Tag Archives: organization

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 3: Horrors in the Hidden Abyss

I return triumphant, flushed with my most recent victory against the Clutter Dragon! *heroic music*

This week, I tackled the giant mess in front of the overflowing closet–this area has been jokingly named the “Clutter Abyss,” and this picture proves it:

This is where I started; my goal was to clear the floor immediately in front of the closet, and to uncover the old TV in the corner so we can take it to be donated. (Don’t see a TV in this picture? I promise you there is one–it’s just hidden by all the clutter! SAD!)

Task #1: Everything Off the Floor

Just like always, my bed became the staging area for all the keepable items:

Sadly enough, this is just the first layer of junk that I removed from the floor to sort through. When I took this picture, I had not yet waded down to the second layer of keepable items, which was hidden beneath yet another layer of paper clutter and trash. (Side note: that is my computer you see in the background–I needed a little cleaning music to keep my spirits up. 😀 )

As you can see, the layer of trash/paper clutter was quite a bit more daunting than in the last episode–more had been allowed to accumulate, and was actually covering up more stuff. Sigh, such is the life of a pack rat!

The most random things showed up when I began to sift through the mess…like this VHS case for the first Pokemon movie. I have no idea why it was mixed in with everything else; I have a theory that my room’s mess comes alive and just swallows stuff at random. LOL

Once the paper clutter and trash was all dealt with, this was the vista I was greeted with. Still quite a ways to go…my fight was not yet over! I still had plenty of stuff to put up–and nowhere to put it.

The Root of All (Cluttered) Evil: The Closet

I have not yet spoken much of my bedroom closet itself, though it is actually the main reason my room remains cluttered. Having been converted into shelved toy storage in my childhood, many of those girlhood toys have remained on the shelves collecting dust ever since.

The end result:

Um…yeah, it’s kinda bad. The closet was physically unreachable for many years due to severe pack-rat-itis, and when I finally did reach it during the Super Duper Cleanout of 2009, I did not tackle it; the project looked too daunting after finally clearing the rest of the room. My energy flagged, and so I procrastinated on completing this final task.

But the no-storage problem in my room has not gone away; indeed, it led to the Clutter Dragon taking up residence yet again in my room. (Food for thought: if I had tackled the closet 3 years ago, I might not be fighting the Clutter Dragon now. Sigh…)

A Small Closet Side Quest

So, to start using the closet space a little better, I rearranged the middle shelf in the above picture just a little bit, to allow for more things to be stored on it. Then I put up the few things from the floor that would fit onto it, being careful not to overload the shelf in the process.

Now, that shelf is better-used, though it still looks as messy as its brethren. But this won’t be the last you hear about the closet!

Uncovering the Bed

This time, after cleaning up the floor, I was left with quite a big pile of junk on the bed, none of which could leave the room–it was all my stuff and needed to find a home somewhere within the room.

Not to mention that there was still junk to be cleaned off the old TV in the corner. (You can just barely see it, bottom center of the picture.)

Though the sight of all these items left to deal with made my energy begin to waver, I knew I could not quit now. After all, I had this very blog post to write, and I did not want to disappoint myself by doing less than I had planned. So I struck out at the Clutter Dragon yet again, and began to work at uncovering the TV and the rest of the floor in front of it.

In the middle of this effort, I randomly discovered a box full of Christmas presents from about 2 years ago. I had forgotten I even owned these books! :O They were quickly taken from the room and put with my other books, elsewhere in the house, so they wouldn’t get messed up further in the cleanup effort.

Cleaning off the TV also meant that I found several of my colder-weather jackets strewn about. In need of a place to hang them, I finally made use of the six-hook over-the-door hanging system I had bought a few months ago, putting it on half of one of the louvered closet doors. It’s not ideal, but hopefully it won’t be permanent. (Famous last words, at least in my room. LOL)

Believe it or not, there’s a TV under there! With the floor mostly cleared and the random stuff atop it removed, now I can maneuver a dolly into the room to cart the TV off to Goodwill or wherever else might take it.

With that, the second half of the job was complete!

But there was still a problem: the bed was still covered with boxes of random stuff. And, unlike earlier in the day, I was not much in a mood to continue sorting. More than anything, after almost an hour working with little rest (or ventilation in the room, for that matter), I wanted the bed cleared off.

So, I reverted to a solution that always worked well for me in my childhood. I cleaned off the bed…

…and stuffed all the randomness into the next small area of the room, to be dealt with later. 😛 (This junk pile will be part of a future episode of “Slaying the Clutter Dragon,” I promise. :D)

One Small Step for Woman, One Giant Lunge at the Dragon

This is basically what the Closet Clutter Abyss looks like now–it may not look much better to the neat-freak’s eye, but it will enable us to cart away the TV, which will free up the corner space and the closet door. And once that space is open for maneuvering…

…the next phase of defeating the Clutter Dragon will go into effect. I know now that no room-cleaning will ever be effective unless this closet is confronted and conquered–the last three years are living proof of that.

