I am an elementary school media specialist (librarian) and a new mom. My daughters (born 12/27/2010 and 6/27/2013) are teaching me all kinds of new things every day. One thing they have taught me is that sometimes, there just isn't room for much else besides learning. If you're not sleeping, eating, talking, blogging, or whatever, it might just be because you're TOO BUSY LEARNING!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Frontiers for 2009

I have several new ideas going for 2009, both on my own and professionally. January through March will be the final sprint towards finishing my National Boards Portfolio, but I'm hoping it won't be an all-consuming endeavor. Here are a few other things I'd like to be working on:

1. Diving into Podcasting, Albeit Slowly

As of yesterday, I have a podcast over at 1ytb.blogspot.com. At my church, we are all reading through the Bible in one year, according to The One Year Bible plan. So, I'm podcasting the readings for each day. I looked around for some podcasts by others doing the same thing, and most of the ones I found were pretty heavy on the commentary. Mine is just straight up Bible passages. So, it's less like a podcast and more like an audio book I guess.

2. Continuing with Web 2.0 Student Use

I'm so proud of my kids at school for really stepping out and trying new things this year! I am able to have a special club of children in each grade level 3rd through 5th, and these guys are awesome. My fourth graders are writing and photographing for their very own news blog called What's Roaring, Tigers? In 2009, my goal is to help them publicize the blog so that we can reach a wider audience and maybe get some comments from people outside our school community.

3. Ironing Out the Snags for Video Editing

Our school was blessed this year to be able to purchase a new digital camcorder. Thus far, my fifth grade club has been producing weekly TV Shows using photographs, clip art, and audio files in Windows Movie Maker. You can see a couple of their shows here. With the new camcorder, we should be able to incorporate some live action as well, which will be exciting. However, Tech Services is having to work with me on being able to download the videos from the camcorder and edit them effectively. Restrictions on the computers are making things a little weird.

2009 should be a great year for new advances for me and for my media program at school. I'm excited to see how it will turn out!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Creative Christmas

Today, I thought I'd do a quick highlight of my Christmas crafts for this year because I think it's neat. :) I learned to crochet this summer from mom-in-law Nancy and have been working hard on Christmas gifts almost since then.

My lovely niece got an afghan.

My sister Sonja received my first attempt at doily-making. It was actually kind of fun!

This is Nancy's hat, modeled by me. (I forgot to take pictures at the Pendleton Christmas... grr.)

Beautiful sister-in-law Ashley got a neck wrap, which is actually my favorite piece of all the ones I did, I think.

Tyler modeled his brother's ear warmer when I finished it. (We discovered it was way too big, but I was able to take it in some on Christmas and made it fit reasonably well.)

Mom asked for kitchen towels with handles like Grandma used to make. I was proud of myself for figuring out how to do these. Even with instructions, it was a little weird.

Tabetha also received a kitchen towel, which took a long time for its size but turned out pretty well.

So, if you were wondering why I haven't been blogging the past couple of months, it's because I was busy crocheting! And I'm so glad I did. Gift-giving was a lot of fun this year. In addition to crocheted items, some members of the family also received coffee home-roasted by Tyler.

We had a great time with both families and are at home now enjoying the memories of their company as well as their generous gifts. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas and Twitter

Ok, my Twitter news is older and less exciting... I am now a Tweeter. I am libpendragon, so come find me, and follow me if you desire.

Now for the fun stuff -- Christmas! I'm not a huge decorator, but I do enjoy decorative touches, and having a Christmas tree is one of my chief joys of the season. Our Christmas tree growing up was always a hodge-podge of hand-made items, gift ornaments from friends and family, or ornaments commemorating special events or places, all topped off with colored lights that complemented the hodge-podge nicely. One year, I remember Mom mentioned trying to have a themed tree, and I was so disappointed at the thought of not getting out all of the ornaments, I felt like Christmas wouldn't even be Christmas. (We never did do a themed tree, and I was totally ok with that.)

So, when I moved out, I decorated my tree the same way. The hodge-podge was a little less busy, but I still had my varied and highly significant ornament collection, and I had my colored lights. Apparently, people have really strong feelings about colored lights, and I just never knew. I've never lived with anyone but my immediate family who didn't think they were completely tacky. So, the years I had roommates, no colored lights for me. Sad sad sad.

Last year, I decorated a tree for the first time as an old married lady. I busted out my colored lights with gusto. My husband hated them. I was sad, but they stayed up anyway, since we didn't have any others. Then, we went to a party, and I saw the best Christmas lights ever. They're from WalMart, and they switch back and forth from colored to white. I wasted no time this year, and as soon as the garden department underwent its tranformation to Consumer Christmas Central, I bought three strings. And now they're on my tree.

And that is the Christmas light saga. Now, I have my colored lights, and Tyler has his white lights, and I am happy, and while he may not be ecstatic, he does hate them less than the old ones.

And my favorite decoration aside from the tree is my nativity scene from Mom. I added the angel and the tea light holder myself.

Merry Christmas! (Brought to you by a completely indulgent blog post, but that's ok.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What to Do with a Windfall

Sometimes, life just brings nice surprises with it.

Friday morning, I got up as usual, exercised, took my shower, and was getting ready for work when Tyler came out of the bedroom and notified me that my phone had been ringing. No one I know calls me (ever), let alone before 6:30 in the morning, so I was worried. I checked my voicemail to discover that school was delayed for two hours due to snow... Snow?!

Yep. For the first time ever since I've lived here, we got snow before Thanksgiving. (We've also had near-record-breaking cold weather here lately, which is extremely unpleasant.)

So, having already awoken and performed necessary morning routines, I was faced with a windfall of approximately two hours. Incidentally, these originally-scheduled two hours were some I had not been looking forward to, so I was ecstatic.

