Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How do you organize computer cords and cables?

I work in a tech-heavy industry. I'm a little bit of a computer geek. I have had up to four computer mice on my desk at once:

1. A left-handed mouse as I'm ambidextrous

2. A right-handed vertical mouse to prevent carpal tunnel in my dominant hand

3. A trackpad and stylus for photo editing

4. A standard mouse in the middle for the folks for are befuddled by the other three.

Add in all of the other devices I have plus network cables and I have no fewer than ten cords hanging out under my desk. It's a real mess.


But there's hope! Here are a couple easy tricks that helped me clear up the mess of cords.

Behold: After!

Trick cord-taming trick number 1:

Bundle up the extra lengths of your cords. Extra length of cord takes up more space and has a habit of getting tangled up with other cords. I've used lots of things to bind up the extra length. In this picture I used a large binder clip to wrap up some extra cord. Good in a pinch, but given that it's metal and we're talking about electrical stuff here it's best to use something else. I like rubber bands and I've even used the occasional elastic hair tie. My favorite are velcro ties but those do need to be purchased. You can see one of them in the "before" picture. It's the little red band. 

In the end I used masking tape.

The next step to keep your cords organized is to label them. This way you don't have to unplug a bunch of cords to figure out which one belongs with which device. You can use masking tape, paper and clear tape, electrical tape, or even those little plastic bread ties. Masking tape was, again, my weapon of choice! Better handwriting than mine also helps.

Beyond that, set up your cords so that the cables have to cross each other as little as possible. Sometimes this means getting an extra power strip. It may mean actually taping a cord to the wall or along the edge of the floor to keep it from getting tangled up with the other cords. Either way, spending a few minutes making these little changes was completely worth my time!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

You haven't seen my desk in a long time. Then again, neither have I.

Last week we had a rare treat at the office: declutter day! No kidding, we got to spend the day cleaning out the office. It sounds frivolous but it makes sense. I work in a big, big office and in all the years our office has been around, the department hasn't moved and the (extremely large) communal areas have never been cleaned out. It made sense that we all would work more efficiently with our personal workspaces cleaned as well.

What an awesome day! First off, we got to dress 'casually'. Dress shorts for me! I ditched the heels for flip-flops as we each cleaned our assigned areas of our department.

super excited to go into work for cleanup day!
I'd love to post pictures of the incredible job cleaning up we all did but I suppose I'll just have to settle for words. We brought in those gigantic industrial laundry baskets on wheels and we filled three of them with old books and papers to recycle, binders, old computer equipment, obsolete electronics, and just junk that was getting in our way. Some of this stuff had been around since before I was born!

We were assigned a partner to work with and it was fascinating to see how we categorized things differently. This made me realize that labels are super important for keeping our cleaned up spaces looking neat until the next cleanout, undoubtedly another 30 years from now! So yay for label makers.

I got assigned the "party supplies" drawer. Not like we party much, as evidenced by the fact that my "causal" outfit still involved heels and came from Talbot's. But it was very satisfying to have all of our cups, napkins, and coffee and tea supplies in one place, next time we have to throw a retirement party.

Afterwards we were given some time to work on our own workspaces. I have an unconventional and untidy workspace.

I do regular decluttering and I'm not fond of paper, so fortunately there hasn't been that much to declutter. I'm lousy at putting things away though, as you can see from the pictures. I did manage to throw away about 1/3 of the paper in my cube! 

Yes, that's 1/3 of all of the paper in my cube. Ever since I started there I've had a goal of having a completely paperless office. While I haven't succeeded yet, reaching for that goal has helped me to keep the average amount of paper in my cube to a minimum. 

How do I avoid paper in my cube? 

1. I digitize what I can. I scan documents that I'll need to keep for a long time. I try not to print out much of anything but rather keep documents on my machine. I've never been someone who takes meeting notes, but I try to type up anything important afterwards (where the text can be searched on my computer, unlike paper!) or I put the text into our knowledge management system so others can benefit.  