So, next week, I will begin the unenviable task of tackling the closet, one shelf at a time. Though I might be trapped in the Closet Abyss for several weeks, I will not overload myself each week–that will only lead to procrastination and ultimately quitting. The closet must be conquered bit by definitive bit, rather than trying to do it all in one go. Kind of like weight loss, I guess!

Tune in next week for my first foray into the Closet of Childhoods Past! Who knows what I’ll find in there among the detritus of girlhood?

BONUS: The New and Improved Display Shelf

In the first installment of this series, I showed you how I first designed the display shelf for my figurines. I have since improved on it, using the display shelf as a way to store my DVD collection as well as my figurines.

This picture encompasses the smaller of the two Belle & Beast figurines on the left, my entire DVD collection, and my little collection of figurines off to the right.

I freed the Dove figurine from her packaging and set her up on the included stand; I added the small Belle figurine and a newly-acquired Princess Peach figurine alongside, to create a little vignette of some of my favorite characters.

The larger of the two Belle & Beast figurines did get her special display spot at last, sitting atop my dresser. Once the dresser gets cleaned off (in a future issue of “Slaying the Clutter Dragon”), she’ll be showcased properly.

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 2: The Valiant Sword Sweep

I’m back with another installment of defeating the Clutter Dragon in my bedroom! This time, flushed with the success of last week’s efforts, I endeavored to clean off the top of the plastic dresser next to the catchall bins.

This is what I planned to clean up, anyway. But there was a problem.

…THIS pile of junk was on the floor in front of the dresser. I could not even reach the other side of the dresser to clean it off without slipping and falling on the pile (and believe me, I tried). There were literally no places to put my feet, and no floorspace to work within.

The Clutter Dragon had struck back at me with its vicious tail. If I were to get anywhere with my original project idea of cleaning up the dresser top, I had to clean up the floor first…and that meant tacking on much more work than I had expected.

But it had to be done. I was heartily sick of living this way. And, after all, I didn’t want to disappoint myself, or you, my faithful readers! 🙂

Uncovering the Floor, and Hidden Treasures Galore

I began by picking up most every item off the floor, throwing obvious trash away as I did so, until my entire bed surface was again full of items that needed to be sorted.

Again, I amaze myself at how much utter crap I can cram into such a small space. Argh. >_< But surprisingly, I found that about half of this stuff did not actually belong in my room at all--I had just stored it on my room floor because it was a "temporary" storage spot. (Note to self: no place I set any item in is going to be just a "temporary" spot. If I've learned anything about my organizing habits, it's that.) Thankfully, I was able to take some items out of the room entirely and put them back where they belonged. AWESOME! 😀 (The less junk in my room, the better.) Other items just needed to find another, more permanent home within my space, so I took time during this first step to find each misplaced item a home to belong in. For instance: several travel bags, which were lumped in with the clutter, but which actually need to be stored with the rest of my luggage in a corner of my room. Once all these big items were dealt with (or stored on the bed for the moment), I discovered that there was a hidden layer underneath all the keepable items: a layer of paper clutter, unbeknownst to me.
Did I mention how much I hate paper clutter? Especially having to stop and read through it to see whether I need to keep or toss it? Drives me nuts. It’s the worst part of cleaning, I swear. >:(

Anyway, the trash bag again came in handy, as I slowly sorted through all this detritus pictured above. For this part, I had to sit on the floor; my ankle was beginning to complain, as was my back, from having to bend and lift as I had done for almost 45 minutes thus far.

But, once all the random paper clutter was cleared up (either thrown out or put aside for sorting/shredding), I had this lovely vista to gaze at:

This is what was left behind after clearing away the larger paper mess–little bits of paper randomness, crumbs, and general dirt. (How all that dirt got in underneath all the clutter, I will NEVER know. I think it just burrowed under there or something. SIGH…)

Lacking a working small vacuum cleaner that can maneuver into these tight spaces, I improvised with a broom and dustpan. Though my floor is carpet and really does need a good vacuuming, this will have to do for now.

As you can see, I did a pretty good job of sweeping up most of the crumby dirty mess. You can actually tell that the carpet used to be white, now. xD

First small win of the day: in the process of picking up and sweeping, I found about $2.50 in coins hidden on the floor. Hidden treasures, indeed! Every little bit helps! 😀

Tackling the Dresser Top, At Last!

With most of the obvious trash gone, and most of the large items sorted, I was left with less of a pile on the bed. I then deemed it was time to tackle that messy dresser top. So I took all the stuff off the dresser and put it onto the nearest available surface…the bed, again.

Um, yeah. I know this looks pretty terrible. But all this clutter carnage was necessary…see what happened?

See? Proof that there WAS a surface under there, and that I DID clean it off completely! 😀 I even dusted, which is a small miracle in and of itself. xD

Once everything from the dresser was on the bed, I began the sorting process again, throwing away obvious trash, laying aside important financial bits and papers (pay stubs, receipts, and the like) where I would not lose them till I have dealt with them, etc.