Windfalls in any form are always welcome of course. If you get an unexpected monetary bonus for example, you can save it, spend it on something fun, or use it to pay a bill that you otherwise couldn't have paid. (You'd be surprised how many times in my poorer days I ended up with a "windfall" just when I needed it.)

The same goes for a time windfall. You really can't save it up as such, but you can certainly spend it on something fun, or use it to get something done that you had been behind on. The last two weeks have been a little nutty around our house, so I opted for cleaning the kitchen (a chore long overdue) after taking a little bit of time to relax and eat a nice breakfast.

Today was an example of a major time windfall, but these little extras come around more than you might imagine. Examples include canceled meetings, arriving somewhere early, getting something done more quickly than projected, or even sitting in a traffic jam.

What are some of the ways you use you time windfalls wisely? For some of these scenarios, I can't wait to get a new iPhone in February so I can keep up with Google Reader and various other time-spenders no matter where my time windfall happens.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Huge Update and Excuses Post

I know the point of blogging is to do it regularly and not just come back every couple of months with a huge and overwhelming update and excuses for why I haven't posted lately. That being said, here comes your huge and overwhelming update and excuses from me, hopefully within the realm of subjects covered by this blog, such as librarianship and organization.

Here's the result of our October home project, which was basically carving a pumpkin:

We also planted pansies and ornamental cabbage (which, as it turns out, is the only other thing besides pansies that survives the winter), but I don't have pictures because the leaves all fell down this weekend, and the yard is therefore unsightly.

During the last couple of days of October, I was able to attend the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference in Winston-Salem. I wasn't as excited about this conference as I have been in years past, and I wish now that I had worked up a presentation on my rockin' media schedule that includes time for kids to choose projects like a news blog and a TV show to work on during the school week. It probably would have been way more interesting than some of the ones I went to. And now, I have to wait until 2010 to do it because next year, we're all going to the ALA Conference instead, since it's in Charlotte.

A couple of highlights of the conference were meeting authors:

Joyce Moyer Hostetter talked about her book Blue, which I loved, and she gave a little preview of the sequel coming out in May called Comfort. If you have an interest at all in WWII-era historical fiction or just in a really wonderful piece of North Caroline literature, I recommend Blue. But read it in private because you'll cry big ugly tears. And the symbolism rocks, just as a side note from someone who loves to see figurative language used well in children's literature.

Author-illustrator Melanie Watt is just the cutest shy little French Canadian ever. She talked about her book Scaredy Squirrel, which was a smash hit with the kids last year. And again, the book was a decent metaphor or allegory or something cool like that.

Ok, now completely off the topic of anything blog-related, here is one of my recent fun trips:

A week ago, Ty and I drove up to Stone Mountain, NC, for our autumn hike. We were sore for a few days afterward, but it was worth it.

And with all of those marvelous things under my belt for October and November, I am now moving into Christmas gifting mode. I'm trying to make a bunch of gifts this year, so I'll try to keep a photo log of it all and post after Christmas, so as not to ruin any surprises. Suffice it to say, I will have to have very busy fingers for the next few weeks.

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo-ers out there! Sometime, I might try to write a children's book in November, but not until I get a good idea for one. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting Ready for Autumn Gardening

My summer garden went rather well and was fun. Around the beginning of May, we pulled up the pansies (that survived all winter!), and I planted petunias and marigolds. Tyler planted vegetables in the big garden, and he sprayed out an area for me to plant an herb garden. Today is beautiful and breezy, and I can feel fall coming on. In another month or so (maybe sooner), I'll have to pull up and trim back the summer plants and get the autumn garden ready to go.

At the moment, the brick planter by the front door is brimming with pink petunias, which kind of clash with the house, but I don't care. I think these may last a while yet. However, if I was going to pull them up, I think I might replace them with three or four chrysanthemums in different colors. I already bought one chrysanthemum, but it got run over by a wayward soccer ball at our last cookout and hasn't been doing real well. It may recover, but for now, no blossoms.

The front walk flower beds are housing marigolds at the moment, but they are a little past their peak. Still blossoming, but definitely not as prolific lately, some of the plants have started to die one branch at a time. I guess pansies are the best option for winter flowers in the beds, but I may check into some other options too. Any reader suggestions? Especially if you live in my area, what flowers work well in the fall and winter? I'd like to try something new and interesting if I can.

The herb garden is probably ripe for harvest, but I've never had one before, so I'm not sure. Any tips from my herb gardening friends? Left to right (but pretty hard to distinguish), I have chives (potted), parsley, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, and purple basil. We've had fun using these in our cooking over the summer. Tyler is much better at incorporating them on the fly, but I will use them when recipes call for them too. I think what I need to do with these is clip them back and dry the harvested herbs so that they can come back next year. They should all come back except the chives and parsley. The basil definitely will. It's already trying to take over the world. I wouldn't be surprised if it came back well before true spring, in fact.

Here's my wish list for my autumn yard:
  • two rocking chairs or a glider for the front porch
  • plant stand/table for the front porch (great place for a jack-o-lantern!)
  • chrysanthemums galore
  • something other than pansies for the flower beds
  • a wheelbarrow (because it would be fun to haul dead plants to the compost pile in that instead of carrying them because it just seems more garden-y)
What are your autumn plans?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My DIWLO Wedding

This post is in honor of my faithful and recently-engaged reader Kimberly. She recently shared her plans for her upcoming DIY Wedding on her blog.

My wedding was kind of DIY, but more like DIWLO (Do It With Loved Ones). Just about every piece of the wedding was personalized and created by one or more people who love us and wanted to help. This was made possible by the fact that ours was a small wedding (about 60 guests), and we just happen to be surrounded by a hugely talented group of family and friends.

