Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting Organized: Toss the Paper Tiger and Use the Library

Getting organized is big business. BHPL has dozens of books on the topic - from Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger (651.5 HEM) to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life (640 LOC.) To find books on organising use these key words to search the catalog: time management, paperwork, storage etc. These terms will find books about creating the perfect closet, house remodeling, making a home office, building shelving, best filing systems and so on. These books often advise readers to go to stores selling containers and other organizational items, install closet "systems", use big plastic boxes and milk crate knock-offs, build shelves etc. For a few bucks you can buy or make the perfect container to hold the worthless junk you will probably never use again. But it will look nice and neat. For a slightly larger outlay, garages can be suited up to hold old gardening and sports equipment worth in total at least $50.00 while your car worth thousands sits out in the elements. But your stuff will look nice and neat. My fairly neat garage houses a large collection of flaccid soccer balls neatly stowed in a decorative plastic sand pail. An almost antique stroller with high mileage that I just can't give up and two bikes my kids used in elementary school neatly hang from wall hooks. My kids are out of college...and starting their own neat piles of junk. My son even offered to give me some of his own junk this week in an ironic twist on junk migration within famlies.
Back to the library topic, in the spirit of trying to organize the tsunami of information, files virtual and actual, that threaten to swamp the Reference Department, I recently took a one day course called "It's About Time, It's About Space: Time and File Management," from the NJ Medical Librarians as part of our continuing C.E. (continuing education) efforts for staff. I learned that it's ok to use post its and not to feel "post it guilt." I learned that both time and space need to be considered as separate, but connected, organizational issues. They lost me a bit there. I learned about web-based electronic organizers like my yahoo, iGoogle, Meeting Wizard and various Firefox add ons and a thing called "Don't forget the milk" which I added to my Google calendar and haven't used since I tried it out. Many clever acronyms, mnemonic devices and key phrases were offered. Participants went back to work energized, psyched to reform our procrastinating, disorderly ways and armed with a one inch thick document with photocopies of the Power Point presentation used in the class. I filed it in a file labeled C.E. It looks nice and neat.
This is the most valuable piece of advice about organizing that I can think of: throw it out. Then there will be less stuff to organize. If you can't toss stuff, that's where the trouble starts and you will need to turn to BHPL's books to get back on track. At least you can return library books and they won't clutter your house. That's another good organizational tip: use your local library.

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