Organizing My Home
By Cheryl Bolen
Authors more computer savvy than I may not need to organize their
offices because theyíve got everything they need digitalized on their
computer, all their research sites bookmarked. But Iím not one of
those goddesses. Being a historical author, Iíve got one foot firmly
planted in traditionalism. I like paper. Lots of it. A hold-in-your
hands calendar beats an electronic one in my book any day.
But because it would be easy to get buried under a mountain of
paper, I adhere to the everything-in-its-place philosophy.
I even take that a step further. I want everything I need for my
writing to be located in my home office. About a year ago I took my
contracts and royalty statements from the filing cabinet in my home
office to put in one of those fire-proof boxes we store upstairs with
other important household papers. It didnít take long before I
realized I hated climbing the stairs to get them. I need my royalty
statements where I can roll over to them in my desk chair. In fact, I
like all of the following within a few feet of the desk in my home
Rolodexes arenít just for storing addresses, e-mails, and phone
numbers, though they are my favorite method for storing that
information. I keep blank cards easily accessible in my top desk drawer
to make new entries as needed. My Rolodex is a small one I keep next to
my phone ó on the desk top, of course.
What I really love about my Rolodex, though, is using it to
quickly retrieve PIN numbers and passwords which I file under the site
or organizationís name. For example, when I need my PASIC membership
number, I got to "P" and there is a card which says
"PASIC member number."
Because I write historicals, Iíve amassed a fairly large library
of research books and materials, all of which I like to keep in the
large bookcases located in my home office. A couple of tall shelves
there are dedicated to my white three-ring notebooks where I keep works
in progress, research, archives of articles, publicity, and letters. On
white cardstock, I print the name of the notebook and insert it in the
clear plastic attached sleeves, particularly on the spine for quick
reference. On my work buffet (yes, itís an old dinging room buffet I
painted white to go with my decor) next to my desk, I can always find my
I have one notebook for every book Iím working on. Within these,
I use dividers for each chapter, for characterizations, and for
I have a couple of fat notebooks for regency research, with
dividers for things like clergy, food, flora, sports, money. These
notebooks hold information Iíve saved from specialized periodicals
like The Regency Plume or Beau Mondeís Quizzing Glass, web sites, or
the Beau Monde email loop.
I have one notebook for English geography, another for rejection
letters, and another for copies of letters Iíve sent to editors and
agents, as well as prospective editors or agents.
The notebook marked "Reviews" has a divider for each of
my book titles and holds all the reviews Iíve received for each novel.
Another notebook stores press clippings and news releases that
pertain to my writing career, and another gives me quick reference to
articles Iíve written.
I used to keep notebooks for all my chapter newsletters, but this
got too cumbersome.
References at Your Fingertips
Call me lazy, but I like to be able to access frequently used
references without leaving my desk chair. Therefore, to my right is an
18-inch desk-top book shelf where the books slant into a wooden v-shaped
receptacle. References included here are a dictionary, a speller,
familiar quotations, synonym finder, tiny atlas, foreign phrases, a
fold-up map of England, desk encyclopedia, slender looseleaf notebook
with rosters for the writing and non-writing organizations I belong to,
and a calendar.
To the left of my desk is a small filing basket to hold folders of
information I currently use. The content of this basket varies according
to what I happen to be working on. For example, right now Iím getting
ready for the release of a new book, and I need to frequently access the
folder of information about that bookís reviews and a listing of the
bookís promotional plan. Other information I keep in the vertical
basket includes a submissions log and an accordion-style folder (top
severed for easy drop-ins) for writing receipts.
I prefer a two-drawer horizontal file cabinet. Mineís an
inexpensive one made of faux mahogany (which I painted white and
replaced knobs to match my decor). Without leaving my desk chair, I can
view all the files. Its surface can store a printer, copier, or fax.
The files I store here are divided into broad areas like Promotion
(various folders for advertisers, printers, bookstore addresses),
Business (contracts, royalty statements), On Writing (notes from
conferences and workshops), My Talks/Workshops (handouts on talks Iíve
I was fortunate to find at a flea market a wooden structure I call
"cubby holes" which reminds me of the teacher mailboxes at the
school where I used to teach. Mine is about two feet wide and nearly
three feet tall and has 20 square or rectangular boxes. I painted it
white and keep it on my buffet work station, and in it I store the
following: envelopes, mailers, a variety of labels, bookmarks of my
books, various kinds of paper and envelopes of different sizes. I never
have to hunt in drawers because everythingís right there in plain
Last but not less important is my labeler. (Of course, those who
are computer savvy probably know how to make all sizes of all kinds of
labels, but Iím not one of those persons.) I use my labeler for the
myriad of tabs on the dividers in my notebooks and file folders and to
label the cubby hole squares. For example, one slot in the cubby holes
will say "Bond Paper," while another may say "Colored
Taking a little time to get organized more than pays for itself in
time saved looking for elusive supplies and references.
This article first appeared in In Print in November 2005.