You can view the slide show at the bottom of the post for some pictures of how things turned out, but here is a list of items contributed:
  • the invitations - My sister Sonja and I worked late into the night one night designing and printing the invitations on her laser printer. We used blank invitations from Target. I chose the dogwood as the theme flower for the wedding, even though it was past dogwood season. That's the joy of artificial flowers, folks.
  • the programs - I designed these on Microsoft Word and then had them copied on nice paper at Kinkos.
  • the wedding party flowers - For the wedding party, I chose artificial flowers. I talked to Sonja about what she had done for the flowers at her wedding and then went to Michael's (craft store) for supplies. I picked out white flowers for boutonnieres and corsages and a bunch of flowers I liked for the bridal bouquet. For the bridesmaid bouquet and tossing bouquet, I found a ready-made bunch of white flowers at the same craft store.
  • the reception flowers - My sister-in-law Tabetha ordered two dozen yellow roses for me from Costco. Sonja went to pick them up the day before the wedding, and it turned out that there were four dozen! So there were yellow roses everywhere. I bought a bunch of little vases at Target for the reception tables, and those flower arrangements doubled as guest favors. Mom, Grandma, Sonja, and Tammy (my friend and photographer) spent a long time arranging flowers throughout the reception area and sanctuary.
  • the officiant - Pastor Mike from my church of four years officiated the wedding. It was one of his first weddings, and everyone commented that the message was excellent.
  • the musicians - All of the musicians were friends and family. My brother Aaron was our genius pianist. We got more compliments on his amazing talent than any other part of the service. In addition to playing the prelude, processional, and recessional, he also accompanied the singers and played a solo Liszt piece. Singers were soloist Joy, my roommate, and trio singers Sonja, Sarah, and Tarah. Everyone sounded beautiful.
  • the photographer - Tammy, my former coworker and friend, came and took pictures for the wedding. You can see some of her brilliant work here.
  • hair and makeup - Sonja did my hair, and I got my makeup and nails done at Balance Day Spa with a gift certificate from Tyler.
  • catering - Ty's brother Chris did the catering for the wedding with help from his girlfriend (now fiancee) Ashley. Ty and I agree that it was the best wedding reception food we have ever had, and it was all personalized just for us. There was even gazpacho, upon Tyler's request.
  • cake - Instead of traditional wedding cake, our guests feasted on cheesecakes made by mother of the bride Sara and mother of the groom Nancy. Neither Ty nor I are fans of regular wedding cake, but we both love cheesecakes, and our moms were incredibly generous to prepare these for us. Also on the dessert table were mints homemade by a family friend, Denise.
We felt so blessed to have so many people involved in the execution of our wedding. It may not have been the party of the century or even the season, but our closest friends and family were there to help us celebrate one of the most important days of our lives, and that's exactly what we wanted.

For other great DIY wedding ideas, check out Sonja's series of blog posts on her wedding, featuring her wedding scrapbook.

And here's the promised slide show... You can also link to the album here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

September Home Projects: Making it Pretty

I just got a raise for finishing my master's degree. Yay! So I have re-vamped my budget to include a small amount for home improvement expenses every month -- little things like decorations and organizing stuff. So, here are my projects for September:

Curtains!!! I have been lamenting our lack of bedroom window treatment ever since I moved into my husband's former bachelor pad in June of 2007. I finally decided what I wanted and bought these, along with a tension rod, at Target. It's hard to see in the picture, but the curtains have burgundy stripes that pick up the comforter.

I made the tie-backs myself using a pattern from Crochet Pattern Central (suggested by Kimberly). Of these I am inordinately proud.

My other main purchase of the month was a wreath to signify the advent of autumn. It's about a million degrees outside today, but the wreath gives me hope.

And this is an example of closet shopping. Since I finally moved the huge, heavy, largely-decorative chess set off the kitchen table, we can theoretically eat there now. In the spirit of autumn, I pulled my autumnal table cloth down from the cabinet from which it had not emerged since I put it there more than a year ago. Now the kitchen is festive.

And so, today I am enjoying my freshly cleaned and updated house, freshly husband-mowed lawn, and not-at-all-fall-like weather.

Ty says he's going to fix the drywall in the laundry closet this week, and then we're tearing down popcorn ceilings, so look for some seriously nasty photo-journaling coming soon on that.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Organized Classroom Spaces

I love the start of a new school year. Everything is shiny and new, including the teachers and children in many cases. And as the kids arrive, they get to see a new classroom, cleaned up and organized just for them. Here are some of my favorite classroom spaces this year:

This is my office. I love having an office. The joy of having a locked door to close is sometimes overwhelming as well.

My friend Emily spent a good portion of her summer working on her classroom. Pictured above is her beautiful classroom library -- my favorite part of any classroom, of course. I like the way Emily has displayed her books with the covers out so the kids can browse more easily.

Another classroom library space that I simply adore was created by one of our new teachers, Erin. She has this same colorful theme throughout her classroom, but this corner is my favorite. I really want to be a third grader so I can come in here to read.

As yet unsullied by students, here is Fannie's art room. It's hard to see in this picture, but she has all of her art supplies stored neatly in bins on the shelves in the back of the room. The shelves are open, so her exceptional organizational skills are completely exposed.

Margareta knew her students would bring in supplies to share, like facial tissue, so she cleared out a whole cabinet in order to be prepared to stow the stuff on the first day.

Some classrooms have more physical limitations than others. Second grade teachers are all teaching in mobile units this year at my school, which means less space, fewer windows, and very little character. Tammy made the most of her windows by adding these attractive curtains to help brighten up the space.

What are your best classroom organization ideas? Aren't the ladies featured in this post amazing?

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Organization Project: Office Closet

I don't have any pictures of this one because I really wasn't prepared to tackle it. My thought process was basically, "Hm. I should work on National Boards planning. Don't wanna. Let's look in the office closet and see what I can throw out."

I did end up getting rid of one box. But not one box of stuff. I consolidated. Now there are fewer boxes and just a tiny bit less stuff.