One of the unexpected wins I came across during this cleaning spree was a selection of shoeboxes, shipping boxes, and a few organizational bins I had purchased in a futile past effort to clean.

Each of these little boxes and bins came in handy to sort out and store little items from the dresser top which could easily get lost. (Pardon the blurry picture…my hand must have been shaking or something. 🙁 )

In the process of organizing, sorting, storing, and throwing away, I found even more treasure hidden by the Clutter Dragon:

Yay! I think there’s close to 4 bucks in there now. 😀

At last, when I finally got everything from the dresser top sorted and/or dealt with, I put back just a few items that were meant to sit there:

Mainly, the dresser top holds mail, my cell phone (especially while it’s charging), some assorted arts/crafts supplies (because I don’t have desk space for them yet), and other things I’m generally using on a daily basis. I even have a mail/paper sorter off to the side for bigger paper pieces. But I’m never going to let it get so stacked up again!

YAY a clean bed! Proof that I did actually do some real cleaning, right?

The floor beside the bed, which I worked so hard to clear, just has a couple of bags set there so they will not get damaged elsewhere in the room (because I am prone to accidentally trampling on stuff). Ultimately, they will both go somewhere else in the room…but that must wait for next week.

Next Week: The Cluttery Abyss

What horrors next await me in my battle with the Clutter Dragon? This picture does not even do it justice. Next week, this procrastinating warrior will face the hardest challenge yet: the Abyss of Closet Clutter! Stay tuned!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon: The First Sword Charge

Hello, my name is Robin, and I’m a pack rat.

I really didn’t intend to let it get this bad, but here it is. This is the first of my set of “catchall” bins, situated right at the door of my room to catch my purse, library books, Sunday school texts, and anything else that kept getting lost in the black hole of my room.

It started out as a place of organization, about a year ago. You can see what’s happened since then…it’s lived up completely to its “catchall” nickname.

I REALLY don’t like this habit of mine, but it happens every time. First, I get a clean, flat surface available in my house, and I enjoy its cleanliness for a few days. Then I start thinking “COOL, I have a place to put [insert random object here]; I’ll just set it here till I have a permanent place for it.” Repeat this process about 1,000 times, and soon my “clean flat surface” is a “junky flat surface” again, often overflowing its junk into the floor at random intervals.

And when I say that every clean flat surface in my room is covered with junk, I mean that…

every single…

flat surface…

in my room…

is covered…

with JUNK.

And yet, it’s seemingly all “necessary junk.” I can’t really get rid of it, even when I search through it, because when I do check through this junk, it’s all stuff I need access to, or need to categorize, otherwise I’ll forget about having it in the first place.

Wait, How Can You “Forget” About Your Stuff?

When I put things away, I tend to forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind, LITERALLY.

This is one reason I can’t put library books anywhere but RIGHT at the door, easily visible from my bed, because if I put them somewhere else, they’ll never be returned, or even read. Items have to be staring me right in the face if I’m going to think about them (and even then, sometimes I still walk out of the house without that library book I’ve been meaning to return for a week).

The Intent of the Catchall Bins

Because I apparently can’t put things away without forgetting that I even have them, I got this set of open catchall bins. I will say it’s done its job fairly well, keeping my Sunday school books and Bible from being stomped on or lost, keeping me from forgetting about library books, and keeping my purse out of trouble on the floor. It just…well, it just looks like the rest of my room now–overflowing with junk.

The Solution: Clean Out, Categorize, Replace

So, this past Friday, I finally tackled these messy bins, marking the first “sword charge” in my battle against the Clutter Dragon, who had claimed my room for its domain.

The first thing I had to do was to take everything out of the bins so I could sort it all. (I also had to dust out all the bins, especially the bottom one…for being so crammed full of junk, it sure got dusty!)

The following picture shows the result of cleaning out the bins:

My full-size bed is almost completely covered with the junk from these four small bins. :/ I hadn’t realized, until this moment, just HOW much stuff was hiding in open storage. Yes, yes, I know, my “Severe Pack Rat” certification is in the mail as we speak. xD

It’s a terrible jumble of old bank statements, church bulletins, Sunday school textbooks, random books, magazines, and DVDs, even past Christmas gifts (the two red boxes in particular). But most maddening out of all this junk was the paper clutter, the stuff I have to read through to see if I still need to keep it. Paper clutter is probably THE reason I live such a cluttered life–it just takes so much TIME to read and sort through all of it, and it just makes me tired to look at it.

Anyhoo, once the bins were emptied…

(proof that they WERE empty at one time, lol)

…then I had to begin the unenviable task of sorting and throwing away–i.e., the most difficult part of organization and cleaning.

I put back the necessary stuff onto the bins, all the stuff I knew I was keeping there; my purse, Kindle, Bible, current magazines, and gym gear, mainly. Then, I just had this remaining stuff left:

Most of this was old Sunday school texts, random old magazines, a DVD or CD here and there, Christmas gifts, and, of course, paper clutter. I sorted through all the paper trash next, mainly because I was getting mighty sick of looking at it. (Sad to say, some of the paper clutter got shifted to yet another flat surface because I need a shredder before I can throw it out. SIGH.)

