tackle one big chore each day. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I love Library Elf!!! Great post! Thanks for joining my Pin Me Party at I am now following you via GFC, G+, Pinterest, Facebook & Twitter!

  7. I linked up your article today on So You Wanna Be a Blogger!

  8. Thanks so much for the info! I'm new to blogging and am happy to have all the help I can get... I'm notoriously unorganized myself, so I can sympathize with your plight! ;) I'll have to try out Evernote, that's a new one for me.

  9. I have started to try to tackle my life and organize it. I'm not really winning, but I'm still trying. If the mess is a big one, and my time is limited and my rest is competing then I walk away and lie down. Using a calendar is helpful, and my blog is neglected due to having so much going on. This made me want to keep trying! Thank you!

  10. This makes me want to keep trying! (I wrote a more on a previous comment, but I think it was deleted through some process). Thanks so much!

  11. I have a 5 shelf unit by my front door, that is my outbox. I have 5 siblings, and the ones that live in the state have their own shelf, as does my Dad, and library. Whenever they visit, or I visit them I know right where the stuff that's to go to their house is. I don't loose it, and I'm not tripping over it elsewhere.

  12. During December I review the past year and write necessary reminds on the following year's calendar, such as
    car inspections; specific dr. appts; people's birthday's etc., saves time and is a great reminder.


Thanks for commenting (it makes me feel less like I am just over here, talking to myself!). Comments are approved as quickly as possible. Seriously, I am trying to teach Emily to approve comments.


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