Monday, June 28, 2010

Right Number, Right Purpose, Right Place

The Unclutterer blog has a great post up contemplating a one-versus-many idea of possessions.

"In theory," he writes, "we only need one pair of scissors." But in practice, we find that it's more convenient to have multiple pairs for multiple purposes and in multiple locations. The comments have lots of fun discussion about how people like to purpose their scissors.

Yes, you can get by with only one, but more of one can be very convenient. Convenience is valuable too.

I am very happy to contemplate this idea that sometimes more is better, at least to the degree that you have what you need, when and where you need it.

I've also experienced a well put-together work bench or project station, and how beautifully it contributes to productivity.

For instance, one place and career I worked, I had my own station and my own set of tools, one of everything I needed. I could reach out almost without looking and grasp exactly what I needed. After I was done, I put everything back in its place, ready for the next job.

Sure, there were more than one of most things, and specialized tools for particular jobs. The specialized gear was located in a central location, each in its specified spot, so that any of us could retrieve and put away as necessary. Everyone had at least one of the more basic tools so that no one would have to hunt or trade off while in the middle of a project. Of course, some people had more than one of a thing, and the bosses regularly borrowed one, leaving it who-knows-where. (Cue the screams of frustration: aaaiiigh!) My coworkers were not so picky about the organization of their stations, but I would growl at anyone who tried to run off with my tools (before, not after, they might have lost it). I'd rather not to waste time thinking about tracking down each thing as I needed it.

I find that a similar approach at home keeps me happy there as well.

Over the years, I've steadily moved items to the location where they are most likely to be used. So things like my tape, stapler, stamps, scissors, pens, thumbdrive, etc are right there in front of me within arms reach. No need to "dig them out." Other office supplies are stored in descending order of need. The printer, address book, and screw driver only require that I stand up. I bend down when I have to retrieve more paper for the printer. Any electronics chargers are in the closet in their designated spot - no getting lost in some dark corner. Also in the closet is a modest but highly organized caddy that keeps everything from paperclips and extra pens to watercolors and craft tools. My massive canvas stapler and ink brayer are stashed waaaaay back in a box of art tools I might need in the next couple of decades.

So. Back to the scissors. Yes, I've got 'em.

Three pairs in the kitchen. One for general papercutting and mucki-muck use. A second for food-related cutting tasks, such as cutting open a package of cheese or whatever. Then a heavy-duty kitchen knife that I use for cutting anything tough or stinky (because I can take it apart and send it through the dishwasher if necessary).

I have at least three pairs in the office. My fav is a very nice mid-sized pair of Mundial sewing scissors. I keep them in the pen-and-tool cup on my computer station. I have a pair of those Fiskars edgers that give a neat pattern edge to a piece of paper. I have a pair of nail scissors from my childhood, just because, and a little bitty pair of old fashioned scissors that came from one of the family farms. Plus a big box cutter and random blades from my art&design years.

In the bathroom, we have two pairs of scissors - my husband's mustache trimmer that I also use for trimming my hair, and a pair of "bandage scissors" with blunt ends.

In my stash of sewing gear I have three pairs. My really nice fabric scissors (Mundial again), a tiny thread trimmer pair (Mundial rocks!), and somewhere, my very old pair of fabric scissors that I acquired when I was a youngster first learning to sew. I suppose I should get rid of them, or maybe save them for when my daughter wants to start her own sewing projects when I'm not willing to let her use my good fabric scissors! (My mother was picky about the scissors designated for cutting fabric versus paper; I picked up that from her.) I also have a fabric cutting wheel blade.

Somewhere in the basement is the pair of medical scissors in the first aid kit we take backpacking.

So I feel content with this number of scissors in my life because I have just what I need where I need it. I don't have to go hunt down a particular pair for a particular purpose - it is already where I need it. And I don't foresee needing any new scissors except for a kid's version when the kiddo gets old enough to responsibly hack up construction paper.

I don't feel content with the number of flashlights I have.