But, once that was done, I was left with two piles: old Sunday school texts, and past Christmas gifts.

A Side Quest: Creating a Display Shelf

The old Sunday school stuff already had a future home: back at the church, where it belonged. But the Christmas gifts? I devised a whole new plan on the spot to deal with those.

See, the Christmas gifts were all little statues and figurines my boyfriend has bought me over the last couple of years, and because of the lack of clean flat surfaces in my room, I’ve never even unboxed them; there was no point in doing so. But as I glanced across the room, to the desk which has stood there since I was a little girl, I caught sight of the shelf just above the desk surface, and had an “A-HA!!!” moment.

Cleaning off the shelf of girlhood detritus (a couple of small dollhouses) was the work of about 10 minutes; I was left with this blank, clean canvas. Thus, I unboxed the three figurines at last, and added to that total another figurine I’d been wanting to display as well.

Here’s the result: my new display shelf!

From left: Belle looking at the Enchanted Rose under the glass; Belle and the Beast dancing (from the iconic scene in Beauty and the Beast); Dove II (Dawn Granger), still in the toy packaging. (I’m going to get a stand for the Dove figure at some point, but I didn’t have one handy for this shot.) Pardon this shot’s slight blurriness–it’s very hard to get pictures in a room as cluttered as mine!

Sadly, the biggest statue my boyfriend had gotten me was just a wee bit too tall for the shelf, so I had to put it on the desk below.

She’ll get her rightful place on a display shelf someday, I swear it! 😀

The Result of the First Epic Cleaning Quest

Here’s the result of my hard work:

This is the top bin, which stores my purse, Kindle, CDs, and anything else that usually leaves the house with me. (My ankle braces are hung on either side to remind me to wear them as much as possible.)

The books/magazines bin, second from the top, which contains all that I’m currently reading and working on. Great for keeping library books safe, too!

The third bin holds only my Bible at the moment, but will soon hold my current Sunday School textbook for the new quarter–again, to keep it safe from the floor and my clumsy self.

…And I don’t have a picture of the bottom bin because it kept showing up very dark and blurry. Lighting in my room is terrible for pictures. But all that’s in there are my gym shoes anyway. LOL! That is a triumph in itself–now I no longer have to hunt through the piles of crap in my room every week to find my shoes!

I am immensely proud of this first effort, even if it doesn’t look like much. It’s the first time I’ve been able to DO anything with this room in months, and admittedly it was very difficult to get started. But now that I AM started, now that I have charged in and stabbed at the clutter dragon…I find myself eager to continue, before it gets the better of me again.

Next Epic Cleaning Quest: The Dresser Beside the Bins

Next week, I’ll be tackling the top of the overflowing plastic dresser unit near the door. I’m not even worried about what’s IN the dresser; it’s what’s on TOP of the dresser that’s bugging me. Tune in next Tuesday for the next installment of “Slaying the Clutter Dragon!”

Clutter and Creativity: A Little Goes a LONG Way

Ever heard the old saying that “clutter is a sign of a creative mind at work?” Well, if that’s true, then I have the most creative mind on the PLANET.

I will demonstrate, with a potentially highly-embarrassing picture of my room as it is right now.

I’m not sure if this kind of clutter is what the saying-makers had in mind… xD It looks like I’ve been in the process of moving for the better part of half my life. (For reference, the left side of the picture shows the closet puking its cluttery guts up on the floor; the bottom right corner is a small slice of the bed, remarkably tidy; the top right corner is one part of the dresser, also covered in clutter. The rest of the room is similarly “decorated”…I need not inflict more suffering on my viewers than this.)

How a Too-Tidy Room Can Inhibit Your Creative Juices

Now, I admit, I can be pretty clean and organized when I put my mind to it (or if I get ticked off enough at not being able to find anything). But I have always hated a too-perfect room, too. You know, where everything’s SO tidy and SO put away that you feel like you can’t even step into the room without wrecking the perfection of it. A too-tidy room feels like a doll’s house or an operating room rather than a person’s real living space.

My mother always loved for me to have a room that looked like a doll’s room as a kid, because she liked that everything looked really cute and was easy to clean up. I had difficulty even breathing or sitting down in my room when it was like that, by contrast–it felt like anything I did in the room was going to spoil it all somehow. Trying to work in that space, then, was almost impossible, when every creative project I tried to do in there seemed to undo all of the hard work that had gone into cleaning and straightening the room.

However, I think I may have taken the “clutter = creativity” thing a little bit too far. What do you think? 😛

How a LITTLE Clutter Can Help Creativity

A little clutter, I believe, makes it easier for one to think outside the box. With a little disorder around, you don’t feel like you just HAVE to think along certain, well-beaten paths, and you have mental “room” to innovate or just toy with an idea for a while. A little clutter reminds you that disorder is part of the creation process–things have to get a little messy (to paraphrase Ms. Frizzle) in order to come up with something AWESOME.

