Monday, January 14, 2008

Julie Morgenstern: Organizing from the Inside Out

After the holidays are over and the new year comes around, I almost always get the organizing bug. I start to think of all the projects I want to do over the new year and have this urge to reevaluate and find ways to be more efficient, more organized, more productive. For those of you who have similar tendencies, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

A few years back, a friend gave me Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out, and it really changed the way I think about organizing. Here are two very simple but brilliant concepts from the book that really stuck with me:

1. Work with your habits, not against them. Habits are really really hard to break. If you tend to leave your dirty clothes in a heap by the bed, for instance (and no, I'm not pointing any fingers here!), putting a hamper in the laundry room or in the bathroom is not going to help. You are probably still going to leave the clothes in a heap by the bed and at some point scoop them up and take them to the hamper.

Instead, Julie Morgenstern suggests that you work *with* your habit and put the hamper right there at the foot of the bed or very close by. If your jewelry piles up on top of your dresser, put some hooks and/or a little box right there. If you try to create an organizing system that goes against your normal habits, it won't work, and it will be endlessly frustrating.

2. Create Activity Zones. I love this one. The idea is that every room should be organized like a kindergarten classroom with "zones" for each activity. The first step is to figure out what you *do* in your space. I'll use my office as an example. Here are my activities:
  • Read
  • Create (music, writing, etc.)
  • Teach lessons
  • Pay bills
  • Work on curriculum for Songwriting for Kids
  • Work on music promotion, online & offline, booking gigs, etc.
It used to be that everything was all mixed in together (my desk had song fragments, bills, enrollment forms, and books on it) and each time I walked in my office, I was overwhelmed by so many things to do. So I Julie Morgenstern-ed my office. I now have:
  • A corner with all the books on my reading list, a futon, and a reading lamp.
  • My desk is completely devoted to song and story ideas, works in progress, and books on songwriting.
  • A corner with the piano, guitar, and shelves that are filled with all my lesson books.
  • The left side of my closet has shelving with all my Songwriting for Kids supplies, enrollment forms, and curriculum.
  • The right side has slots for bills, contracts, CDs, all my equipment for shows, and other financials and paperwork.
The best thing about this new setup is that I can close the door (or rather, the curtain) on all the bills, music business, and other paperwork and financial materials. So when I am *not* working on those things, I don't even have to see them. Just the piano, guitar, books, and writing materials.

It's a *much* better place to create!


Anonymous said...

This is such a fabulous idea!

I am a writer, and seeing all the stuff that *needs* to be done zaps all my energy and I find it very difficult to write in my home office. I used to just give up and go to Starbucks with my laptop.

I'm going to try concealing everything that doesn't support my creative process and see if that helps. I have a large storage closet and plenty of cabinets, so this should be doable for me.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Josephine Cameron said...

I know exactly what you mean. It's made a huge difference for me. I just feel *lighter* when I walk in that room now. I'd love to hear about your progress when you're done!