2. I throw out papers before they make it to my cube. I'll get handouts in meetings...and you'll see me trash them on the way back to my cube, if I know I won't need them. Sometimes I'll copy a couple of the important lines into my laptop, or take a picture with my camera phone. Alternatively, I'll ask for electronic copies of the handouts. That way I still have the information but paper never finds its way to my workspace.

3. Whiteboards + cameraphone = easy notetaking. When I do group work with others I encourage us to use a whiteboard. It's easy to change what we write, and then when we're done we all snap photos with a phone and mail the photo around. That way we also all have the same information. No paper ever gets involved!

The other thing that I got rid of was something very difficult. My mother kept a rolodex growing up. Every phone number we needed for friends, restaurants, businesses, or anything else lived in that rolodex. I remember the thing was always so full of cards that the lid couldn't be closed. But it was something that very strongly reminded me of my mother. She gave me one in high school. I brought it with me to the office. You can see how much it got used.

I don't need a rolodex. I have a smartphone and a computer, and our office directory is online. I had tried to throw it out but couldn't because it reminded me of my mother.

It was only when I saw my coworkers throwing out all of the unused, office-supplied rolodexes from decades past did I realize that it was time for this thing to go. If everyone else felt that these were dinosaurs, then I didn't want to look like a dinosaur myself by keeping a rolodex. Score one for peer pressure, first time in my life. I put it in the pile of other ancient rolodexes to get trashed. Besides, my mother is not someone I'm viewing in a positive light now. Time to get rid of things that make me feel negative emotions.

We had a great day and everything is much neater at work. Wish we could do this more often, but if we did it right, and we're attentive, we won't need to.

Look for more on my workspace in a future post. No, I'm not kidding, I've already written and scheduled one of the next posts about my workarea!

Ever done a decluttering day at your office?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This shoe fetish has to end

A while ago I posted about my obsession with shoes. I haven't counted in a while, but I recall that in college I had 23 pairs sitting outside my room. That doesn't include what I had in the room, and the equally large collection I kept at my parents' place. When I lived alone, I went shoe shopping at least one Friday a month to keep myself amused. No more.

I've stopped acquiring shoes. The hurdle now is learning to get rid of the ones I have that I don't need, or that I keep for the wrong reasons. I seem to strongly associate shoes with my mother. How do I know?

I bought these because they reminded me of a pair my mom had that were just like them. 
They give me blisters, yet I kept them. Cost -- $40. To emulate my mother. This is so wrong.

I LOVE purple. I will keep things just because they're purple. Mom got these for me as a Christmas gift years ago. They're a size 8. I'm a size 7. They are also way, way too heavy for me to wear. Free from her.
I got these on a trip to Germany with my sister. It's pretty much the only time she and I have ever gotten along, and that was probably only because we exchanged about 50 words between us on the whole trip. And apparently my feet have shrunken because they fit when I bought them in 2007, and they're too long and too narrow for me now. I paid 99 Euros, which apparently was about $126 in 2007.  *sobs*

Everything got freecyled. My closet has a little more room and I feel a little lighter emotionally. I can't stand to look at things that remind me of my sister or my mom right now and none of these shoes actually fit. I need to stop buying things to emulate my mother. I need to stop keeping things because I associate them with a particular family member. I will be happier and wealthier in the end for it.

So, items 188, 189, and 190 are shoes that don't fit. I wasted $166 on them. I got rid of them on Freecycle, which is my new favorite way to get rid of clutter. I've become too lazy to walk in the DC heat to the clothing donation boxes a mile away.

Total money wasted on stuff I never should've bought: $2224.99.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A sure sign it's time to start some serious decluttering again

One of my first decluttering victories was getting rid of enough stuff that we no longer had to store things under our bed. Not like anybody looks under our bed, but I think a clear under-bed space is important for health reasons. You can't vacuum easily if there's junk under there. We both have asthma, so it's a big deal.

We just got back from visiting the Chief Engineer's mom and I always take my guitar with me because I don't want to go an entire weekend without playing. But when we got back I put the guitar in the stand in the living room and then the Chief Engineer asked where we should put its (very large) hard case.

