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Working in the Nest

For some of us Nesting Chicks, the proverbial office water cooler is the through-the-door water dispenser on our home fridge. Conveniently this means you can visit the water cooler in your pajamas as well as your power suit. However, the downside is there’s no one there to chew the fat with you while you try to decide between earl grey and that third cup of coffee, aka nectar of the gods. There’s also no formal transition time from home to work: no train, car, or sidewalk commute. The coffee stop is the Keurig in the kitchen. The newsstand is the paper collected from the end of the driveway. There’s no train ride enabled downtime for your favorite podcast, new book, or mini-nap… no navigation-required or workbag packing- any of those things that help your mind shift from home life to working life and then back again.

At home those transitions must be created. Artificial borders are drawn between home and office. A new kind of work day routine is carved out. Out-of-office interactions are sought out deliberately to keep “outside world” connections fresh and morale high. Work-life boundaries have to be heeded with more careful intention so neither overruns the other. For working moms, the home office gives the freedom to substitute coffee breaks for a timeout for afterschool check-ins with their children- a prized chance to not have to wait until dinner to hear about the schooldays. However, the temptation to go back into work mode post bath and bedtime rituals is perhaps a more slippery slope when the office is just down the stairs.

Whether you work from home full time or just occasionally, creating a functional, comfortable, and inspirational space for working is essential. What you need to make your work space work for you (pun intended) can really vary depending on use, layout, and personal style. For some chicks the home office space may take the form of desk in the kitchen used to organize mail, pay bills, and supervise homework all in-between steps in dinner recipes. For others the home office is more of a reading or writing nook- a sacred space for pursuing a passion, personal or professional. Some chicks share their home offices with partners and children, which calls for further organization and separation- and perhaps some extra patience. Some offices are first floor front and center with nowhere to hide thus making tidiness a must, while others are tucked away, happily hidden from the prying eyes of in-laws, drop-in guests, and the postman. Some nesters are minimalists- just a flat surface of any kind and a lap top- where others need -at a minimum- a 27 inch touch screen monitor and laser printer to function.

Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest differences. The addition of a decorate board to hold reminders over the kitchen workspace to ease desktop clutter or a more aesthetically appealing version of the dorm-door whiteboard to let folks know you are on a work call. Some of my best home office tweaks came from suggestions from friends and coworkers. So Nesting Chicks, I want to hear from you. How do you transition to and from work? What is your home work space like? What about it do you love and what would you love to change?

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Cloak of Many Feathers

cloak-of-many-feathersEver find yourself staring into your closet like it’s a black void? Or a jungle of tweed, leather, corduroy, cotton, and denim- purses perched precariously like monkeys ready to swing down on you while scarves weave like vines across tangled branches of hangers, some of them bare as the escapees accumulate on the floor like shed leaves? The lion, the witch, and the rest of Narnia could all be hiding in there and you’d be none the wiser. But more importantly where the heck is that perfect lightweight cardigan you’re looking for and should have been out the door with 15 now 16 minutes ago?

In my post on decluttering the nest, I mentioned seeing the trees through the forest. The closet is the heart of that forest- the shining example of how establishing and maintaining an order can pay off exponentially just by making it easier to get out the door in the morning or pack for a trip. I remember the moment when I first fell in love with the idea of bringing order to the black hole some refer to as the clothes closet. I was a college student being given a home tour for a family for whom I was housesitting. The house was lovely, but forget the fireplace and walls of windows- the closet was immaculate, pristine, a thing of wonder. Clothes organized by color going from sleeveless to short-sleeved to long-sleeved. There were drawers for non-hanging items. Special hangers for belts and scarves. Shelves for hats and purses. Rotating shoe racks. While they were in Hawaii enjoying paradise, I pulled up a stool in that closet and sat in awe of the ideal organization system that had somehow magically transplanted from the Sex and the City set to a lake house in North Carolina.