I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the things in that closet for the most part. Shortly before I got married and moved into my husband's house, my parents moved out of their house (the one where I spent all of high school and stored all my pre-college life stuff). Consequently, I spent one weekend before their move packing up my room at my parents' house and stowing the boxes in Tyler's office closet. Most of what I could chuck, I chucked in Durham rather than hauling it into my new life with me.

So, while I didn't get rid of much yesterday, I did rediscover some treasures, such as...
  • a "tooth pillow" in which to store lost teeth for the tooth fairy, made by Grandma Likness
  • a doily and some figurines that I actually took out of the boxes and put around the house
  • an album full of pictures and memorabilia of our childhood dog, including the song we wrote about her (really, we did)
  • all my stuff from my study abroad semester in Finland
  • a news clipping of my brother driving his race car at the Orange County Speedway
  • scrapbooks from before the days of acid-free paper and die-cut shapes
  • the best stories I wrote in elementary and middle school, all typed on the Apple IIGS and printed with the trusty dot matrix printer
  • journals and other incriminating evidence of awkward adolescence that should probably be incinerated at first opportunity
  • all the tumble-polished rock jewelry from Great Grandpa Boehm
  • a gift from the museum guft shop from my best friend in first grade
And soooo much more. So, I pretty much labeled everything "for posterity," organized it by form and function, and put it all back in the closet. I know that professional organizers will tell you not to store a whole closet full of your misspent youth, but most professional organizers probably store their misspent youths at their parents' houses like normal people. So I'm keeping it. At least for now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Best School Year Evvvaaar

My Top Ten Reasons Why 2008-2009 Will Be the Best School Year Ever:

10. I have my MLIS degree finished, so I'm getting paid appropriately to do what I do.

9. I'm going for my National Board Certification this year. This may not end up being my favorite professional development task ever in the world, but people are coming out of the woodwork to support me as I work, and I think the process will be beneficial. (Plus, I get a big pay boost when and if I pass.)

8. I think maybe I'm getting a budget to order books and equipment. Hope has diminished somewhat since the summer, but there's still enough left for me to persevere in asking/begging/advocating for money for the media program.

7. My assistant is nice, helpful, and willing to learn new things.

6. The specialists are working well as a team. With the exception of some minor drama, we are unified and pretty much rocking out.

5. I really like my administration. They have the power to make or break a school, and we are blessed at my school.

4. I have tweaked the schedule to near finality, and although it's not perfect, it does mean that I have very few periods where I see two classes at once, and I even have some flex time for collaboration and various media-related endeavors.

3. We are starting a cool thing with our specials schedule (enrichment stuff like art, music, PE) where the kids get to choose a club to go to once a week during the school day. Clubs are supervised by specialists. This will be such a marvelous opportunity for the kids, and a great time for me to work with some special small groups of students. This is an innovative plan that I want to present at a conference next year if it works out.

2. We have a new Tech Facilitator! Yay! We are one of the only elementary schools in Guilford County to have a full-time certified technology teacher. (Who knows why though... I think it's absolutely essential!) In addition to enjoying a wonderful new partner in crime, this also means I no longer have to take care of technological problems in the school building, which means more time for media and literacy, which makes me inordinately happy.

1. My job is great every year, but never have I been so full of hope for innovation and creativity and exciting change happening in my school.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Advice for Media Specialists

I don't know how many media specialists (or school librarians) actually read my blog, but since school is starting soon, I thought I'd do a quick post on advice for beginning media specialists. I started in my media center a mere two years ago. I was blessed to have no precedent to uphold, since my school had been without a media specialist the previous year before I came, and I have had a very successful two years. But certainly, there are things I wish I had known when I started, or learned quickly after I started.

If you are just starting out in a media center, here are some things (in chronological order) that I would suggest you do:
  • Know your purpose and your mission as a media specialist, and let that be the measure for all that you do.
  • Make friends with the office staff, including secretator (not a typo), treasurer, and SIMS operator. You will need their help, and it will be sooner rather than later.
  • Make friends with your custodian.
  • Make friends with your administration.
  • Make friends with your school-level and district-level technology coordinators.
  • Do something to make the physical space your own. (Move furniture; add decorations; just do something to make it different than it was before you arrived.)
  • If possible, take the summer before starting in your position to assess the collection and move it around on the shelves if necessary.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, train her or him immediately, well, and thoroughly. Do not assume anything.
  • Find a buddy who is a media specialist in your district, preferably close by. Media specialists can have a very lonely job since there is usually only one per building, and it's hard to learn the specifics with no other media specialist to help you.
  • Start with a clean slate for patrons (both students and teachers), especially if the media program was previously a little fishy, as it was in my case. You don't want to fight a battle that someone else started because you really don't know who was right in the situation.
  • Make sure you have policies and procedures in place for students on the very first day that they come to the media center. They will not automatically know how to act. You will have to teach them explicitly, no matter the grade level, which means you will have to know and explain exactly what you want.
  • If you teach classes regularly, make seating charts. Kids like and need to know exactly what to do, and it will help you learn their names quickly.
  • As soon as possible, begin analyzing your collection, weeding regularly, and coming up with a long-term collection development plan focusing on different parts of the collection every year for five years. (I'll cover this more later and give some of my favorite techniques.)
  • Present a budget to your principal or Leadership Team as soon as possible. Try to gain access to data concerning how much was spent in previous years, average county or state spending for media centers, etc.
  • Be friendly and inviting to everyone on staff. Although a media specialist can sometimes be lonely, you also have the advantage of being politically neutral in most cases, which can be of great benefit and definitely where you want to be in order to help everyone and get their cooperation in return.
  • Go to all of the district-level media specialist meetings, even the optional ones. Network, network, network. Who knows when you'll need something that someone else is giving away?
  • In the same way, go to conferences (and join professional organizations). You do have time, and it is worth the effort. Get re-charged, meet some authors, network, and bring back fabulous ideas.
  • Get on your Leadership Team as soon as possible. You are the representative for the media department, and you need to be a school leader in order to be effective.
  • Don't stress. It's your first year, and you can't do it all. Just keep track of all your great ideas, and look forward to implementing them in years to come.
Any other ideas from those in the field? Personally, I am looking forward to a fantastic new school year! I'm no longer the new kid, so now I can start really having some fun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting My Foot in the Door