I notice that when my desk is just a little disordered–not covered up, but not empty of my personality either–I feel a little more “at home” and feel more inclined to use it to work. I can easily clear a little space to work, but I have things on the desk that inspire me to work more if I get stuck, or are ready at hand if I need to switch gears for a moment to refresh my creative juices.

How MEGA-Clutter Hurts Creativity

But, on the flip side, too much clutter makes it impossible to think of anything. Well, anything besides “Where IS everything?!”, “****, I just lost my pen! Again!”, and “I am SO tired of this grocery bag sticking to my foot every time I walk in here!” (True story…that picture of my room is definitely not faked.)

In my room as it is now, my desk is so covered with junk I couldn’t show it to you, for fear the Clean Police would beat down my door. Using it as a workspace is a lost cause, and has been for many a year; it’s just not feasible to “clear off a space” when everything is in a jumble and it’s hard to tell what to keep and what to get rid of. Nothing creative can go on when there’s so much distracting stuff to look at, and so much to clear off before one can even get started.

The Solution: Balance–Not Too Tidy, Not Too Cluttered

So, how does one include just enough things out of place or disordered, without the whole space becoming too aggravating to work in? Here is what I’m trying in my current space:

  • First, put away anything that doesn’t have anything to do with the current project you’re working on. Looking at a bunch of bills and junk mail while you’re trying to craft the next great symphony, for instance, will only distract you.
  • But don’t clear everything away! Leave out in the open anything that directly pertains to your current project. If you’re working on a novel, you’ll want pen and paper, maybe a whiteboard, all the random notes you’ve scribbled down on random napkins and receipts, etc. If you’re trying to paint or draw, you’ll want your art supplies, extra paper, those extra sketches and doodles for inspiration, etc.
  • Don’t go nuts trying to make your workspace tidy, unless an untidy workspace sets your OCD off. For me, a too-tidy workplace hems me in, and I feel trapped by pristine perfection; having things a little tiny bit scattered gives me breathing room. But whatever you choose to do, put pertinent objects on and around your workspace in places that feel natural to you, so you won’t be distracted trying to find things in the middle of your creative frenzy.

A Final Note: Don’t Confuse Clutter with Garbage

If you find yourself wading in paper scraps, gift wrap, old receipts you don’t need to file, grocery bags (again, true story)…do take time to remove the obvious trash, so that your perfectly disorderly workspace doesn’t end up covered over and unused. Trash is not creative, not unless you’re making an art project or a sculpture with it. (And if you are making a trash sculpture, let me know, and I will happily donate materials to your cause. xD)

Organize Your Creativity with Bubble Maps

Around third grade, I was taught how to draw something like the following illustration:

Using this, we were told, you could expand out ideas based on a central concept. You’d put the seed of the idea in the middle of the map, and then write more details about the idea in the outer “bubbles”. This was called a “Bubble Map,” one of the many thinking maps we learned how to do that year (see examples of other thinking maps in this PDF).

We often used these in school to get our thoughts together before writing a rough draft of a report, or to record observations on a specific concept. And there are several other uses for them, according to this eHow article.

Mostly science, language, and history used these thought-organization tools…but it occurred to me recently to try using a bubble map in particular to expand on a creative idea.

Why I Chose the Bubble Map Form

The structure of a bubble map is quite adaptable to any idea you want to explore, and its creation is simple; considering that my motivation for creative things has been somewhat lacking of late, I knew I needed something that was simple and adaptable for my use as a visual “thought prop”, to allow myself to flesh out an idea without feeling so daunted and overwhelmed.

Examples of Creative-Idea Bubble Maps

Seeing your thoughts visually organized like this can boost your creativity, as I found out while constructing the following two examples:

This one depicts ideas on my newest layout ideas for WithinMyWorld.org. Notice how I’m tackling many facets of design–usability/legibility, color choice, image and link styles. Bubble maps are great for doing this; the only limit to what you put in the “bubbles” is how big you drew the bubble to start with!

In this bubble map, I’m thinking hard about the various style details of a new song, describing the “mood” of the music, how to play the melody and accompaniment, how to style lyrics, etc. Bubble maps are very good for fleshing out minute details–stuff you would usually think of in a burst of inspiration and then forget.

Learn How to Make Your Own Bubble Maps

Aside from the time-honored pencil-and-paper method described in this eHow article, you can also do as I did and create one digitally using your favorite image-creation program (I used Microsoft Paint). With later editions of Microsoft Word, you can also do SmartArt Graphics that mimic some aspects of bubble maps and other thinking maps, as well. (Learn more about how to make SmartArt graphics here.)

And, if you want to build your bubble map digitally and easily online, there are actually several online apps that you can use. These are NIFTY 🙂

Don’t Think These Would Work for You?

Well, what if I told you that the song I describe in the second bubble map wasn’t even on the list of creative projects until I started trying to do a bubble map about music? Within moments of finishing the map, I was inspired to go to the keyboard and start messing around with a totally new melody.

