Sunday, February 23, 2014

Being surprisingly organised and domesticated in Cyprus

I'm not naturally an organised person at all. As with most traits, to misquote Shakespeare rather drastically: some people are born organised, some achieve organisation, and some have organisation thrust upon them. I think I fall somewhere between the second and third categories. Nobody has ever forced me to be organised - just as well, or I might have refused completely. However, over the years, prompted by various circumstances, I've worked out ways to keep the house reasonably clean and tidy, to store financial records in case the tax office ever needs them, to ensure we all have clean and folded clothes, and so on.

On the topic of clothes, I used to do a bit of ironing... shirts, pillowcases, the occasional skirt - but gave up completely about five or six years ago. I don't think anybody has noticed (not that it would matter much if they did), and I find that if I fold or hang garments straight from the washing line, they don't develop creases anyway. Living in Cyprus, we don't have a tumble dryer; I have washing lines in a utility area at the back of the kitchen, where everything dries naturally within a few hours. Unless of course it's pouring with rain, in which case it gets an extra drenching, and dries the following day.

A few years ago, someone showed me a method of folding tee-shirts which made it quicker and neater for me. I don't usually link to other people's videos, but since this is impossible to describe in words, this youtube video demonstrates and explains as well as any that I've found. Apparently it's a Japanese method. It took me a few days to get used to it, but now I do this without thinking.

However, I continued stacking tee-shirts on top of each other in our drawers or closets, which is fine for a while, until someone happens to be in a hurry, but doesn't want the one on top. Or, worse, when someone burrows through them looking for a specific shirt. Then the piles get more and more crumpled and untidy, and when I try to put more clean shirts in the drawer, there's no room... and eventually I have to pull them all out and re-fold them.  Which is annoying.

At least, it WAS annoying until a few months ago when a Facebook friend linked to a site which showed neatly folded tee-shirts stacked in a row, rather than in a pile. I'm not going to give a link to that site since the language was not family-friendly.  Instead, here's a photo of Richard's tee-shirt drawer a couple of weeks after I first started doing this:

I do the Japanese-style fold, then fold them in half vertically, and put them in at the right of the drawer. Richard can then choose whatever shirt he needs at a glance, without having to move any of the others. So they stay tidy, and don't get crumpled - indeed, folding and putting them in the drawer like this means that they look almost as if they have been ironed.

I then started doing this on my own tee-shirt shelf, and am sure it has saved a lot of time, as well as being better for the shirts. 

Books - far more interesting than clothes - also have to be organised if we're to have any hope of finding them. We have around 3,000 in all, and as we acquire more (and more bookcases) I have to find ways to sort and arrange them. This is easy enough for the fiction; my main fiction (five bookcases in our dining room) is arranged alphabetically by the author's surname. Books we don't particularly like, or have duplicates of, or don't think we'll ever read again are downstairs in our guest flat.

Children's fiction is a little more complicated; the bulk of it is in our guest flat second bedroom, also arranged alphabetically. But my favourite children's/teenage fiction - the ones I re-read, or which friends borrow regularly - are in the main part of the house, and those I have kept for younger children are in my study, where I regularly entertain small people who love books too.

Then there's the non-fiction. We don't have so many of these, and about half of them are Christian books which I also have alphabetically by author, with a mini-shelf of Bibles in the middle, and a shelf at the bottom for study guides and larger reference books:

(If you are one of those people who likes to read the titles of other people's books when you see them in blogs, you will probably need to click on the photo to see a larger version. Then use the X or back button to return to this post, if you haven't completely lost interest by then). 

Then there are the other books. Biographies, science books, popular psychology, books about history, and about games, and so on... the ones that we acquire when we're interested in a specific topic, or when the blurb looks fascinating in a second-hand shop, or which we've rescued when someone else is having a book cull (shudder!) 

Richard has all his sailing books in the bedroom - at least two shelves of them - and I have a shelf in my study with books about writing. But I've never managed to work out what to do with the rest of the general non-fiction. I tried roughly organising by subject, but get stuck - is a book about someone climbing mountains classed as sports, geography or biography?  And then I want to put books by the same author together, which is fine if the author's just written on one broad topic, but sometimes one writer can encompass a wide range of subjects. 

So for the past few years our non-fiction has been quite muddled, which doesn't matter, in the scheme of things (I know, this is very much a 'first world problem' post) but sometimes makes it hard to find them. I said something about it a few weeks ago, and Richard said - jokingly - that I should arrange them by Dewey Decimal number.  I rolled my eyes... but somehow the idea was planted in my mind. 

So I browsed a little, and discovered a site where I could enter an ISBN and have the Dewey Decimal number appear. It felt like quite a daunting task, but I'd been thinking for some time that I should enter all our non-fiction books into our 'shelves' on Goodreads and Shelfari, where I rate and briefly review everything I read, and also enter new books we are given or otherwise acquire. And as with any daunting task, it can be broken down into small steps. So I use my little travelling Netbook computer, and spend about fifteen minutes each day generating the classification number for ten books, and entering them (if I haven't previously done so) on Shelfari and Goodreads. 

When the books are nice editions with dustcovers, I just put the number in pencil on an inside page. If they're older books with white spines, I write them on neatly in black ink. And for the rest, I use little sticky labels covered with sellotape.  Yes, it makes them look like library books, but at last I have a method for sorting and (I hope) finding them.  Here are the first three shelves - I'm about half way through, I think:

I know, we have shamefully few general non-fiction books. Excluding the Christian ones, and the sailing and writing ones, there are probably only about three hundred. I suppose this is partly because one can find so much online these days. And partly because we all tend to read fiction, primarily.

All of which sounds as if I'm actually a very well-organised person, but - alas - this is far from the case. If I were,  I would have worked out ways to be more organised a few decades ago. 

1 comment:

Anvilcloud said...

Interesting stuff. I think my wife showed me that folding method, but it was merely a fascinating effort, and we don't use it. As for books, it is a good idea to donate most. We have too many too.