The Scrappy Genealogist’s announcement on Friday that she will be featuring guest posts from different geneamommybloggers this week (“How She Does It - Secrets from the Geneamommybloggers”) has inspired me to share my recent experience in trying to organize my house and simplify my life to clear the way for the things I really want to do, especially family research and blogging about my research.
My daughters are young adults now (18 and 21), so I have survived the super-intense earlier phases of raising children. I now have a bit more time to do things like read, research, and write (when work isn’t so insane that my workdays run long and leave me too exhausted to do anything that takes a brain cell or two).
And yet even before work started to demand more and more of me, I noticed that my productivity in the area of family research was falling. I realized that the main culprit was the messy accumulation of clutter, compounded by a few other things that gobbled up a lot of time.
My solution involved about a dozen elements:
1. Throw out a lot of stuff.
2. Give a lot of stuff away.
3. Identify, locate, centralize, and organize your most precious heirlooms, family documents, and physical and electronic research documents and records.
4. Figure out a system for holding/storing anything you have a lot of (books, CDs, etc.). Buy whatever shelves, boxes, storage bins you need to accommodate them.
5. Throw out some more stuff.
6. Cut down on purchases, especially those that add unnecessary “stuff” to your household. This also means fewer birthday, Christmas, and special occasion gifts.
7. Figure out what items can be replaced by their electronic equivalents. My family and I are not terribly good at this, and my husband and I in particular are attached to the physical forms of many things (= books and CDs). However, my daughters are getting e-readers for Christmas and I am getting an iPad. We figure that most of our fiction reading and some of our nonfiction/research reading can be handled on these platforms. I would like to reduce the number of DVDs we buy, since so much can be viewed online. There is still some ethnic/esoteric music that I order in CD form, but these days there is a lot more of my “weird” music on iTunes than there used to be.
8. Give away some more stuff.
9. Identify and eliminate unnecessary and time-consuming chores. For me this year this will be writing the annual Christmas letter. As a genealogist, I know that Christmas letters can be goldmines of family information, but I am just tired of writing them. It started out as a way to save time, because I was individualizing each card for each recipient to the point that it was an exhausting undertaking. But you know what? Now I have a blog, use Facebook and Google Plus, and am always happy to correspond by e-mail. With a great deal of regret, I also discontinued my Follow Friday posts.
10. Clean house, clean out and organize your closets and junk drawers, and scrub and dust off those remote corners, high shelves, and other places you rarely visit to clean. It’s a pain, but it should take care of dust moozy/dust mite havens for another year or two. Clean out the fridge and clear the shelves of old food (you know you’ve got stuff that expired in 2008 in there).
11. If you have the time, energy, and money to do so, take care of any other matters that are a drag on your energy if you leave them undone: clean up your finances and financial records, get minor household repairs done, get the car fixed and cleaned, schedule medical appointments you have been putting off.
12. Clean up the yard, or at least take care of the worst eyesores: mow, pick up twigs and sticks, pick the worst weeds.
This is what I (and my husband and even occasionally my daughters) have been doing for the last two months. I am not listing all of these things to sound virtuous. If we had been more conscientious and better organized to begin with, things would not have reached such a critical state - to the point that I felt too paralyzed to effectively continue my research. I did not take a complete hiatus from blogging, but I definitely slowed down a bit.
Most important of all: Figure out what things are most important to you, and figure out how you can focus on them and include all of them. My priorities are:
Family life - spending home time with my family, going out to eat or see movies, and taking vacations together. This includes taking time to play and cuddle with our cats and actively participating in church. Keeping in touch with other family members, including cousins and “research cousins.”
Continuing to educate myself: in the area of languages (for my profession/vocation), in the area of genealogical research (for my hobby/avocation), and in the area of general knowledge (simply for personal development and enjoyment). Putting aside time to read and listen to music.
Family research. Getting my resources (including my bookmarks and Research Toolbox) in order. Continuing to get that cousin bait out there. Attending conferences. Taking research trips.
Gardening and feeding the birds in our yard.
That’s it. Pretty simple.
Now, after peeling off layer after layer of things accumulated after more than 20 years of being a family with children, I am just about ready to crawl out from under my rock and start some serious research.