Remember how I said they should hire me to write for Unclutterer? Well, I'm on, sort of. Here's a before and after project post in which one of my projects is featured. The post is on the Real Simple: Home and Organizing blog, but blogger Erin Doland is the editor-in-chief of Unclutterer. Neat, huh? (Disclaimer: No, they're not hiring me or anything. I just sent in my pictures when Erin asked for before-and-after project pics. But hey...)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is that a purse or a duffle bag?

There is no doubt in my mind that physical space is at more of a premium now than ever. Airline luggage is just one example. It used to be nothing for my grandparents to seriously over-pack and end up with their two carry-on items each, plus two checked bags each, every time they came to visit. Now, they'll be paying out the wazoo to do such a thing. Since my post today is more about everyday space-saving, I'll direct you to this post from Unclutterer for avoiding bag check fees at airports by packing more efficiently. I'm a pretty good packer already (winner for smallest/lightest baggage on church trip to London two years ago), but a lot of the pointers at Unclutterer are specifically for newer airport regulations and restrictions, so it is quite helpful.

As far as day-to-day packing, I do have a few favorites.

1. Space-Saving Items: If you must carry it with you, at least try to find it in a compact size. Some of my space-saving items:
  • fold-up shopping bag from Target -- For 99 cents, I get a reusable shopping bag that folds to the size of a check book. The bag isn't huge, but it works for quick trips, and I don't forget to bring it into the store because it's already in my purse.
  • fold-up hair brush with compact mirror -- Gotta have it, and it would be completely impractical to carry around a full-size hairbrush.
  • teeny tiny flat Bible -- Not completely necessary to carry around everywhere, but nice to have at times. I got this as a gift. It is the thinnest one I have ever seen, and it's leather bound, so it holds together well. I think it would make a great backpacking Bible also, for my outdoor-adventure-seeking friends.
2. One item I wish I had: iPhone. In another great post by Unclutterer, Erin posts about iPhone apps that reduce clutter.
  • planner: Instead of carrying a calendar or planner, use the iPhone to access your Google Calendar.
  • wallet: Instead of carrying around huge amounts of store membership cards, take digital pictures of them, and put them in your iPhone. Sonja gave me a great demo of this on her iPhone. It really is snazzy.
  • address book: Duh, you don't need one if all your contact info is accessible by iPhone.
3. Other stuff to remember:
  • If you don't use it, don't bring it. I used to carry around one of those little tiny stuffed-in-a-bag rain slickers in my purse, but I never ever used it. Too much trouble. I keep it in my glove compartment now, and that pretty much does the trick. By way of another example, I don't carry Advil anymore. I only rarely need it, and it's usually at work, so I keep a bottle in a locked desk drawer at work. No more rattly purse.
  • Empty spare change periodically. For as much as I do not use cash, spare change weighs a lot for little benefit. Put it in a jar at home, and buy something when the jar gets full.
  • Carry in pockets when practical. The last thing I want to do at a concert is lug a purse. I'll put my driver's license and my debit card and maybe some cash in my pocket and lock my purse in the trunk. This would work well for movie theaters too if I could remember. Theater floors are gross and not really somewhere I want to put my purse.
  • Carry a smaller purse. Instead of using a huge purse because you have all kinds of crap to put in it, try using a smaller purse so you'll be forced to take only the essentials. You'll be surprised by how well you can live off a small one in most cases.
Leave some reader tips on reducing carried clutter in the comments!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chore Scheduling for Sanity's Sake

I'm looking forward to going back to work full-time in a couple of weeks. Summers are great, but I miss doing what I love, which -- fortunately for me -- is my job. But that's not to say I haven't enjoyed pursuing some new hobbies, projects, and much-needed relaxation this summer. I've even started some good habits (exercising daily for example) that I need to really make an effort not to drop when my schedule gets fuller again.

One time-saving tactic that has been a lifesaver for me in recent months has been the development of a chore schedule. My husband initially balked at the very idea that I would do this. His feeling was that I would become a slave to it, but the fact is, the schedule has freed me up; I was already a slave to needing to get stuff done, and I didn't have a good way to handle it.

I pretty much have one or two chores and a load of laundry scheduled for most weekdays. So, here's what my week looks like:
  • Monday: I go shopping after school using the list that I created Sunday. This is supposed to be the major trip for the week where I go to WalMart (evil corporation I know, but cheap and convenient) for groceries and everything else we need. This is also the day I wash bed and couch linens as needed. (Limiting laundry to no more than one load per day and none on weekends has improved my marriage greatly.) In the evening, I change all the towels in the kitchen and the bathrooms so that I can just throw the dirty ones in the washer before I go to work in the morning.
  • Tuesday: I clean bathrooms (spot clean or deep clean as needed) and wash a load of towels. My new and exciting washing machine has a delay feature, so I usually throw the laundry in the washer before work and set the delay so that the load is finishing around the time I come home. Then, I can throw the stuff in the dryer right away when I get home without my wet laundry sitting in the washer getting stinky all day.
  • Wednesday: I clean the kitchen and wash a load of regular cycle clothes. Wednesday is our church small group night, so I fix a snack for the group instead of a full dinner, so it's a good day to clean the kitchen, since I won't be turning right around and messing it up when I'm finished.
  • Thursday: I vacuum and dust (only if I can't stand it) and wash a load of delicate and permanent press clothes. Sometimes, vacuuming has to happen more than once a week because of Scratchy the Dirty Beast, but Thursday is when it officially gets done.
  • Friday: Rest and have fun! Also, change the towels in the evening, because they're usually getting yucky by this point, and I hate smelly towels.
  • Saturday: Fun fun fun, all day long!
  • Sunday: Plan three dinners and a Wednesday night snack for the week. Create grocery list based on meal needs and regular needs. I usually jot my list down on paper while I'm creating and then transfer it to a spreadsheet for easier store-wandering. My spreadsheet is currently on Google docs so my husband and I can make additions and changes during the day on Monday while we're at work. I have it categorized by store area. Here is the list I used yesterday:
Some other housework considerations: We have a cleaning service, and they come in once a month. That means I never have to mop or scrub floors or scrub the bathtub, and lots of months, I can get away without dusting. Those are the chores I abhor, so it's worth it to have the service. And also, if I get totally behind, and my house gets totally disgusting, it's not that big of a deal because it won't be long before the cleaning service comes, even if I don't get my act together.