"Where was it last time?" I asked, as he had kindly picked the place to store it the last time, and fetched it before we left.

"Under the bed," he replied.

Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no.

We have a robot vacuum so I hadn't had reason to look under the bed recently. But if we've gotten cluttered enough that the guitar case has to go under the bed and can't fit in a closet, then I'm starting to get too cluttered. Time to get the decluttering mojo back. Any ideas how?

not cool.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's been a long time since I did one of these...decluttered item #187!

When I started the blog it was all about decluttering my own home and figuring out how much money I was wasting on stuff I never should've bought. I haven't done this in a while and I miss it, so here goes!

My hair is poker straight. I own a flat iron that I use to curl my hair (flat iron...curling hair...yes, it works). It's the hottest iron I ever found and it's the only thing that's ever managed to give me curls that last more than 20 minutes.

Which is of course why I felt the need to run out and buy a curling iron.

I was enticed by a friend's promises of Kate Middleton curls. But it turns out that this iron doesn't get hot enough even though it goes up to 400 degrees and my curls fell in ten minutes. Back to the flat iron I go. But I tried my friend's new technique with the iron and did figure out how to do Kate Middleton's curls!. Maybe one day I'll do a tutorial :o)

The Reckoning

Item 187: A curling iron.
Fate: Gave it a way on freecycle!
Cost: $39.99
Total money spent on junk I never should've bought: $2058.99

Monday, July 15, 2013

don't take it away, I don't know when I'll get to have it again!

Hoarding and my eating disorder overlap perfectly in one place in my home: the fridge. This past week has been a terrible struggle ED-wise for a few reasons. First, I'm finally having to cope emotionally with all of the family stuff. I'd been putting off actually dealing with it while I was on vacation. Secondly, I had my coworkers over for lunch this week which meant that I purchased enough food to feed six hungry people beyond what the Chief Engineer and I would usually purchase. Third, the Chief Engineer suddenly had to go out of town for the week.

In other words I found myself at home alone this week, in a bad emotional state, and with a fridge that was practically bursting open with food. My eating disorder had a field day.

After a couple of therapy sessions this week my ED calmed down I stopped acting like the restricting bulimic woman that I am. What I was left with was a bunch of very strange desires that I have to try to comprehend. The big one: food hoarding.

I am terrified of throwing away food. I will eat food I don't like just so that it doesn't get thrown out. I'll hang on to food items for years before I can bear to get rid of them. I will clean my plate because I don't want to see those extra two spoonfuls of food go to waste. And when I go to the store, I buy more than I could possibly eat before it spoils.

Why am I like this and what can I do about it? Well, some of it comes from my father, who always chastised us whenever we didn't finish our food. He got very upset at us when food was wasted, but it was okay if he stocked the freezer so full that half of it was inedible when it was finally unearthed years after purchase, of course.

But it's not just that. I'm afraid of food disappearing. I have been since I was a child. Even when I was little, if you put a standard-sized cake in front of me I would easily eat 1/4 of it, if not a full half. My mother didn't allow junk food in the house except on rare occasions and my sister and I would inhale it whenever we did get it. That's probably where my fear of food disappearing came from. I never knew when I was next going to be able to have "treat" foods, so I gobbled them down as fast as I could, before they would disappear.

Some of my fear of food going away is also a result of being anorexic before I was bulimic. When you're only eating 750 calories a day your body gets really used to the idea that it better eat when it does encounter food because it doesn't know how long or how bad the next "famine" is going to be. My six months as a full-blown anorexic, and my years as a restricting bulimic have made my body very worried that it's not going to get the food it needs. Better hoard it, just in case! Better not throw it out, you could need it later!

This week my dietician have me doing some exercises to help my fear of food disappearing. I am to remind myself that I can always have the food again simply by going out to the grocery store and get more. I don't need to eat the entire container of ice cream out of fear that I won't get to have it again for a long time. I'm an adult, I can go to the grocery store or one of the concessions at work almost any time I want.

