A Real Simple article caught my eye some time ago (because I
am cheap try to be frugal, I check out past copies from the library instead of subscribing). It was by a woman whose mother was always into “new systems.” When presented with a new idea for cooking, organizing, etc., her mother (and later, herself) would exclaim with delight — “Oh! A New System!” The phrase has stuck in my head.
Life is not neat and orderly and punctual. That’s why we yearn for the beauty, the simplicity, of a lovely New System.
(Cathleen Schine from “All Systems Go” in Real Simple November 2003.)
I totally relate. The “newness” of New Systems is exciting and fun, and I feel proud when I’ve mastered a New System. It’s also fun to reinvent Existing Systems — such as taking the moleskine planner hack and daily schedule timeboxing system and putting it into a cool new Illustrator form, as I did for my new organizer.
Some New Systems are easier to start than others. Some require initial investment — purchasing a moleskine or a Circa notebook, buying a filing cabinet, or buying matching cloth-covered boxes that stack up neatly in your cupboard. Others can be implemented with stuff you already have.
I’m reminded of last summer when my California family members went out to visit my sister’s family in the Boston area. They had just moved into a new house. Angela (who is writing a book about organization) spent an evening sharing organization tips with Leslie and helped her go through her overflowing inbox using GTD principles. We then did a hands-on project the next day and helped to organize and streamline the kitchen cupboards. Leslie had a cupboard shelf packed with boxes of tea, vitamin bottles, and other assorted medicines. Angela shared a neat tip for cheaply organizing and consolidating the boxes of tea — put the tea bags in a ziplock bag to take up less space, then (what I considered a stroke of genius) slide in a piece of cardstock about the same size as the ziplock to help it stand up straight and make it easier to “file.” The box covers could be cut off and taped onto the cardstock to act as labels.
As it turned out, the random stack of cardstock that Leslie had serendipitously matched the colors on the tea boxes.
The tea bags are behind the cardstock so that the label doesn’t get obscured:
We lined the tea organizers in bins that Leslie already had in the cupboard. Here is the remodeled shelf (unfortunately none of us remembered to take a “before” picture):
(The bin on the right is an old box of diaper wipes. I drew a little tea bag on the side. 🙂 )
Coming up with a New System is creative work and rewarding in itself. Implementing and maintaining a New System is an exercise in discipline and rewarding every time you use it. Ditching a System that isn’t working for you takes humility and courage, but allows you to have the fun of inventing another New System!