If these things can jump-start my creativity in these days of headaches and mental fatigue…well, they might just save the world, who knows? GO BUBBLE MAPS! 😀

The Massive Beauty-Product Purge

I’ll admit it, I’m an OCD hoarder. If you could see my bedroom…well, maybe it’s best if I don’t post such traumatizing, disturbing pictures of disorganization and junk stacks on the Internet. (LOL) And besides notebooks, scraps of paper, and purses, I have also hoarded beauty products most of my life. Hey, having it at home is better than having to go out and buy it, right?

…WRONG. When your bathroom countertops overflow into the sink and onto the floor on a regular basis, and the under-sink cabinets are stuffed full of products whose bottles have ruptured and/or otherwise leaked, you know you’re in trouble.

Yet I let it lie like this for years, stymied, paralyzed. I couldn’t do anything with the junk, even the junk I KNEW was junk, because…well, if I got rid of it, and then I needed it later, I’d have to go out and re-buy it. Torture.

The Breaking Point

The stalemate between me and the growing mess finally broke one spring afternoon in 2011, when I was, ahem, otherwise occupied in the bathroom and had nothing better to do than to stare at the mess covering the countertops.

As I watched, a series of large perfume bottles (Bath and Body Works-sized) slid slowly into the sink, piling up on top of each other like a fragrance avalanche. The noise and rumbling of the perfume bottles set off a couple of smaller avalanches of facial wipes boxes, soap containers, and shampoo bottles, cascading into the floor like so many mountain boulders.

My first instinctive thought was, “…REALLY?” I’d dealt with the mess associated with hoarding most of my life, but I’d never seen a mess move on its own, not like this, anyway.

This had to stop. It was no longer just an innocuous pile on countertops, but a threatening mass that was making it impossible for me to use my own bathroom space, let alone anybody who dared to come into the house. This…HAD to stop. It was beauty-product madness.

The War Begins

My first volley in the war on beauty clutter was to rid myself of all the obviously expired products–all the stuff that had mold growing on it, had exploded, or was otherwise unsuitable for putting on my face or body anymore.

My awesome boyfriend proved his love ten times over by helping me with all of it, since it hurts a lot for me to squat down and/or stand in one place for very long. (He is awesome, focused, logical man, especially when this little bird gets overtired and cranky.) Together, we unloaded the overstuffed cabinets into trash bag after trash bag, discovering the following gems in the process:

  • a can of prehistoric hair spray (kidding–it was only from 1996…I think)
  • several crushed shower gel bottles
  • dozens and dozens of dusty, gummy little-girl hair scrunchies
  • more sanitary pads than the world’s women will ever need
  • three cream-to-powder foundation palettes which had some kind of horrible splotchy mold on them
  • a hoard of toothpaste tubes, which were keeping one of the cabinet drawers from opening AND closing
  • a vial of liquid foundation that was literally puke-green in color. It used to be the color of my face, about ten years ago.
  • one shampoo bottle that had apparently become volatile and EXPLODED, leaving green slime all over most of the cabinet’s inventory
  • a can of brown spray paint that had somehow “eaten” itself and rusted almost completely away. (We were both like, “WHAT is this BROWN POWDER in this CABINET?!” And the smell…*UGH*)

The Hardest Part: Purging What Was “Still Good”

Once we got rid of the obvious trash, which was fairly easy, I faced the largest obstacle: getting rid of stuff that still had life in it, was still usable.

For me, getting rid of still-usable stuff is hard, because I look at the pile of stuff I’m getting rid of and think “wasted money.” It makes me literally sick to think of all the dollars going out the door in trash bags. Thus, another reason why I hoard, I guess.

I started having real trouble with it, was almost too daunted to keep going, until my boyfriend said, “Honestly, honey, how long has it been since you used it? If it makes you happier to keep it, please go ahead–but this doesn’t look like it’s been touched in years.”

My instant argument back was, “Well, I would have used it if I could have FOUND it in this mess!”

“True,” he replied, “but do you have anything that does exactly the same function?”

He had a point. In some cases, I did have something (or several somethings) that fulfilled exactly the same function (like the 7 nail clippers–I wish that was a jest). Knowing that part of my junk problem lay in having multiple copies of the same item was an important key in getting over my attachment to the items I’d bought.

In the case of the nail clippers, I kept 3 of the 7, because one was a specific, larger toenail clipper, one was regular nail clippers, and one was an itty-bitty nail clipper/file combo that I put into my purse. The other 4 went away–2 got given away, and 2, we found, were irreparably broken/rusted anyway, so they were trashed.

Systematically, we hunted through all the stuff. Endless iterations of Night-Blooming Jasmine shower gel and perfume (which I stockpiled because B&BW only offers it twice a year), 10 different Clinique compacts of pressed powder, literal hundreds of lip glosses…all were evaluated, condensed, and the excess removed. (We found that 4 of the jasmine perfume bottles were all just alcohol anyway…no fragrance smell remained. SAD)

The Aftermath

By the time the organizing carnage was (mostly) over, my bathroom cabinets were cleared; their interiors were empty and dusted out, left to air out overnight after long years of being shut away in shame. The countertops were also cleaned and polished up, and new systems of organization went into place atop them, showcasing my jewelry, my fragrance bottles, and my impressive scrunchie collection (hey, I grew up in the 90s, all right?). I also FINALLY had a place for all my makeup–at least, what remained of the huge collection I had (but more about that later).

