May 2010: Remember and declutter

My project for May 2010 is to get better at remembering and decluttering. I want to reclaim the time and energy I spend looking for things. I don’t want to inconvenience W-. It feels good to remember and have things in the right place.

Key points:

  • Don’t just look, see.
  • Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place.
  • Slow down and give yourself time to tidy up.
  • Finish things before starting something new.

Things that often get misplaced

iPod and phone

  • Problem: I usually don’t have pockets, so I put them down when I need to use both hands, and then I forget where I put them down.
  • Approach: Wear a belt pouch. Put the iPod and phone into it.

Wallet, keys, badge, etc.

  • Problem: These get transferred from bag to bag. Sometimes I forget which bag these are in, so I have to check several bags before I find it.
  • Approach: Keep everything in a white mesh pouch, which I can leave in the cabinet near the door. When I’m about to go out, I can take the pouch from the cabinet and put it in my current bag. When I return home, I take the pouch out of the bag and put it back into the cabinet.

Bicycle lock

  • Problem: If I put it in a bag, I sometimes forget to take the bag if I’m rushing out the door.
  • Approach: Use a bungee cord to keep my lock on the rack.

Physical places that attract clutter

Top of dresser

  • Problem: Attracts scarves, clothes, books, etc.
  • Approach: Keep it clean except for the next day’s clothes.

Bedside table

  • Problem: Attracts notebooks and books
  • Approach:
    • Reserve the top for iPod base, chapstick, pencil, eyeglasses, mouthguard
    • The second shelf: At most one notebook, at most one book, phone charger, phone, and belt pouch

Kitchen table

  • Problem: Attracts dishes, electronics, papers, pens that don’t work
  • Approach: Clear everything when I get home, for a fresh start

Coffee table

  • Problem: Attracts bags, books, scarves, etc.
  • Approach: Bags should be emptied and hung up. Books go on shelves. Scarves, gloves, etc. should go into a box.

Entry shelf

  • Problem: Bags pile up.
  • Approach: Once a week, tidy this up.


  • Problem: Accumulates paper, coins, books, and other things
  • Approach: Once a week, empty my purse and plan it from scratch.

Sewing desk

  • Problem: Accumulates scraps, paper, unfinished ideas
  • Approach:
    • Make a small scrap catcher and put it near my sewing machine.
    • Focus on sewing projects with clear instructions.
    • Tidy everything up after each phase.

Library bookshelf

  • Problem: Read books mingle with unread books, so I spend more time scanning. Sometimes I have too many books checked out, so the shelf gets untidy.
  • Approach:
    • Set up a last-in-first-out queue, perhaps going from left to right
    • Annex another shelf for overflow. Give away old books to free up space.

Digital clutter


  • Problem: My blog posts aren’t copied into my personal reference system. I don’t have an overview/knowledge-map of how everything ties together.
  • Approach:
    • Extract titles and links and put them into an Org-format file so that I can organize them.
    • Review my Learning map and intentionally write blog posts along those topics.


  • Problem: I’m taking lots of notes, but I don’t share them because I’ve limited myself to publishing one blog post a day.
  • Approach: Publish them as future posts, and keep a local copy for ease of searching.


  • Problem: Digital notes get scattered all over the place: iPod, blog, Twitter, etc. I try to keep both hierarchical notes and chronological notes, which doesn’t work too well with my outline.
  • Approach:
    • Have a master date-stamped file, then copy information out of it.
    • Develop and use a consistent indexing scheme.
    • Use the iPod as an inbox and set aside time to transfer info from the inbox.
    • Use M-x remember to capture notes in sequence, then process the inbox of notes and put things into a categorized archive.
    • Get the hang of using Org hyperlinks.

To-do list

  • Problem: Toodledo list cluttered with items whose Due Dates aren’t really on that day. That’s because I’m using the due dates for prioritization, because the priorities aren’t enough. Org is better at this because of the distinction between Due Date and Scheduled.
  • Approach: Use priorities more, and use start dates as well. Don’t use due dates for scheduling. Get used to working from the context view.


  • Problem: Scans pile up in my inbox directory. I don’t have an index for referring to them.
  • Approach:
    • Review my batch OCR script and run that more regularly.
    • Use my file to keep track of everything.


  • Problem: I don’t regularly review and upload my pictures.
  • Approach: Set aside time each week to review all the pictures taken, select the ones I want to share, and share them. Format the card afterwards so that I don’t have to deal with duplicates.
  • Assuming you have a jacket or vest you can try this:

    For the warmer weather that is approaching I am not quite sure what to recommend that is not too geeky in fashion and functional aside from the standard fanny pack. They have other stuff that look cool in thinkgeek but it requires more strapping.

    As for the kitchen, I just recommend you try to standardize on your plates/bowl if you can. A large bowl that you can hold in your hand that is microwave safe (I got a few good ones at Once @ Market Village for $6 each) of course that is the Chinese in me though I can eat most stuff from the bowl with the exception of things that require a knife and fork such as steaks.

    Another habit that would help in the kitchen (a la Ratatouille) is to clean your cooking tools ASAP. I try to make it a habit never to serve from the pots and pans (though to keep things quick, I just cook enough for one meal and put everything in the bowl and serve) with the exception of soup which is relatively easy to clean and taste better the longer you run the soup in the stove.

    Don’t worry about doing too much that you will get hungry, because a proper chef would normally taste the food while cooking anyway (unless it is steak or eggs) and constant small quantity eating is better for your metabolism.

    Took a while for me but I organized my photos already using Picasa. It has a duplicate finder in case you need it. Sharing is a bit iffy although I like Picasa, PicasaWeb does not offer free sharing past a certain size which can be cumbersome, but then they have Facebook integration which is fine since most of the friends who want to look at the photos are on Facebook in my situation. I actually started a Google Wave on how to organize photos with a few friends to gather some ideas.

    Good luck on your orgs.