Now while we don’t all possess a walk-in closet that would make Carrie Bradshaw forget all about Mr. Big (for while anyway), we can, however, all take steps to make it easier to see our forest of fashion options a bit more clearly. Aside from making it easier to throw together an outfit, without some intentional prevention lovely items will get pushed into the shadowy corners of the closet (aka Siberia) not to see the light of day again until you change zip codes. Reorganization can help your clothes get more even wear as you are more likely to rotate through outfits and also help you realize what items are not seeing the light of day and are ready to leave the rotation permanently via donation or consignment.

For me, it’s the little things that make all the difference. A jewelry stand that I can have out in the open to make it easy to see all the options. Specialized bags that make packing for a trip easier. A cosmetics case I can keep out and I don’t feel the urge to hide under the sink when company comes over. Because I don’t want to just consume-consume-consume (which my mom would call clutter-clutter-clutter though I believe the current buzzword for this is “fast fashion”) I try to buy clothes that are well-made and more classic than trendy. I also invest in (or improvise my own) organization products that make it easier to see what I actually have on hand.

While there are plenty of experts out there to give us advice, Nesting Chicks need a special space for their cloaks of many feathers. I’d like to hear from you: how to you establish and maintain order in your clothes closets and other “getting ready” spaces like the bathroom, the bedroom, etc. For those of you who have made it from jungle chaos to manicured forest, draw a map for our sisters still fighting through the foliage!

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Decluttering the Nest

We all know the feeling. You open your front door and immediately want to close it as it feels like moving would be easier than reestablishing order over the chaos that has slowly, yet slyly and steadily, taken over. Well nestlings, sometimes we must first ruffle some feathers to get the look we’re after. There are a lot of different approaches you can take on home organization. And I have tried many of them. Before my move-before-last I listened to Gail Blanke’s Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. For my most recent move, I listened to an audiobook version of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. A friend from college has devoted next month to the 30 day Minimalist Challenge – plus the challenges visualized in this calendar to the right created by Into-Mind – and it brought the whole decluttering concept back to the front burner of my thoughts.

It can sound negative to say that this work that is never done, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: this work is never done. So I think the answer lies in reframing how we view the tasks associated with “tidying up” because we always get some much-needed joy and productive energy from the result. Think of it as an extension of the time-tested PSA “the more you know…” attitude. Decluttering is not just a random rainy Saturday morning activity. It’s a lifelong project that goes well beyond our physical nests to the metaphysical nests we all maintain to varying degrees of tidiness in our hearts and minds, and yes, even our souls. It’s continual- a constant- but we can find ways to make it more manageable.

On my childhood soundtrack, one invariable is my mom’s sayings. “Don’t put it down, put it up.” “A place for everything and everything in its place.” “Less is more.” While I will confess, I have rolled my eyes on more than one (hundred thousand) occasion(s) at these mantras growing up, when I actually apply them in my adult life I feel happier, more unencumbered, and function much more efficiently & effectively. Whether by reconfiguring a closet or mudroom by adding hooks or shelves or containers to give everything a place and thus make it easier to put things up, or by lightening the load by tossing (or donating or selling) items no longer needed or used, these repetitive processes help me “take back my house”- and my life. We all know there are so many things we can’t control that can cause intense anxiety, but our nests don’t have to be one of those things. When we reach past our physical nests to those metaphysical spaces, we find that there are also many things that impact mental clarity, emotional stability, and spiritual health that we can control and declutter. We just have to take the time to see the trees through the forest- and when necessary do some clearing for erosion-prevention! I don’t know of a decluttering plan for a home or personal growth that doesn’t involve letting go of or removing things that hold you back or make you feel closed in or simply don’t get utilized any longer.

In her famed editorial Wear Sunscreen, Mary Schmich advises to “Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.” So my feathered friends, I want to hear your inspiring suggestions. What is your advice on decluttering? How do you tackle the clutter in your life? What do you know now about tidying up that you wish you knew at 20 or 40?