At last, after years of getting ready (somehow) amid a torrent of products, my bathroom had become a true lady’s dressing room and ablutions room. I finally had room for everything, and everything that I had was stuff I was really going to use and really enjoyed, from shampoos and conditioners to fragrances, from powders to lipsticks and everything in between.

Next Week: The Makeup Survivors

Next week, I’m going to show what remains of the massive collection of old makeup we cleaned out. I went from several LARGE zippered bags of makeup to two tiny drawers-full in a five-drawer countertop organizer…unbelievable as it sounds!

Forming a Collection Catalog: The Organized Gamer

Buying the pieces of your gaming collection is the easy part of starting to play a game. It’s much harder to keep track of everything you’ve got (and everything you want that you don’t have yet)…especially if you’re like me and have a habit of leaving your room in a mess of sizable magnitude. XD

I’m likely the last person anyone would suspect to be organized when it comes to gaming, given the usual state of my room and my purse. XD But indeed, I keep my gaming collections all divided up and even indexed in a few files on my computer. This article will show you how to build a collection database of your own, using spreadsheet software.

Step 1: Sort Your Collection into Sections

Are you collecting Magic: the Gathering cards? Sort them first by color (White, Red, Artifacts, Hybrid, etc.), or by type (Creature, Enchantment, Instant, etc.). Got a heap of HeroClix cards and figures? Sort them by comic universe (Marvel, DC, Indy), by point values (below 50 points, 50-100 points, etc.), or even by combat values, like range (0 range figures over here, 6 range over here, etc.). Whatever system works for you is best.

Sorting your collection is key–it gets you physically interacting with all of the stuff you have, so that you’ll remember it better when you begin to catalog it all. Through sorting my Magic collection one afternoon, I discovered no less than 20 cards that I had bought and then promptly forgotten about–they were cards I still had on my “want list,” even though I had already bought them months ago!

Now, once you have everything sorted out, don’t just cram it all back together in one box or shelf when you need to put it away for the night. Have several different boxes or dividers for your collection, no matter how big or small it is, so that you don’t ever have to sort it completely out again. Trust me, this saves a lot of time and relieves a lot of frustration when you have to add to, delete from, or edit your collection.

Step 2: Figure Out Which Section is Your Smallest, and Start There

Once you’ve got everything sorted, it’s time to catalog. But you need to determine which section of your collection is the smallest, so you can work with it first.

Why do I say to start with the smallest section? So you don’t get discouraged about the size of the task in front of you–for instance, I started cataloging my section of HeroClix figures over 100 points first because I had so few of them (around 20 at the time). This was a very manageable number to start out with and helped me feel better about trying to tackle it.

Starting with a smaller section also ensures that you can iron out any problems with your cataloging before you get too deep into it to turn back. When I started cataloging my Magic collection, I started with my Black section (the smallest), and quickly discovered that if I was to have a complete catalog, I had to list all the sets that my cards were from, as well as the number of each card I had, the condition it was in, etc. Because I’d started with a small section, I didn’t have much to go back through and add. If I’d started with the White section of my Magic collection, and had to go back and edit it all over again…I probably would have just sat in front of my computer and cried. LOL

Step 3: Begin the Cataloging Process

With your smallest section spread out in front of you (whether it’s miniature figures, cards, etc.), start noting all the important details about each item. Ask yourself: “What do I really need to know about each item?”

This process can take many different forms (and have very different timetables), so I have included three examples of cataloging from my real-life gaming databases.

Exhibit A: Robin’s Magic: the Gathering Trades Collection
With a good bit of my massive collection of M:TG cards sitting useless in boxes at home, I decided to make up a comprehensive database for them so I could remember what cards I had. That way, if anybody asked me if I had certain cards, I could tell them right away without having to search through endless boxes at home.

For my M:TG collection, I noted the following pieces of information about each card I owned:

  • Color
  • Name of card
  • Rarity (Common, Uncommon, etc.)
  • Type of card (Creature, Enchantment, etc.)
  • What expansion set(s) it came from
  • What condition my copies of the card are in
  • How many I have of this particular card

These are the things that I most needed to know, because when people trade for cards, they are usually after a certain expansion set’s printing of the card, and they want it as Near Mint in condition as possible.

The following screenshot shows part of the White section of my M:TG Trades Database:

(click for larger picture) I went with very simple formatting for my Trades Database so far, since I don’t want to flood it with colors and styles it doesn’t need. This would be a good style for a table you will often search with the “Find” function rather than visual search.

Time It Took to Complete: 6 months (because of collection size and health)

Exhibit B: Robin’s Magic: the Gathering Decks
Once I created my Trades Database, I realized that I also needed a way to digitally keep up with the changes I was making to my active M:TG decks. So I turned to Excel once again to create a database for all my active decks’ decklists.

