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Jeruba's avatar

What are your tools for taming chaos?

Asked by Jeruba (48719points) August 7th, 2009

When I recently dug down to bedrock on my desk (chided so many times by the fluther greeting that I was getting ashamed to show up!), I passed through several strata of clipboards. In the end I think I found seven. I realized that every purchase of a clipboard represented some sort of attempt to get my life, or at least the contents of my desktop, under control.

(Now I have a funny little stack of empty clipboards.)

What do you find yourself doing or buying when you’ve lost your sense of mastery over your environment? Storage boxes, shelving, label makers, clips? Does it help?

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27 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Chores. They all need to be done and there’s a certain Zen to repetitive mundane household tasks. It’s good to enjoy the fruits of your labor after even though it’s only temporary.

Darwin's avatar

Screwdrivers and plastic bins with lids.

Does it help?

No, not at all. The only thing that really helps is a box of large trash bags and the ability to dump things into them without looking at them. I might need that someday…

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Chores for me as well. I love simple structure to my days that balances out the things that may pop up I don’t control.

bea2345's avatar

Every now and then I sort, store and throw away. I am in between the last impulse and the next, which may occur any day now. Tools? boxes from the grocery, garbage bags and a marker.

SuperMouse's avatar

Clearing clutter; I always feel more free, more calm, and less encumbered when I get rid of stuff.

Jeruba's avatar

@Darwin, we’re on the same wavelength there.

(I didn’t mean to ask “How do you solve this problem?” I meant “What are the symptoms of your [probably failed] attempts?” All answers are welcomed with thanks, but I relate so little to people who do chores and clear clutter because it feels good that I didn’t even think of that interpretation.)

avvooooooo's avatar

Cookies. It makes you feel better when you look at the mess and be less concerned by it. :)

For organization I end up with those accordion files. Sometimes, depending on what’s going on, I have a lot of them, sometimes I have a couple. There’s not necessarily any organization going on inside them, but things are dumped in a designated place.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Jeruba I went back and forth deciding whether to write clear clutter or buy books. Those are my two go to’s for taming any kind of chaos in my life. Gimmedat teases me about the fact that I have books on some very esoteric topics because that’s what I do – I buy books! In the end I went with clearing the clutter because I can’t afford to buy books anymore. The library has become my best friend!

Darwin's avatar

@SuperMouse – My son lured me into Half Price Books today. I managed to forget the chaos in my life while I was there, but ended up with a huge number of really good $1.00 hardbacks.

Darwin's avatar

@Jeruba – The problem is that I can’t bring myself to put stuff in the garbage bags. I always forget and look at it first.

As to the rest of the chaos in my life, all I can do is remind myself that in four years the kids will be out of the house (maybe – I’m an optimist).

And then I Fluther.

Besides, if it’s on my computer I can find it. If it’s on my desk all bets are off.

MagsRags's avatar

I make to-do lists. I like to break things down step by step on my list, because I take great satisfaction in crossing off accomplishments.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I tend to buy pens to make to-do lists with. Instead of actually getting the things on my to-do list done, I end up using the pens to draw…

Lupin's avatar

I clean out clutter in the winter. Why? So I can burn stuff in the high efficiency wood burning stove. 20 pounds of paper is a gallon of heating oil. Torn jeans that I can’t wear anymore? 2 pounds = $0.25 worth of heat. Old magazines, junk mail, furniture, cardboard boxes – in it goes.
In the summer I recycle the standard way. But as a rule I do my clutter cleaning in the winter so I can recycle my junk into heating oil.
Before anyone goes environmental on me, this is a Lopi Freedom stove with a reburner operating at 700–900F. It burns everything with no smoke out the stack. This isn’t your grandfather’s stove.)

tinyfaery's avatar

If you haven’t used it in 6 months, toss it, donate it, or find another suitable means of disposal.

I use trash bags. It makes me feel sooo unfettered.

andrew's avatar

The excellent moderation team. I would have lost my mind long, long ago if it weren’t for them.

Jeruba's avatar

@MagsRags, I didn’t see you on this thread.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@tinyfairy, obviously you have no concept of the life of a packrat. Six months is simply the gestation period of saving things. I have stuff I have hung onto for YEARS because I know that as soon as I toss it, I am going to need it.

I even save the screws and fasteners of objects that no longer work, saving them in small jars long after the products they once held together have gone to the landfill.

MagsRags's avatar

@jeruba, thanks for pointing me to that discussion – somehow I missed it!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

My tools for taming chaos are power tools. My tiller does a real number in the yard and garden.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

<—-figures andrew could type faster than that. =)

andrew's avatar

Ok, now that I read the question and wasn’t so happy to talk about the team:

One of the best things I picked up from GTD, back when I didn’t scan everything in, was this:

Get a lot of manilla folders. A whole bunch. Get a label maker. That’s important.

Now, when you have something to save, make a folder for it, with a label. It’s important that 1. It’s easy to make a new folder and 2. The folders look appealing (hence the label maker).

It’s really important to know that it’s OK to put only one thing in a folder—don’t worry, you’ll be able to label over them next year when you clean them out. The important thing is to remove any impedance to creating a new folder—since that will add up and make it more difficult to start the filing process.

Now, when you get something new, remind yourself it will take less than 30 seconds to file it, and DO IT. That way things are less likely to build up. Good luck!

Zendo's avatar

I agree with @tinyfaery… File 13; the circular file is a very handy tool. Toss it and forget it. If you were meant to remember it, you will.

that being said, I do have a few boxes full of handwritten notes, newspaper clipping, and other assorted sundry items I have saved with the thought that these notes will help me with the novel.

MagsRags's avatar

I forgot about my other favorite tool – the kitchen timer! It keeps me from getting totally bogged down in one of those elastic chores that can keep expanding to fill the whole day. I should really use it more often than I do.

My family also sometimes uses the timer for “blitzes”. When the house starts looking overwhelmingly chaotic that none of us feels like we want to tackle it, we can usually agree on a 15 or 30 minute blitz. We set the timer, and each of us scurries to get as much done as we can before the buzzer goes off. Not good for those complex tasks, but 3 people working at a fast pace can declutter, vacuum, wipe down sinks and counters, get some laundry started or folded, in a pretty short timeframe, and no one feels like the victim. The house usually looks significantly better at the end of a blitz.

Jeruba's avatar

@MagsRags, good one. I have a little forest of kitchen timers and use them all the time: several actually in the kitchen for timing various cooking and baking operations, one by the bed that I use in place of an alarm clock, and one in my room for reminders to start things (take a walk, go see if the water is boiling) and stop things (leave for an appointment, start dinner). I get so absorbed in things that I need to be jarred to consciousness at frequent intervals.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Darwin The only thing that really helps is a box of large trash bags and the ability to dump things into them without looking at them. I tried that until I nearly tossed out some unused money orders twice and a check another time. Make me think how many important things I did toss out and not know it.

Storage tubs with lots of labels is maybe the way to go.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Own a small collection of fine things instead of a huge collection of mediocre things.

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