Some other food considerations: As far as grocery shopping and cooking, I am usually responsible for weeknight meals, although my wonderful husband pitches in on it too. My husband usually takes care of most weekend meals, and he often cooks a big vat of deliciousness on Sunday night so that we'll have leftovers to take to work for lunches during the week. Many times, he'll do the grocery shopping for the meals he wants to make, unless he gets to me on Sunday or Monday to make his requests known.

Some other management considerations: I have my Remember the Milk service set up to remind me which chores to do each day at work and at home. I also keep daily to-dos on the list, so everything is together. The Remember the Milk gadget for iGoogle is excellent, so I usually just keep iGoogle up all day, now that my OS doesn't hate it anymore. (Incidentally, my other stuff on iGoogle includes Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Google Bookmarks, Google Calendar, and Weather. All excellent applications and gadgets.)

Some other approval considerations: I am taking a bit of a leap posting this for everyone to see because the initial reaction of others to my system is usually unmitigated disapproval. If you adopt a system similar to mine, people will call you names and assume that you have a stick up your butt. Let them. If it works for you (as it does for me), do it anyway.

Friday, August 1, 2008

You can even organize your hair.

Whenever people laugh at me for putting a high priority on organizing stuff, I tell them that when my stuff is a mess, it usually means my life is a mess. Sometimes, getting the mess in order can at least symbolically start getting my life in order. That's the main reason why I like my stuff clean, simple, and organized. Yeah, it's all about control, but at least I admit it.

So, when my stuff gets out of control, that bothers me. Recently, I've been aware that when my personal appearance gets out of control, that bothers me too. For example, when my hair situation is such that I can make a hobby of picking split ends, the bathroom floor has a veritable brunette carpet, I have to dump Dran-o down the shower regularly every two weeks to clear the hair clogs, and I'm not even bothering with anything but a ponytail anymore, I finally realize it is time for a haircut.

So, I haul myself and my gigantic hair over to Leon's to visit Amy. Amy takes one disapproving look at me and says, "You haven't been blow drying, have you?" Uh... actually, I did blow dry this morning, but it probably didn't count, since there was no styling involved. (Try getting 8 pounds of hair dry. You won't want to style it afterwards either.) So, I tell Amy to chop it all. I want it jaw-length, layered, thinned, and parted on the side.

Half an hour and seven inches later, I have organized hair, and my life feels like it's in better order.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Geekiness Galore

My sister and brother-in-law came over this weekend to help us eat bratwurst and install a new operating system on my faithful old iMac. I bought my lovable beast about five years ago and was running Mac OS 10.3, and now I'm updated to Leopard, which is exciting. I'm still playing with new features (that aren't really new to anyone but me since it's not a new OS) and being all geeky with downloading drivers for all of my ancient peripherals, etc.

One thing I'm pretty excited about is the new(er) version of GarageBand. My original GarageBand did not come with pre-made broadcast loops and the ability to do geeky podcasting things with automatic volume fading and stuff, so I will probably spend countless hours on that this week.

And then, Facebook came out with this new blogging community app, so I have to play with that too, even though it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the new OS. If you're one of my friends on Facebook, go join the Library Pendragon Network on Blog Networks (and please confirm me as the author). And if you have a blog and create a network for it on Facebook, please let me know so I can join it!

Possible posts for the near future:
  • solutions for carrying a smaller wallet/pocketbook/purse/carry-on-sized piece of ridiculous luggage that you have the nerve to call a purse
  • back to work and school with a chore schedule that frees up weekends (like the upcoming tax-free shopping weekend) and doesn't make you want to die
  • more reader application

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crafty people have cool organizing stuff.

My mother-in-law is teaching me how to crochet. It's something I've always kind of wanted to do. I even tried to teach myself how as a child, but it's hard to learn the basics from books. I ended up getting frustrated and quitting.

Like many new hobbies, crochet can also tempt one to spend more money than is absolutely necessary on cool new stuff. And cool new stuff abounds in craft stores. Much of the cool stuff has the sole function of organizing the craft stuff. Nancy, my mother-in-law, took me shopping recently and bought me this cool crochet stuff organizer:

Someday, when I have more than one hook, they will all fit in here, along with the super-neat-o folding miniature scissors (which I love) and anything else I can think of. This thing rolls up and fits in my crochet bag. Fortunately, I did not need to buy a bag because I am a teacher, and canvas bags multiply like rabbits in my closet. However, had I needed a really nifty bag with specialized compartments just for crochet, the craft store would have been happy to provide it.

To my delight and probably future financial demise, WalMart also has a decent yarn and craft section full of the basics and the not-so-basics.

I know I have at least one crocheting reader. I'm looking for a good blog or two that might give tips and patterns for beginners if you have any suggestions.

And now, just because I'm so proud, here are some gratuitous crochet pictures.