Flashlights are one of those items that we always feel we need more of, only to realize that we already have too many! I think it's partly that their roles are NOT well defined, other than having a couple in a certain drawer (in case of power outage), bitty ones on our keychains (for dark driveways), and a headlamp (for camping and doing work in the attic).

That doesn't count the flashlights that people keep giving us as gifts (so useful, so cool! I can imagine them saying), and the cool stuff that we find ourselves infatuated with. Compact book lights are a particular weakness; I've told myself I have the best one already, No More! So we have a moratorium on flashlights.

I can imagine it would be a useful exercise to write out the number of a given item and the purpose of each. Is it indeed what you need? Does it fulfill its purpose? Is it where it will be best used?

Although some people are put to sleep by such details, I find this kind of meta-contemplation incredible invigorating.

Shoes: eleven, closet. Melon baller: one, kitchen drawer. Tents: uh, do we have to go there?

Self reflection gives me feedback about how I am living my life. So it's not only useful, but it's fun! (Bonus - I often get blog posts out of it. Wait - that might actually account for most of my blog! heh.)

I enjoy discovering new ways to streamline and enhance my life. So yes, I am working to get rid of clutter. Indeed I've got an extra set of kitchen knives in my donation box right now. And that pair of shoes that doesn't fit anymore, etcetera.

Clearing away what is not especially useful allows me to see what really works, not just in my kitchen or in my office, but in my life. And sometimes that means I need more of something. But in just the right place for just the right purpose. Cool. Must go contemplate some more.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We've spent the last couple of weeks on the road, visiting folks.

We stayed in a hotel and several housefuls of children and dogs. We had visits with uncles and aunts and cousins and random relatives from several sides of our families, and an old college friend to top it all off.

We went through seven-plus sleeping venue changes and forty-four people in less than fourteen days.

That count included four uncles, three aunts, five cousins, one niece, two nephews, at least fourteen children, my in-laws, a college friend, and various spouses, relatives, and associates. Oh, and not to mention three dogs, two baby pygmy goats, and approximately twenty-three cats and kittens.

It was a full trip.

The last morning on our way home, I started feeling kinda peckish. My stomach growled and gurgled. I put it down to being absolutely starved. We stopped for a late breakfast, and I ordered some of everything. But the food turned funny in my mouth, and the spinach in my omelet in particular tasted rotten. I didn't finish more than half. As we progressed further down the road, I felt more and more ill. Several hours later, we were finally home.

DH unloaded the car while I languished from room to room feeling disembodied. I felt compelled to sweep the floors, clearing out the dirt and grit that had accumulated while we were gone, but made little headway on the stack of mail or our luggage.

I did rouse myself to nurse between bouts of nausea, but then fell asleep at some indeterminate early-late hour on the couch with a small bowl in my hand. Even when my husband roused me in the wee hours to shuffle back to a real bed, I had to make a pit stop to heave into a wastebasket.

I fell into a deep, semi-dreamy sleep after forcing myself to visualize the faces of friends and family instead of the plate of spinach-laden omelet staring up at me.

When I woke, it was to the tune of cats vying for my ankles and my husband puttering in the front room. The little girl thumped her way down the hallway and into the bedroom to poke her head over the edge of the bed to smile at me. She saw the cats and started mewing at them. Miao, miao.

My husband came in the room. "She keeps saying appul or appun, and I don't know what she means," he said. "She's trying to say 'open,'" I muttered sleepily. She's using the cap on her new water bottle to learn about open and closed.

I sat up and felt, if not well, tolerably vertical. I sipped water, gingerly walked down the hall, and nursed the little girl.

I looked around curiously at the piles of baby toys and shoes, bags and boxes, and the stack of letters and bills still waiting for me. The suitcases hadn't even been unpacked yet.

Everything looked odd. It looked like somebody else's home. The next stop on the road.

Where was I again?

If it's Wednesday, it must be home. It is Wednesday, isn't it?