Staying Organized or How to Tread Water…

This is a hard topic for one so organized as I (which would be not). Organization is something I have gotten better about over the years but I still fall woefully short of any real system. I’m probably like most people, I intend to start getting organized. Then I actually start doing a few things to get organized. Then a few days later the system is abandoned, not because it was a bad idea or wasn’t working, but because I just forgot about it. I’ll say things like “I’ll write that down later.” It’s amazing how later changes from hours, into days, into weeks, and into never! I’m fortunate to have a decent enough memory to retain my to do lists for the yard, although other things seem to get lost in my head. This blog has really helped me lay out my thoughts and ideas. It gives me a written record and a voice for my thoughts. Hopefully next year, after this year’s plantings have finished, I can look back and see what worked, what didn’t, what to do again, and what I wish I had never attempted. Here are a few things I do to keep myself organized that may help you tread the waters of organization!

1. I save all the plant labels until I can go through them and write them down. I shove all the labels into a plastic bag in the garage until I have the time or the inclination to sit down and write them down in a spiral notebook. That usually happens when it’s 102 degrees outside in August and I have a few moments of free time. Writing the plants down helps me keep track of what we have in the yard.

2. This brings me to talking about my notebook. My notebook isn’t fancy, just a plain and thick spiral notebook. In my notebook I make drawings of plans, sketches of garden ideas, and write information about plants. I’ve written lists of plants that I want in my landscape as well as seed purchase lists for this year’s garden. I’ve even written down some of my successes in plant propagation, although I am behind in this area.

3. I am trying to keep all the paperwork in one place. This is very difficult since I’ll take a magazine and read it in one room and look at the plant catalogs in another room. I tend to leave stuff in the kitchen where it gets in the way or leave books where a little two year old can grab them! My notebook migrates from room to room either with the books or the magazines. I recommend keeping all the catalogs in one place and all the books together on the shelf.

4. Everything has a place so put it back! All the tools need to be kept together to make them easier to find. I’ve messed this one up many times. My pruners often go into the yard with me and end up where I do. Somehow they abandon me somewhere and I have to go back to find them. The big tools all get put right back into the garage corner where they live and pass the moments between uses but those small little tools love to move around when I’m not looking.

5. Spreadsheets on the computer are a good way to see what you have purchased. That is if you can keep up with it. I’ve started several spreadsheets I just haven’t put in everything I should. The best time to do this is as soon as you get a new plant or garden purchase. Put things like the plant name (both common and botanical), purchase price, and how many of them you have. You can even incorporate your gardening budget into the spreadsheet, that is if you really want to know how much you are spending!

6. Use the all important To-Do List. For a to-do list to be useful it needs to be in a good location, somewhere you can easily find it, somewhere you see it almost everyday. Somewhere
important, somewhere like on your blog! By sticking that nagging to-do list up on this blog I can see what I have planned for the next millennium. Hopefully it won’t take that long! I’ve done a couple posts about my to-do list which probably makes me sound like I have my act together but the truth is if I didn’t have it on this blog I don’t know if I would be so organized at this point. Since I check this blog regularly I see the list all the time. If you think about the nature of a blog in its most basic element it is a web-log. It is a journal for documenting your own history. For me it is the perfect place to put that old to-do list. If you don’t have a blog put your list somewhere you will see it. The bathroom mirror or the door to your garage are both good places to pin your list.

7. Probably the most important thing you need to stay organized is discipline. Keep doing everything you can to stay on track with your system. Be regular with writing things down. Make a habit of putting things in the right place. It’s definitely easier said than done.

I hope these ideas are useful to you. Like I said at the beginning of this post, organization is not my strong point. This blog has done a lot of good toward keeping my head straight. If you have some other organizational ideas please share them! I could use the help!

3 Replies to “Staying Organized or How to Tread Water…”

  1. Lists are only good if you remember to look at them!
    I am bad about making a list then not looking at it believing in my mind that I have it all memorized! Ha, the mind is not as sharp as it was a few years ago!

  2. Great pointers, Dave! I agree that saving labels is a very handy approach, if you’re disciplined enough to actually go through them each year. I currently have hundreds – possibly thousands – of tags stuffed into pots and flats in my basement. Maybe this will be the year I will actually follow through with the record-keeping. Uh huh.

  3. i will tell you an easy way to get organized dave. don’t buy anything that doesn’t have something to do with gardening and then put all of your gardening stuff-papers, magazines, tools and whatever-in a very revered spot, meticulously organized and handy!

    my problem is too much other stuff NOT related to gardening since i am older than you and have collected over the years. had i focused only on gardening instead of knickknacks i would be very organized now. but i will try to use some of your tips. especially the spreadsheets to track costs. right skeeter-what’s your middle name? mine too!

    course, like nan-ondra said IF you are disciplined…i am not.

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