This is my first completed project -- a dish cloth for which I learned at least three new stitches by reading a book:

And here are the granny squares that will eventually find themselves in a blanket, maybe for my unborn (and not-yet-conceived and not-to-be-conceived-in-the-near-future) child because it will probably take me years to finish:

I love the yarn I'm using on these. It's so soft, I want to crochet just so I can touch the yarn. (Tactile much?)

What are your favorite craft organizers? Anything you bought for your hobby because it was cool, only to discover you could have lived without it? Also, feel free to tell me how beautiful my stuff is for a beginner. :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Stuff Someone Should Invent to Make My Life Easier

I have great ideas (I think), but I am no developer. So, here are some freebies for any developers/inventors who might be reading. And if there are things like these out there that you readers know about, please leave me a comment, because I'm in the dark.

1. decent shopping list application: Right now, I have my shopping list in a Google spreadsheet because I can't find an application I like. It just needs to be a simple thing, but I want categories to be allowed. For example, I shop with the categories Produce, Frig/Freezer, Dry/Canned, and Other. So, really, I just need somebody to make me an application where I can make one list with four different headings. And I want a usable print option. And an iPhone app to go with it would be great. (Even though I don't have an iPhone yet, I suffer from acute iPhone envy.)

2. on-line budget tool that works right: At the moment, I am using a tweaked Excel template to keep track of my budget because I just don't like anything I've seen out there other than my custom-built thing. I did try Mint.com, but after messing with the settings for two hours and then discovering a really annoying bug that was messing all my numbers up, I quit. So, my Excel sheet works fine for now, but I can only work on it from home (unless I go try out all the many syncing tools available and get my computers synced up), and it's not available remotely.

3. inexpensive lawn sprinkler that won't break after a month: The $5 WalMart sprinkler that "waves" water back and forth is a great low-cost option, but it becomes less effective when the thing breaks and only waters about a quarter of the vegetable garden when left to its own devices. I've been looking like a moron out in the garden lately, picking up the sprinkler and aiming it where I want it to go. This method works better than leaving the sprinkler to its own devices, but saves no time, as I'm back to manual watering instead of turn-it-on-and-leave-it watering.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Have I overlooked something that would fulfill my requirements for any of these items? What inventions or applications would make you gleeful?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

DVD Catalog!

Ask and you shall receive. Sonja just did a great post on a DVD cataloging system she just started using here.

Now, I need a remote backup server or a really cheap external hard drive... I think I can go back through my Google Reader blogs and find something, but if you have any ideas, leave me a comment. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I am fodder for satire and biting social commentary.

With more and more people jumping on the productivity bandwagon -- reading all the books, magazines, and blogs, and even becoming productivity hobbyists -- it's no surprise that productivity satire is beginning to creep into the media. Tyler and I watched Chaos Theory a couple of weeks ago. He liked it, and I did too, but I'm sure I appreciated it more than he did. I had to explain that even the main character, Frank Allen (played by Ryan Reynolds), is a really really thinly-veiled David Allen character. In the movie, Frank is an "efficiency expert" who has written a wildly popular book on productivity and efficiency and travels the country giving speeches at conferences about his system and how it works. (Frank's system is basically a list-making management scheme a la Getting Things Done.) So, I thought the movie was really well done and funny in an absurd kind of way, which also caused a bit of a sheepish reaction, since I could definitely be considered a productivity/efficiency/organization geek.

While I don't think my style of organization is particularly absurd, it does come off that way to people. Last night, we were talking with some friends, and Judy (who I love dearly) commented that she wished she had more of my gift for administration and organization.

"You're a list-maker, aren't you?" she asked.

I nodded, and my husband nodded vigorously, probably mentally noting the multiple lists I have strategically placed in at least three rooms in our small house and all over my office at work.

"But," Judy continued, "when you make a list and then don't get something done on your list, do you feel like a failure?"

I paused but then nodded again ruefully, and my husband nodded vigorously, probably mentally noting the numerous occasions on which I have apologized to him for not doing things he didn't even know (or care if) I was supposed to be doing.

So, I guess one of the major pits that list-makers like me can easily fall into is irrational pressure placed on oneself with resulting unfounded and legalistic guilt.

But, like I told the group, I don't think my lists are a bad thing; they do help me work more productively and efficiently, and I'm getting better about the irrational guilt/pressure/legalism thing. That stuff happens because I'm a perfectionist, not because I'm a list-maker.

I'm going to keep on making my lists and reorganizing my closets and reading my productivity blogs, books, and magazines. I am a librarian, after all. And the nice thing about having a habit (or, gag, a hobby) that people view as absurd is that you can just laugh along with them because you know that whatever they think about it, your absurdity serves you well.

In my case, I think about how fortunate I am that my propensities and tendencies work so well for me in my chosen profession. I mean, really, could I have a job that more fully suits me? I think not. And what a blessing to have found this niche that I just knew had to be out there somewhere!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wonderful Readers

Here's another blog on reader application...

Reader #1: Jennifer

Jennifer has done some wonderful Picnik edits. She has been doing it a lot longer than I have, and her pictures are awesome. Here's my favorite:

Jennifer has an album full of Picnik editing that is fun to look at as well. She also let me know about the Picnik blog, wherein one of her friends, Katie McDonough, is featured. Both Jennifer and Katie have some cool ideas for Picnik editing.

Reader #2: Sonja

Ok, Sonja and I are twin sisters. We have a lot of the same interests and goals in life. Sonja has an awesome and inspiring blog called White Picket Fences, and today she posted an entry on her DVD organization project.

Reader #3 (not really): Moi

I get to be on here too because I've learned a lot about Picniking since my last post. Here's my favorite edited photo so far:

Here's the photo before editing:

So much better, no? You can look at a whole wedding album, most of which has been Picniked mercilessly, here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Picniking Like a Champ

Again, I am one of the last few to jump on the bandwagon here, but I've just discovered a great way to organize and edit pictures. Well, maybe more editing than organizing, but hey... If you have fun editing your pictures, you'll be more likely to organize them, right?

