Saturday, February 28, 2015

Clarity Out of Loss

The reason I decided to call this blog Clarity Out of Chaos instead of something more straightforward like "Organizing is Awesome!" or "Get Your Sh*t Together!" (wait, that's a good one) is because my chaos has included more than just clutter and disorganization.  Life itself can be extremely chaotic.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the reason I enjoy structure so much is partly due to the lack of control I've felt for a good chunk of my life.

I grew up with two hippie parents, my older sister and a cat named Rainbow in a small town in Colorado.  My parents realized early on that they were driving each other crazy and got divorced when I was four.  After that there was a lot of back and forth with my mom who suffered from depression problems and my dad who disappeared each time he got a new girlfriend.  I remember having a lot of fun when I was little but I was young enough to not understand most of what was going on.

Then one day when I was 22 and living in New York City with my sister, we started getting emails and phone calls from our mom and neighbors and friends that something might be wrong with dad.  He was being very forgetful and easily frustrated with simple tasks like calculating a tip at lunch.  Dad was a very stubborn man so it took another year or so until he was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's.  He was only 58 and he passed away at by the age of 67.

I spent those nine years growing up way too fast.  The biggest concern for a lot of 22 year olds is securing a job after college but my sister and I were busy with things like convincing my dad that he wasn't capable of living alone, selling our childhood home so we had money to pay for his care and applying for Medicare, Medicaid, Power of Attorney, etc.  We had help from a lot of people that cared about him but since he wasn't married, the big decisions were on our shoulders.  It was chaotic to say the least.

It is difficult to find clarity out of a situation as devastating as watching your father fade away.  Since I didn't always have my dad around growing up, I often struggled with the fact that a lot of my memories of him are from when he was sick.  I struggled with taking care of someone that didn't always make the time to take care of me.  And as the years passed, I struggled with having to do some of the same tasks for my dad as I was doing for my first child; feeding him, changing his clothes/diaper and trying to communicate without words.

The best advice I've ever received, from an amazing friend, is that we are only given as much as we can handle.  This became my mantra.  "I can do this.  I am strong enough to handle this."  Eventually many of the things I found so frustrating about the situation ended up bringing clarity to the rest of my life.  Taking care of my dad taught me extreme patience, which made me a better mom.  And even if it wasn't the kind of time I thought I would get, I know I ended up spending more time with my dad than if he had never been diagnosed.  Yes, he missed my sister getting married, the birth of my second daughter and countless memories to come but I'm so grateful for the time I had with him.

If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer's Disease you can visit this website or you can donate to my fundraising page for the 2015 NYC Half Marathon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Organize...Cable Clutter

Let's start small.

I love those moments when you realize something that is so obvious and easy, you feel the need to literally smack yourself on the forehead.  Organizing my electronics drawer was an absolute palm to forehead moment.  This might not seem like a high priority project but in the end it will save you time, it is easy to do, easy to maintain and you likely won't need to buy anything extra.

The amount of time I spent looking for my Nook charger every time I  needed to charge the device was such a waste of time.  Plus, as we already established, I'm a pack rat so this was an opportunity to finally get rid of all those extra cords I'd been collecting over the past 10 years.  I'm not quite sure how we acquired them but even I can part with four Iphone 4 chargers.

Step 1: Get a bunch of storage bags and a permanent marker (quart size bags are my favorite)

Step 2: Collect the various cords and small electronic devices from all over your house

Step 3: Figure out which charger goes with each device and sort into piles.  I grouped a few of the items together like kids toys, apple devices, etc, and also made a miscellaneous bag. 

Step 4: Weed out any cords or devices that you want to donate and place to the side

Step 5: Label each bag with appropriate item(s) and put the device with charger in the bag.  You can also use a small binder clip to keep the cord from getting tangled.

Step 6: Place bags in an easily accessible (for you, not the littles ones) space.  I have ours in a side table by our couch.  

Voila!  You know where everything is including all the accessories.  It is easy to do and though it seems like a small project, it will ultimately save you time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Justifications from a Pack Rat

Being a pack rat is mildly annoying at best.  Especially when you love to be organized and your husband hates clutter.

