This morning, a woman gave me the most exciting bit of news I’ve had this week – she is descended from Isham Gault, one of the people I wrote about in The Slaves Have Names.  Just the confirmation that Isham had descendants . . . oh, the joy.

Organizing My Home Office

This system isn’t really working for me. . . but isn’t this chair great – we found it above the summer kitchen.

When I got her message, I wanted to run upstairs and pull all the notes I had about him to share with him . . . then I hit a snag: at the moment, all my notes for the book are in a tote, making them difficult to sort through with ease.

Ah, physical organization – it’s not my strong suit.  I can keep 400 projects straight in my head, hold dates and timelines and to do lists easily at hand – but when it comes to organizing paperwork, books, bills, my clothes, the pantry – I’m pitiful.

Really, ask Philip.  It’s true. Recently, he’s helped me develop a system for organizing business receipts, redone my personal filing cabinet, and taken on the task of keeping the pantry in some sort of order.  (Good thing I married someone who could do this stuff, right?)

The fact of the matter is that spatial reasoning is not my forte.  I find it difficult to even determine whether something fill fit in a space, much less how to make it fit with order and structure.

Oddly enough, I’m pretty good at doing this kind of organization for other people, just not myself.  (I also find that I enjoy cleaning other people’s houses . . . while “loathesome” is the word I’d apply to the task of spiffing up the farmhouse.)

But it’s becoming quite imperative that I get my files in order, so I can find information quickly and efficiently and so that my many research projects have systems that allow me to understand relationships and dates easily.  Historical research can easily become a chaos of information without some structure.  (Historians, can I get a “hear! hear?”)

I love the tips in this article, so here’s what I’m going to do, right away, when I move over to the Summer Kitchen Office.

  • Filing Cabinets – I’m going to get at least 2 filing cabinets so that I can organize projects by drawers and then files within drawers.
  • Office Supply Organization – I need to find some systems for keeping paper, envelopes, pens (Uniball Vision Elite all the way!), highlighters, and myriad Post-Its organized.  (Suggestions welcome.)
  • Bookshelves – The one thing I usually do have organized are my books, but in the new office, I’ll have to decide which books come with me there and which stay in the farmhouse.  That alone may take a day of thinking.
  • In and Out Boxes – I need a system for managing things I need to fill out and mail, paperwork that I use on a regular basis for projects, and items that I need to file – three in and out boxes, maybe?

I’m also thinking I might need to use binders more . . . any binder fans out there? What about flags? Color-coded folders? Is there any way I can justify the purchase of a Trapper Keeper?

I tend to dismiss organization as something that just takes valuable time from my work, but more and more, I realize that I need it TO work. . . so I’m committed.  Hold me accountable, alright?

What are your best organizational techniques for research, paperwork, and books?