Monday, July 09, 2007

52 Weeks Down - Week 11 - Organize!

Ok, the minute they saw the title of this essay, all my friends and family started laughing their collective behinds off ;-). Because this is the one section in which I'm telling you folks to do as I say, not as I do. I'm not great at this in some respects (in others I am, actually). But it is also something I'm working on - hard. And I think it is worth my speaking from my own limitations here, because this really is that important. I honestly believe that the big thing that will decide whether I can live my life at 90% reduction or below is whether or not I can really get organized. If I can pull that off, I'll make it.

Let's start with the ways that organization can save you energy and money that I do do comparatively well. One of them is with food. The big chunks of one's food budget come in the number of trips made, the cooking and refrigeration energy you use, etc... And growing your own food requires considerable planning - a pizza I want to eat in the fall requires I start thinking about wheat last fall, tomatoes this winter and basil in may. Planning and organizing can make a huge difference in your consumption. Buying in bulk, and keeping quantities of your staples around, learning to eat seasonally and recording what works and what doesn't, consolidating your cooking so that you do all the baking in one shot for a few days, and can keep the oven off...this is planning.

Another thing I actually do pretty well is consolidating trips. We're down to driving 3 days per week at this point. It will go up to four in the fall, when my husband goes back to teaching (I'm working from home this summer), but we'll have it down to two by next week if I have anything to say about it. That means we need to schedule ahead on drive days, and accomodate drive days to scheduled things. On one trip to the pick-your-own fruit place, we might also stop at the pool to swim and eat a packed lunch, at the bulk store, and go visit friends. On our trip to synagogue we don't do commerce, but we'll spend as much time with friends and community as possible.

Ok, here's what I'm bad at - keeping the clutter from piling up. And this eats up a lot of my time, as I spend it cleaning up a mess that wouldn't be there if I were better organized. I have better uses for that time, and I suspect so do all of us. It also eats energy. Am I the only one who has gone out and bought something because they couldn't find a tool or thing we knew we had? The only person who has wasted gas on a last minute run out to the hardware store because I hadn't thought ahead to the next project? Wasted heat because I hadn't gotten around to digging through the boxes to find the insulating curtains - and the reason I hadn't is because the attic is such a mess? Stopped off for pizza instead of going home and getting dinner because of an errand that wasn't really necessary had I been better organized?

Record keeping is important too. How do you know how much impact that change in behavior has unless you track your prior usage and your current one? How do you know how long 50lbs of oatmeal will last you unless you track it? How do you know whether the chickens or the cell phone is worth the money and energy they cost unless you keep track? This is another one I'm not very good at, in part because I actually have a very good memory. For a long time, I could keep an awful lot in my head with only minimal losses ;-). Four kids worth of brain damage later, I need to write it down. I don't always. But I'm working on it.

Honestly, I truly think that the one thing that would make the biggest difference in my environmental impact is a greater degree of organization. As I said, I'm working on it.



Anonymous said...

I don't know at what point we stopped having to looking at least year ahead for everying -- from aging yew for bow staves, to shearing the sheep for a winter of carding, spinning, weaving, etc. to planting a grow of olive trees for our grandchildren to a grove of oaks to re-beam (is that a word?) the great hall 500 years hence, but we'd better get orgainzed to do some of that in time to come.

I'm trying to organize (and de-horde) for times to come, too. And it's hard, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Organization is easist when it has ossified into habit, and habits are hard to hold when things are changing. I suspect that organization is typically the last adaptation to get pegged down. Just when we get one nice organized schedule worked out, we add one more thing to do regularly and everything is ajumble again!
-Brian M.

Anonymous said...

Has given my life real organizing systems that have saved me from life of total chaos. And given me skills to take control of the piles. I've been at it for at least 6 years and still learning but am in a much better place.

T in MI

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I find it comforting that you haven't mastered organization....I feel so far behind you in everything else, maybe at least one place I'm not.

Funny what you think about people on the internet. Until I saw a photo of you recently (and heard you talk on a podcast) I just had you pictured as Jessica Lange in O Pioneers. Swear to [deity].

Anonymous said...

Our friend and homesteader MrsShoppes posted a lot of detail on her organizational system (With helpful pictures) on her July 16th post at.
Its probably higher-energy than you'd be comfortable with, but I'll bet it will give you some ideas. She's cribbed some ideas from flylady too.
-Brian M.

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