In particular this week I've been worried about wasted from the party leftovers. I didn't even like the pound of pastrami that I bought and yet I wanted to keep it. But the Chief Engineer isn't around to eat it instead and it'll go bad by the time he gets back. It's a sunk cost, and I just have to accept that. I threw it out. The 15-pound watermelon that nobody touched? I can't eat that myself either. So I cut up half and took it to friends of ours downstairs. Their boys are growing teenagers and they were thrilled when I showed up with 7 pounds of watermelon. That made me feel good. I need to give away more food instead of stuffing myself.

I am also supposed to look at whether I really want the food that I'm keeping or making myself eat. Case in point: this pizza. I went out with a friend for dinner last night. She loves thin-crust pizza and I really don't. I had half of the pizza to take home but I didn't even like it when I ate it at the restaurant.

It needs to go out.

"But I spent $11 on that pizza!," says ED. "I'm throwing $5.50 away by not eating the other half!," he grumbles.

No. I paid $11 for the experience of eating out with my friend, not so much for the pizza itself. I wouldn't voluntarily pay someone $5.50 to make me miserable, so why am I eating something I don't like to "save" myself $5.50? The money is already spent, regardless of whether I eat the other half of the pizza.
Like my dietician said, eating food I don't like so that I'm not wasting it doesn't make sense.
W-A-S-T-E becomes a matter of W-A-I-S-T, which rhymes with bulimia! Out goes the pizza.

So, things for me to remember:
1.) I'm not wasting money when I throw food I don't like out. The money is a sunk cost.
2.) I can have just about any food again. In the rare event that I can't, I still have the memories associated with the food.
3.) Eating food I don't like and don't physically need is more wasteful than throwing it out.
4.) Eating food I don't like or need contributes to a pattern of bulimia, which keeps me sick, which keeps me in weekly $50 therapy sessions. That's a lot more expensive than a bit of food!

Off to clean the freezer this week!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Identity crisis

First off, thanks to everyone for their support with all of the hoarding-family bull*** in the last three weeks. It's good to be back from vacation, too!

For those of you who don't know, my relations with the hoarder parents and enabler sister blew up in an unbelievably spectacular way three weekends ago. To avoid online pursuit by family I've moved the blog. I also changed its name a couple times. It took me a while to finally decide that if I was going to bother trying to anonymize my writing, I might as well not bother to separate the eating disorder discussions from the hoarding discussions. My bodyhater blog and the hoarding blog are now smushed together under one name -- my unhoardED life.

After talking to a bunch of friends, several people from the Children of Hoarders online support group, my therapist, and a former friend of my mother's, I came to the conclusion that it's best for my own mental health if I cut off contact from my parents and sister. My sister will continue to enable my parents' behavior. My father has slipped back into verbal and emotional abuse after nearly eight years of committed recovery from severe depression and anger issues. With him, physical violence is not far behind and I have no intention of putting myself, my husband, or any future children within a hundred miles of him.

My mother continues to beg my father to come back even after all of the awful things he's done. She's chosen to stay married to an abuser and I've done some incredibly mean things to try to get her to see what he's done to all of us. But she's determined to stay, and I finally can't take it any more. I'm finally leaving for good. I never have to see the hoarded house again! I never have to worry about being in my father's path again! I never have to listen to my mother whine about how miserable her life is but refuse to anything about it when I throw offer of help after offer of help at her.

Boy, does it feel good!  But now what? What do I do with my life now that I'm completely secure in the fact that I'll never have to deal with the harmful insanity ever again?

I have an identity crisis. Okay, it's not a crisis, that's a negative thing and this is totally awesome! It's more of a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes kind of thing. I feel like I can be anything I want to be and I can't be dragged down. But I do have a burning desire to be anything except whatever reminds me of my family.

I changed the blog's name (several times, in fact, sorry about that.) I've decided to finally change my last name. I'm sure it'll confuse everyone at work, but it's finally time. I don't want anything that reminds me of my father anywhere near me, so the maiden name goes. Paperwork goes in the mail tomorrow!

