I love technology as much as the next girl, but sometimes you just gotta take a step back and find something to scribble on!
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Organization hacks are probably my favorite thing of all time, and I’ve shared some of my favorites over the years.
As I was trying to think of a new project to share for this post, the answer was staring me in the face, literally. It’s not technically new, but it’s one I’ve never shared with you before. It’s my chalkboard. Well, not really the board itself, but the way I use it. I figure if it helps me, it may be able to help some of you.
It all started with a chalkboard grocery list in this post about transforming a coat closet into a pantry.
I put adhesive chalkboard paper on the inside door panels and used those as a way to keep track of pantry items that needed restocking.
I loved writing on the door so much that I thought it might be handy to put up a giant chalkboard in the eat-in kitchen as part of a command center. (If you have kids and don’t have a command center, I highly recommend you carve out a little space for one. It’ll help you organize papers and keep track of everyone’s schedules.)
I built mine as part of this breakfast nook makeover, where I took a tacky old framed print and painted over it with chalkboard paint to turn it into a super-cheap working chalkboard. We keep track of our family’s weekly schedules on it, and occasionally use it for homework notes and math problems. Definitely one of my favorite thrift store transformations!
When we moved into the house, one of the first things I did was paint these closet doors with black chalkboard paint. I’m not even sure why I did it at the time. I guess it was either that or take down the doors entirely. They were just bugging me, and the only way I could think to make them worth the space they take up was to use them for something creative. And black seemed like a fun departure from how you usually think of closet doors.
Fast forward now to a couple of years later, and these doors have become an integral part of my office organizing system.
First, I should disclaim that I’m not the most organized person. This is a common source of contention between my creative fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants self and my calm and collected engineer husband. He swears that my life would get easier if I could just get more organized. I think what he means is HIS life would get easier, but perhaps they are one and the same result. I digress.
I’ve tried all the note taking, scheduling, and organizing apps out there, and find that it’s hard for me to get all my thoughts into such a small space. And typing on my phone (or even my computer) feels not at all creative or life-affirming. Instead, I’ve taken to the big screen and poured out all my thoughts onto my chalkboard. That way I can keep my ideas, goals, and weekly schedule all at a glance, and all on one page, or door. Well, two.
I have a section for my daily schedule, a list of themes for each month on the blog, a list of posts due in the month I’m working on, and a list of post ideas. That way, whenever inspiration strikes, I can jot it down. Or if I get distracted and forget what I’m supposed to be working on, I can just glance at my schedule and get back on track. At least in theory.
I find that, as a creative person, I need something that allows me to erase and start over anytime I need to. When I’m thinking my thoughts, I need to be able to write them down in some medium that does not commit me to them forever. (I may have commitment issues to go along with my creativity, procrastination, and disorganization.)
Chalk is the perfect solution to this! I can keep lists and make notes, and then just erase them as my thought process evolves. (I’ve already revised my weekly work schedule twice in the first 17 days of the year.) When I erase chalk, I don’t feel as if I’ve failed a deadline written in indelible ink, but just that something new and better has come up to take its place. It’s very freeing, and yet still gives me enough structure to work with.
I know a lot of people who do chalkboard lettering and art love to use chalk markers, but I just use good old fashioned (and cheap!) chalk and erasers. The whole idea is for it to be temporary and fluid, so there’s no reason to make it more pretty or permanent. (Unless you just like the feel of chalk pens, which I can totally understand!)
I do still use the calendar on my phone to keep track of actual appointments, but the chalkboard is the best way to plan and organize my thoughts on a broader scale. I think my husband is right about one thing – having a plan to work toward helps keep my moving in the right direction instead of constantly chasing whatever urgent distraction comes up.
If you’re a creative person, or even someone with a fast-moving lifestyle that changes frequently, I recommend trying the low-tech chalkboard approach. You can paint over just about any flat surface to turn it into a chalkboard. It’s easy, fast, and a lot cheaper than buying the latest gadget that promises to keep you in line. There are no fumes from dry erase markers, and it’s kind of fun getting to clean the board like back in grade school.
Here’s to a happy new year, and a (literally) clean slate!