Category: Erin Shaw Street

Erin’s Home Office: Before

Erin's home office/before

One of the reasons we decided to start Streamlined Birmingham was for accountability.   For me, this means starting with a snapshot of one of my before projects: my home office.

Full disclosure: this isn’t even the before “before” — that was about a year and a half ago, when several kind friends helped me get started. Problem is, I’ve continued in fits and starts — usually when I need to find a document. (Good luck with that.)

The problem: my attempts to date have included shifting a lot of stuff around, and not enough of getting rid of things.

My goal over the next few months is to focus on this room for two reasons:

1. To create a clear, uncluttered space to manage bills and family paperwork

2. To create a space conducive to creating, writing, and dreaming

The challenges: this room has become the storehouse for a lot of stuff unrelated to these goals, including an entire closet full of sentimental items, photos, and knick-knacks. Making the problem worse is it’s become the place where I stack stuff when I don’t want the world to see it.

But stacking is a temporary solution. As is buying tons of organizing supplies to whip me into shape. Looking at stacks (and countless numbers of plastic tubs, trays, and small containers) makes me feel overwhelmed, guilty (that I let things get this bad), and defeated. And I’m not working from that position. Nope.

Small steps: Over Christmas break, I did an initial gutting of this room, packing an SUV with things that are no longer of use to me (yes that much came from this small space). Included in that were a television I’d held on to “just in case” and a large wicker storage unit, that took up a lot of space and held five drawers of stuff I no longer used. These items and more (especially electronic odds and ends) were deposited at the Salvation Army, where I got an electronic receipt. (Less paper — I dig!)

I also started going through the “stacks” — filing important papers from the year, and separating the sentimental from the usable. (I’ll cull through the sentimental stuff later, for now this is a manageable step.)

Finally, I started backing up about 10 years of photos stored on CD and thumb drives, have all photos in one place. Organizing these and my boxes and boxes of paper photos will be addressed in a separate post. (Probably several!)

Next steps: Continue to go through the stacks and find a home for the things that need to be kept, while being brutally honest with myself about what needs to go.

Finish the digital photo backup project, and tackle the print organization after that.

Tackle the closet holding the sentimental stuff-meets-tiki-glass collection (which has an annex in the garage).

Eventual steps: 

Assess the functionality of the room after all the extra paper/objects are gone. And, after that, only after that, will I work on the part that gets me most excited: the aesthetics of the room. Hanging my beloved photos, and art, creating a space that’s beautiful as it’s functional. Or funky as it’s functional, because honestly, that’s my thing.

Right now: I’m trying to go easy myself that I didn’t get everything done in this space over break. It feels good to write about the small accomplishments. I’m going back to work this week, so will be working on the project in nighttime and weekend bursts. It’ll take time. That’s OK.

As part of this process, and my general streamlining focus, I’m readying Joshua Becker’s “Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles To Help Declutter Their Home And Life.” (His blog, “Becoming Minimalist” also has great resources.)

I’ll report back from time to time … including (gasp) writing from my actual home office desk.