Isn't this beautiful? Isn't it blissful? My friend Andrea is a decorator. Her house is one of the nicest I know, friendly and pretty and light, full of dogs and children, good food and wine, with a lovely old garden, balconies and blue-green shutters. Dinners are her house are always a family affair and her tables are invariably beautiful, decorated with fruits and flowers and various objets d'art she's found in her travels. She has an enormous collection of old tablecloths, some French damask, some mid-century American, some arts & crafts and she's not afraid to mix these bright colors with even brighter napkins, usually in shades of pink or orange or palest green. Her plates and glasses run the gamut too, from exquisite Venetian colored glass to extraordinarily pretty tumblers she just happened upon at Target. Great platters are placed on the table, and there is always a lively conversation. As her house is in Santa Monica, not far from the beach, one always feels as if one is on holiday. I want to whizz up her street on my bicycle, cotton skirt flying in the wind, plimsolled feet pedalling madly.
But one thing wise Miss Andrea knows is her limitations, and after an enormously challenging move into this house last summer, from a house that was slightly bigger (but not quite as charming) she was left with an enormous stockpile of extra stuff and not enough cupboards to put it in. So what did she do? She called an Organizer. Home Organizers are to the Noughties in Los Angeles are what shrinks were to the Nineties (although no-one goes to a therapist any more; Lifecoaches have replaced them). Andrea's office at the last house was a tiny little room overflowing with bolts of fabric, glossy magazines, children's drawings, ribbons, wrapping paper, cook books, stuffed birds, dog beds, flowers and antique vases. Layers of pictures were propped on every wall. This time, she vowed, it would be different. The Organizer would see to that.
Two women with rolled-up sleeves and a can-do spirit spent two days going through every single pencil, paper, envelope & book to create an office space so deliciously clean and sorted that you would want to sleep in it. Or sleep with it.
Let's pretend that this is Blue Peter. On Blue Peter we learn that we can do absolutely anything ourselves, as long as we are armed with a roll of sticky-backed plastic and a couple of old Baked Bean cans. I did this myself on Tuesday (she says, smugly).
What you will need:
1) A label-making machine or white sticky labels and a Sharpie pen (good penmanship helps)
2) White index cards (for labeling piles)
3) File folders (buff are standard; I prefer pale blue but only because I saw them at the Container Store; no doubt you can find them in any color your little heart desires)
4) Clear plastic envelopes of different sizes (for stamps, passports, documents, sticks, pressed leaves, etc)
5) Paper, wicker, bamboo, fabric or good old cardboard boxes in various sizes (but they are much more pleasing to the eye if of the same size, shape and color because then you can create your own endlessly satisfying little military rows of the buggers)
6) A ruthless state of mind (to identify rubbish and have the gumption to throw it out)
7) A patient heart (I've found playing Philip Glass music, loudly, helps with this)
Organizing your workspace has rather illusory but not un-useful effects. It actually allows you to feel that you have a modicum of control over your life. If you, like me, panic every time you have to pay a bill, or spend endless hours making lists you promptly lose, this simple exercise will bring you wonderful and instant peace of mind. It is a little like wellbutrin, something to which I can attest, but without the dry mouth or the need to fall asleep after one glass of wine.
If you, like me, spent most of your working life in a large office with a very good and bossy assistant taking care of all your organizational needs, you may have found re-adjustment to civilian life difficult. I know I did. I was used to a spotlessly clean desk every day, immaculately kept files and even, sometimes, flowers. I lived in a glass castle. My contacts were immediately entered into the database which was instantaneously synced with my computer and my mobile phone. My friends and clients birthdays were remembered, their children's birthdays were marked, and even favorite restaurants, masseuses and flower shops noted. It was Hollywood. I was spoiled rotten by them and I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to each one. Here and now, please let me apologize for my bad behaviour, my shoe habit, my disorganized ways, my utter foulness. But my organized office was my absolute saviour.
So now I sound like an ass. But, this is something that you can do which will make you very very pleased with yourself and will make your life just a little bit easier**. Here are some of the tools I used:
White magazine holders, letter trays & boxes, and plastic folders from The Container Store, which also gives excellent advice at its website:
And do of course remember to leave some space for the dogs:
Other places with great tips on organizing:
The fabulous Martha Stewart
** You can of course call the amazing Mary Astadourian who did transformed Andrea's office: firstname.lastname@example.org