October 17th, 2012

Not a review: _The Art of Organizing Everything_

There will probably be a review shortly, altho one never knows; this might be all I ever have to say on the subject.

I've been attempting to get a better sense of how people implement tickler files. I was at the library in Mayberry for book group on Monday and checked this general organizing paperback out. It is excellent; Rosalie Maggio is a relentlessly cheerful organizer, full of ideas, but succinct.

However, like all organizers, she periodically descends into madness.

On page 164, when she describes the annual purge of the filing system, she says this.

"At that time, you bundle up the credit card receipts, put a rubber band around them, print the year in bright red, and store them with the previous years' receipts. Ditto for the year's medical insurance records, the year's utility bills, and the year's bank account statements. Storing can be as simple as a brown paper bag in the attic or as fancy as colorful bins in a dry place in the garage."

As the publication date is 2009, I'm going to give her a pass on the idea that these things maybe don't _exist_ on paper in your filing system. I do, however, question the idea of getting a single rubber band around a year's worth of credit card receipts. I question the idea of keeping all those credit card receipts for the entire year. And I find it breathtaking to contemplate keeping them, _intentionally_, beyond the end of the year (I feel bad when I do it unintentionally). Worse, however, is that she doesn't actually suggest every throwing them away, as near as I can tell, which suggests that thermostatic record of the lunch you had with three friends last Sunday will still be deteriorating years after it has become completely illegible in a rubber banded paper bag in your attic.


Like entirely too many people, she produces the usual ridiculousness about how long you should keep tax returns: forever -- particularly if you've committed fraud. Because, after all, people who commit tax fraud are the kind of people who keep records forever. I guess we could all worry about the IRS coming after us decades hence for fraud, whether we had committed it or not.

But why would you worry about that? If someone is going to audit your return, it's going to be within 6 years, or the quality of your record keeping is _not_ going to be the primary thing keeping you out of jail. Your ability to find and pay a truly high quality law firm will be determining your future at that point.

Stopping Junk Mail, Revisited

I found dmachoice fairly early on in the process; it's not completely obvious yet whether it's making a difference or not. It's sort of the junk mail equivalent of being added to the Do Not Call registry.

Rosalie Maggio mentioned CatalogChoice several times and I finally went to look at the site. I added the most recent catalogs that I hadn't had the get-up-and-go to actually call and cancel through the browser entry system; pretty simple and easy. Then I looked at their subscription service to stop info-brokers from selling your data; seems a little expensive and kinda overkill.

Then I found MailStop Mobile, which is an iOS (maybe android, too -- dunno) app that lets you take a picture of the mailing label (mailing label, sender name, customer number) and send it in. Mmmmmmm.

I'm sort of looking forward to this; it might make it possible to stop the single piece mailings, which I had not previously attempted to thwart -- I was only going after catalogs.

_The Art of Organizing Everything_, Rosalie Maggio

Subtitled: Simple Principles for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life

Published by McGraw Hill.

Admirably short (just over 200 pages), chatty without wasting your time, and with pithy, relevant quotes from numerous, predominantly women writers, Maggio's book on organization is about as good as these things get. The last entry in this particular self-help genre which I read was Julie Morgenstern's _Organizing from the Inside Out_ (I'm reasonably certain I read the first edition, probably in the late 1990s or early 2000s, altho it has been a while so I don't recall for sure). And Morgenstern's book wasn't this good.

Maggio, as I previously noted, does periodically descend into madness (keeping credit card receipts indefinitely was what triggered the previous post), and quite frequently advocates a level of cleaning/maintenance/etc. that I think is completely uncalled for. However, to each her own. I was here for the tickler file information (which is sort of an unfair demand from a general purpose book, as it is strictly speaking more of a time management issue); she had only a little to say about it, mostly that a linear electronic file is probably all that is necessary. I'll be reading _Getting Things Done_ next, which I suspect will irritate me.

She's got 10 principles and she mostly uses them: "Be Your Own Best Friend", by which she means, pick up after yourself/prep for yourself; Reduce Every Task to Its Smallest Parts; Like Belongs with Like; Cluster Similar Tasks (I actually disagree with this one in some detail); "Start Wide and Then Narrow", which generally means get everything you are working out onto the floor (collect from elsewhere if needed) and then organize it; Sort; Your ? Pile, which I kind of like, because there really are always a few things left over that you're just not sure about, and they can slow you down if you let them; Everything Has a Place, which I am a huge believer in, and which is the closest approach she makes to dealing with workflows outside the Reduce Task rule; The 15 Minute Rule, which is give-it-a-go-and-you'll-either-finish-or-get-momentum; and the 80/20 rule.

Some sections of the book are much, much, much better developed than others -- this is a woman who works in an office environment for the most part and it shows. Also, it's a woman who uses computers in a very 1990s style way -- she _loves_ macros. But that's okay. It's a good book. If you are looking for personal organization tips either because you've never read about organization, or because you're always keeping an eye out for fresh ideas, this will have something for you.