For this project, I needed to know the following:

  • What types of cards were in my deck
  • How many of each named card I was running

Because I only needed to know a few details about the items I was trying to catalog, my decklist spreadsheets are much simpler than my M:TG trades database or my HeroClix database (later in this article). Below are a couple of examples of decklists:

(click for larger picture)This decklist is for my Elvish Piper deck, which has mainly Creatures in it; thus, the Creatures section (closest to top) is the largest.

The four main columns represent how many of each card I’m running. For instance, Elvish Piper herself is in the rightmost column because I’m running 4 of her in the deck, while Silvos, Rogue Elemental is in the leftmost column because I’m only running one of it. This visual arrangement made the most sense to me while cataloging, and it makes it easy to see where I can increase or decrease the number of a certain card I’m running in the deck.

(click for larger picture) This deck has mostly artifacts and creatures, being an Artifact-heavy Life-Gain deck, so the Enchantments, Instants, and Sorceries categories are nonexistent. Here again, I make use of four columns to show how many of each card I’m running.

Time It Took to Complete: 2 days of consistent work

Exhibit C: Robin’s HeroClix Database
My HeroClix collection used to be all jammed together in a fold-out makeup box, which worked okay, but didn’t let me see all the figures I had at one shot. I ended up playing certain pieces over and over again because they were the ones I could most readily find. That left me frustrated–I KNEW I had more figures than just the 30 or 40 I was playing every week! I needed some way to sift through them faster. Thus, the idea for my HeroClix Database came into being.

With my HeroClix collection, I needed to know the following data about each figure I owned:

  • Name
  • Experience Level (Rookie, Experienced, etc.)
  • Point Cost
  • Range Value
  • Targets (# of opponents the figure can target with one attack)Team Symbol
  • Whether they are Flying or Grounded characters
  • Keywords
  • Which of my five HeroClix trays it’s stored in
  • When it was last played
  • Complete dial, with power colors, special powers, and stats

Looks pretty involved, right? Well, when I’m building a team, I don’t always feel like hauling out the whole collection and methodically clicking through each piece I own to find the ones I want to play. This very detailed list helps me know as much about the figure as if I was holding it in my hand!

And if all this detail looks scary, don’t worry. Actually, once you get the hang of it and you’ve done several individual items, it’s not all that bad. Here are two examples of what my HeroClix Database (in Excel) looks like:

(click for a larger picture) This shows a small selection of the figures in my collection ranging from 20 to 34 points. Here, each of the Rookies is denoted with the yellow color behind its info; each of the Experienced figures has blue, etc.

(By the way, the reason Scarab (the only red one) doesn’t have any Keywords listed is because I haven’t gotten off my proverbial posterior to find out what they are yet. XD )

(click for a larger picture) This is a selection from the largest-point-value Clix figures I have (73 points and up). Lot more red (Veteran) and even a silver (Unique) figure listed in this section, because more of the higher-point-cost figures are Veterans or Unique figures.

Time It Took to Complete: 5 months (because of collection size and detail)

In a Nutshell: Cataloging
Determine what you need to know about each item you want to catalog. Is it just a few points, like my M:TG decklists, or are you going for a super-detailed database like my HeroClix one? This will determine how long cataloging takes (it took me 5 months to finish my HeroClix database, versus 2 days for my M:TG decklist), as well as the usefulness of your catalog once you’re done.

Step 4 (optional): Format Your Data

If you want your data to be easily read visually instead of just searched by the “Find…” option, it’s important to format what you have just cataloged. Using color, bold, and italics to good effect, as well as a big enough font size, will ensure that you won’t be cursing yourself months later when you refer back to your database.

With my HeroClix database, I formatted it so that entries could be read left to right along rows. However, when I got to the “dial and stats” portion, I was stymied: how could I combine one row of data on each figure’s basics with four rows of data on its stats?

After a while, I figured it out–the Merge and Center command in Excel is my best friend. Basically, for each character, I took four normal rows and merged them together everywhere that I just needed one row for data, like character name, keywords, etc. Then I left the other part alone so that I could fill in the HeroClix dial stats. Result: a pretty sweet-looking database, if I do say so myself.

Similarly, for my M:TG decklist, I wanted it to be visually easy to read and understand (at least for me), so I used both row names and implied column names to help me sort through each deck. The result is neat and clean without looking like an info overload.

Formatting my data was optional for my M:TG trades collection, however, because I mainly just search it digitally rather than visually. I still wanted it to be readable, but I didn’t have to worry so much about info overload per spreadsheet page.


Cataloging does not have to be a drag–in fact, once you do it, it can make you freer to do more things with your gaming time than fruitlessly search for things that you know you have but can’t find. If you have a gaming collection of any size, it does make a difference.

I will admit, it is a good bit of work at the beginning and does require a bit of upkeep (adding new, deleting old, editing, etc.), but the payoff (building teams without ever handling a figure, and changing decklists on the fly) is amazing to me. (Plus, it makes my all-too-obvious OCD happy. XD )