I've contemplated a number of other changes to help me play with what feels like a new identity. I've decided to highlight my hair. Not a major change, but I missed the playful blonde I was in grad school. It was one of the happiest times of my life and my first time living away from home with no support of any kind from my parents.

I'm contemplating a tattoo. A small one. Been thinking about it for a while. Also been thinking about the pain for a long while. I probably won't have the guts to do it though.

The other two changes were a little more eye-opening. For a long time I've wanted a chin implant. I have a face like Mayim Bialik but with a very recessed chin. I used to think it was just something I wanted so that I could look more attractive. But I just spent two weeks in the middle-of-nowhere Montana, camping, hiking, and canoeing, and that gives one a lot of time to think. I finally realized that I've wanted a chin implant for years because the face I was born with is a perfect halfway point between my parents' faces. I look in the mirror and I see nothing but them. I don't see me. Rarely ever have. Turns out that for years I've been hoping that a piece of silicone would make me my own person. So I won't be doing that, either.

The second change was one that I've been quite literally killing myself for over the last 12 years. I have wanted to lose weight, I finally realized this week, so that I don't turn into my mother. I've spent over a decade believing that I will turn into my mother because I'm built like her. I've spent a decade trying to starve myself every day so that I won't turn into her.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, I am not my mother, after all.

Just because I look like my mother doesn't mean that I'm her. I weigh 145 pounds on a 5' 4" frame.

  • Weighing that much doesn't mean that I am slovenly. i.e, a hoarder like her.
  • Weighing that much doesn't mean that I'm never going to do well at work. I am not like She Who Complains that middle aged women are marginalized in the workplace because of age and weight, when really it's that she herself chose to quit her professional job in her 30s and not maintain or even try to update her credentials, and now can't get another job in her field.) 
  • Weighing that much does not mean that I will be stuck forever with a man who doesn't love me, as She does every time she runs back to my father after he chews her to pieces for things that weren't even her fault). 
  • Weighing that much doesn't mean that I don't deserve love, though my father makes it clear that he'd love her more if she weighed less. Bull. He'd still have no respect for any of us.
  • Weighing that much does not mean that I am not in control of my life, as She blames her financial situation on the fact that she didn't become a doctor 40 years ago, not on the fact that she buys tons of junk and won't retrain to get back into her previously lucrative field of work.

Weighing that much does not mean I am my mother. I am not slovenly and I try to control the junk in my home. I do very well at my job (actually got a raise this year when my company isn't technically giving those out right now!)

I left a man in college whom I followed like a puppy for three years, even though he was only interested in me for the occasional hook-up when he couldn't get another girl.  I have a "Get the Hell Out" fund so that I don't have to refuse to leave a verbally abusive husband who constantly threatens to leave me destitute, simply because I can't manage to create a savings account for myself in the unlikely event that he'd actually leave after 30 years of threatening to do so.

I deserve love and chose someone who really loves me. I married my best friend who I've known since I was seven (no kidding -- we met on the school bus in 3rd grade and he was my crush through high school. We finally got together in grad school. Love ya, darlin'!) He's constantly complementing me and admiring my body. I just have to learn to accept those complements and not think that he's lying like my father.

I am in control of my life. I am where I am because of the choices I have made, good and bad. I chose not to go to med school after I did my master's because it seemed an awfully difficult life regardless of the pay and the emotional rewards of the job. I choose to continue to work at a job that I like but don't love, because there are certain rewards that outweigh the boredom and frustrations. I choose to continue to take classes to stay at the top of my field. I choose to have the faith in myself that if for some reason my current job doesn't work out, that I could find work elsewhere doing something fun. I choose to accept the fact that I've made many stupid financial decisions over the years that have affected the amount of money I have today. I choose to accept the fact that it's going to take me time to learn to stop spending money on junk so that I can focus on the important things in life.

I choose to accept the fact that I'm not perfect, and not to blame my place in life on my imperfections. And now I choose to try to let go of the past, to try not to blame my situation on my parents, but to grab life by the horns and not be a victim of pain from the past.

Give me some time on that one.