Friday, May 25, 2012

Someone Else's Stuff

We recently had some changes at my part-time job.  One staff member left, a new person was hired, and some reorganizing of duties has been done.  I switched offices with someone.  And in the midst of all this, the Cleaning Bug hit.  Files are being scanned and the paper copies shredded, supplies have been put in a central location rather than being hoarded in various drawers and boxes, and a major decluttering is underway, most of it done under the watchful eye of the vice-president while the president was away for a week.

Which leads me to my boss.  While my job is a mish-mash of different tasks, I'm still the adminstrative assistant to the president of the company.  Who has been here for decades and to whom this is a second home.  On her return, she was amazed at how clean the offices were.  And I offered to help her clean out her office.  Actually, just a part of her office - a wall unit consisting of a dozen built-in drawers with shelving above it AND two credenzas.  Stuffed with papers and newspaper clippings and greeting cards and personal stuff that shouldn't be in anyone's business office.  But I can only push so far; she is the boss, and this was somewhat overwhelming for her - because of the personal nature of much of it, she was seeing notes from family members who've passed, finding pictures of her kids when they were little, ... we needed to take baby steps to get her through it.

She sat at a conference table while I brought each drawer's content to her, making it easier for her to sort through.  We made piles, thankfully small, of the items she wanted to keep, and filed things back, grouping them by category (personal, company-related, various committees and organizations for the town that she's involved in).  At the end of the day, two contractor bags full of garbage were in the dumpster.  Shirts and other promotional materials were donated to a local cause.  Half of the drawers, two shelves, and both credenzas are now empty.  And one box full of photos waits for her to scan to her computer.

Have you ever helped anyone organize a part of their office or home?  How did you find the experience?  And was the person able to maintain what you'd done?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cleaning Out The Cupboards

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home has started a Eating From the Freezer and Pantry Challenge for anyone wishing to join in.  Pretty easy concept - your meals will consist of only what you have on hand in your cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.  You're not prohibited from shopping, but trust me, if you take this challenge seriously, you can save a TON of cash off your regular bill.  It takes some organization to be truly successful at it - planning and writing out your menus ahead helps A LOT.  Some participants will post on their blogs their menu selections, and you can get some great new meal ideas.

I usually do my own version of this challenge in February.  It's a great month (short!), involves a school vacation week (so I'm guaranteed to have hungry kids in the house for at least three meals a day), and it's usually cold out, lending itself to warm bubbling pots of comfort food.  Not so much this February.  I think New England saw a few 70-degree days that month, and bubbling pots gave way to pulling the grill out of the garage.  And I just wasn't on my A-game.

Now push has come to shove.  Our CSA farm share starts next week.  The freezer, which has NO room, needs to be defrosted.  So tonight it's begun.  Dinner was the last of Sunday cookout's, green beans from the freezer, and brown rice from the pantry.  Grocery shopping will be limited to milk, eggs, bread, and a few other essentials.  At a glance, there's enough on hand for dinners and a few lunches for three weeks.  Meals won't resemble the strange concoctions my college roommates and I would call "dinner" at the end of the month when we were out of money, but it may get interesting towards the end.

Game on, family.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Family Calendars

Let me start off by saying I'm a reluctant electronic calendar person.  I find it so much easier to open a book-like paper calendar, find the date I need, and note whatever commitment than I do powering up something electronic, logging in, and trying to decipher what time something might end and how do I get it to not repeat every Sunday for the next three years.  I also keep a large paper calendar (one of those desk blotter styles) on the frig, available at a moment's glance.  A tip from a girlfriend years ago still works today - each person has their own color ink on the calendar, which helps visually identify who's where.

But thanks to those other people in my house called children, I find myself now keeping an additional calendar, electronic to boot.  And surprise! - it's not that bad.  Because the Oldest is a typical plugged-in teenager, he can see the family's commitments before he tries to make his own, and my parents are included on the weekly email the system sends out so they can plan which of the kids' events they're attending.

I was using a different online system but switched to Google Calendar for two specific reasons.  The first?  The kids' teams and other groups we're involved with have calendars that upload right to Google Calendar so I don't have to type each individual event.  The second is the click-and-drag feature for blocking out time, which Google Calendar lets me do.  Doesn't sound like much, but anything to speed up the data entry process is fine with me.

So why still keep a paper calendar?  Because I've had too many situations where technology has failed me.  The system goes down, I mistakenly delete something, I need fast access - through 25 years in the business world, one major lesson I've learned is always have a backup in another format.

How do you manage your family calendar, and what format works best for you?