I recently found a couple of boxes of 'keepsakes' from when I first lived in Manhattan and I literally have a Playbill from every single Broadway (and Off Broadway) show I've ever seen.  I have ticket stubs from every professional sporting event and concert I've attended since high school.  And my creme dela creme?  Well, that is a vicious competition.  Maybe the pages of notes between a friend and myself during high school English class about who "sucks" more.  Or not one but TWO programs from a 1998 D.A.R.E Charity Volleyball game with signatures of various unknown Denver Broncos players.  This stuff is sentimental gold!

The interesting thing that I've learned is that we all tend to hoard in our own way.  My husband may have a strict, "If you haven't used it in 6 months, we don't need it!" policy but for some reason he can't part with a single item from the garage.  You should hear his justification on why we need to keep the snorkeling gear that we inherited from when his parents owned the house.  20+ year old flippers!?!

But (and with a pack rat there is always a but) every once in a great while it actually pays to keep some of that annoying useless junk.

I worked at my hometown movie theater for four years between high school and college.  Hands down the best job ever.  Late nights screening movies while drinking Mountain Dew like it was air.  In my college years, I made slightly above minimum wage and had two other jobs just to pay rent but I was able to watch as many free movies as I wanted!  Every now and then I even got to keep cool promotional materials for the movies.  Fast forward ahead 12 years and I just hung up these movies posters for my daughter's playroom.

Oh sure, I could have just bought a Finding Nemo poster online but what's the fun in that?  Keeping a bunch of movie posters all these years wasn't about how much I love the Finding Nemo movie.  It was about having a representation of one of my favorite times in my life.  The key is to be able to determine what is random junk (uh hum...D.A.R.E programs) and what brings you joy by taking you back to a special time in your life.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lessons from a Procrastinator


I'm so excited to finally start this blog.  I've always had a love/hate relationship with writing.  I love writing but it can be incredibly difficult and scary.  But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do one thing every day that scares you."  And here we go!

A little about myself.  I grew up in a small town in Colorado with two hippie parents and a dazzling older sister.  I have some incredibly fun memories from my childhood but I grew up without a lot of structure or stability.  Now I crave structure.  I love to plan, organize and systematize.  I'm a mom of two young girls on Long Island with an incredible husband.  I work in advertising and love to read and run (kind of).

Loving to organize, you'd think that life would be smooth sailing but I'm also a pack rat, indecisive and get quickly distracted.  This can turn my fantastic 'projects' into bigger messes than when I started.  Over time I've figured out how to work within my limitations and I'm hoping to share my lessons learned with you.

Lesson 1:  You will ALWAYS want to do it less later than you do now.

One more addition to my list of 'quirks' is that I'm a procrastinator and it is the worst on a week night.  It is 8pm, I've been going non-stop since 5 or 6am and the last thing I want to do after the girls are in bed is prep work for the next day.  Why do it now when I could be relaxing?  I'll surely have plenty of time in the morning.  In hindsight, every single time it ends up being a bigger issue to do the task later than if I had done it in the first place.  I will have even less time, even more to do and need to factor in obstacles I never saw coming my way.

Today was a perfect example.  I'm training for a half marathon (Go Athletes to End Alzheimer's!) and was supposed to run 4 miles yesterday.  My daughter had a Valentine's Day party in daycare and I was up late making fruit kabobs.  I told myself, "Hey, you are going to have a hard time getting out the door in the morning with all the party snacks, Valentine's cards, etc.  Plus, it might snow!"  So I didn't go running.  Today, I woke up early, got everyone fed and ready, was putting a coat on my youngest daughter and BLEEEEECK!  She puked all over me.  Surprise, surprise, she also had a low-grade fever.  Oh, and it is -5 degrees outside with the wind chill.  Guess who isn't going running today?  This girl.

Point being, just do it now.  Not necessarily a lesson I follow all the time but it helps motivate me to think about all the insane scenarios that could come up if I was to push the task off to another time.   Plus, this is one of those things that makes you a responsible grown up.  So I hear.