So, yes, Picnik is my new favorite internet toy.

In addition to doing all of the normal photo editing stuff, you can also do some neat-o fun things. Not as much as with Photoshop, I'm told, but I've never been a photo geek, so it's all new to me.

Look at us, we're thinking only of each other. Awww. This is the "focal soften" tool in Picnik.

Here's a picture highlighting Scratchy's priceless facial expression (yes, Scratchy has facial expressions) using the same tool.

This is a picture of our wedding taken by Grandpa Morgan. I love the flowers in the foreground, so I punched them up using the "focal B&W" tool.

And here are the Liknesses at the wedding, standing out from the background with the use of "effect painting."

Anyway, for some first attempts, they're not bad. You can keep up with me as I play with my photos because my Picnik account is linked to my Facebook photo albums. The pictures that I edit in Picnik can automatically replace the old ones in Facebook. Cool, huh?

So here's your part. Share with me your favorite Picnik-edited photo that you have created (ahemJenniferCookeahem). With your permission, I will post it here so that everyone can be inspired. I've seen some great work from a few people around Facebook and would love to have a collection of ideas for new Picnikers like me!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summer Organization Project #3: The DVD Collection

I've been working feverishly all week trying to get this project done so that I'll have something to show for it. This was one of those projects that takes two weeks and causes a mess. There were DVD cases all over the living room floor for the length of the project.

Here's the old space:

This photo was actually taken last summer. I added two more CD shelves since then, which allowed me to get all of the CDs off the floor. It's hard to see in the picture, but the DVDs are taking up the entire bottom of the TV stand as well as all the space on top of the TV and all the space one top of the TV stand.

Here is the project in progress:

Here, I am in the process of putting all of the DVDs into plastic sleeves, labeling the sleeves, and then filing the sleeves in cases. I got the idea from this guy on Flickr. His is much more involved than mine. I didn't cut the case up or anything. I just put the DVD itself in the sleeve. We decided to save the DVD cases because we sometimes sell old ones, and the stores won't take them without cases. So, 3 18-gallan tubs full of DVD cases have now found homes in my closets, but the entertainment center looks a lot better. :)

Here's the finished product:

The DVDs are all hiding down here below the stereo:

Now, you can select a box by genre (thriller/action, comedy/romantic comedy, drama/romance, or horror/sci fi) and then browse the box alphabetically:

I used Snap-N-Store CD storage boxes, which are available at Office Max and other office supply stores as well. The boxes are economical at around $6 a box, they look good, and they store flat when you're not keeping CDs or DVDs in them. One box will hold 165 CDs or DVDs in sleeves like this.

My next step is to find a good cataloging or database system with which I could search electronically within all of our movies to find the one I want. (The catch is that I don't want to do a lot of data entry, or I'd just create a database myself.) Right now, there are around 400 DVDs in the collection. If you know of a good service (preferably free) that I could use to create such a catalog, please let me know! I'm thinking with all of the great book organizing solutions available on the web, there should be something for movies too.

Happy 4th, and happy organizing!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Before there was Internet, there were ghosts in them hills.

I came home tonight after dinner with some friends to find Tyler on the deck smoking a long-awaited cigar. He told me about a ghostly-sounding creature he had been listening to in the wooded hills behind our house. We live out a little ways in the country, and we see deer and turkeys pretty regularly, and Scratchy (pictured right) has made friends with a very ugly herd of possums with whom he shares his cat food.

But this creature was no possum. Tyler described the sound it made and then told me about how the creature had come right up to the split rail fence below the deck and shrieked, and all the neighborhood dogs went nuts, and Scratchy wanted to go in the house. As a point of information, Scratchy is fierce and not easily frightened. He stares down the Doberman from up the road on a fairly regular basis.

I was a little creeped out and worried that a mountain lion might be stalking us or something. Except normally when animals stalk you, they don't shriek. So, I got on the trusty internet and found two animals that make shrieking noises and live in rural North Carolina: pumas and red foxes. And apparently, pumas don't often shriek, but female red foxes do it a lot during mating season.

So, then, I found this on YouTube, and Tyler confirmed that was the sound he heard. Scary scary. And it's back. I just went outside with him and heard it. Good thing we have Internet, or we'd be sitting by the door with a shotgun...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Practical Application

I'm going to try to keep it short today, since I have an organizing project to finish, hopefully before Tyler gets home. :) (If I finish it, I'll post it tomorrow.)

So, I thought that today I'd share a little bit of how my (three) readers have used the suggestions here so far. I am so impressed by their creativity and inspired ideas!

Kimberly adapted the spice cabinet post for her needs, which is just what I hoped folks would do. Yay! She had the great idea of using a Rubbermaid drawer in a cabinet if your kitchen just doesn't have the necessary drawer space for a spice drawer. She also applied the same idea to her bathroom by creating a medicine drawer in the absence of a medicine cabinet! How I wish I had had the same wonderful idea in the last place that I lived...

Everyone loves Sharpies (especially the silver one), including Sonja and Emily.

Sonja was possibly inspired by the laundry room clean-up and says: "I actually did my laundry room this weekend too, although my space us a lot smaller than yours. I finally got a 3 bin sorting hamper and installed a rack for hanging. (Repurposed an unused shower curtain rod.)" She even sent me an awesome picture of her newly-organized space (picture on the right). I love the shower curtain rod for hanging stuff, and her laundry closet with stacking units on the right was what really gave me hope for my laundry closet in the first place, months ago. Update: For a more detailed description of her laundry room, see Sonja's laundry room blog entry.

So, thanks, readers, and keep the comments and photos coming!