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Where I Work: My DIY Office

Since I've talked so much about organization and the importance of having aesthetically pleasing surroundings, I thought it might be interesting to show you where I work and ask to see where you do your best work!  I thought it would be a new spin on "Motivation Mondays" where we can get inspired by eachother.  

Although I have to admit that I do not spend all of my time here, one of my favorite spaces is my own office.   In my opinion, that's the way it should be! Afterall I designed it to be a space I would work well in, with all of the conveniences necessary for me to be productive and engaged in my projects.  

DIY Office

My office was a bunch of little projects, and I love every single one of them.  

Return Desk: My skirted desk used to be an old vanity that I had when I was a kid.  I added the skirt, made a knob to look like a rose and painted it a soft ballerina pink.  

Filing Cabinet: The filing cabinet was painted with a slightly darker pink, kind of a 1950s mamie pink, then I used this fun vintage inspired fabric print to cover the drawers attaching it with Mod Podge.  I painted the hardware because mine was in really rough shape.  

Chair: The chair was this super comfy vintage piece I picked up for $2 at Goodwill.  I stripped all the old gross fabric off and recovered it with fabric to match my filing cabinet.  I also polished all of the chrome colored metal with goo gone and painted the armrests to match the return desk.  

White Boards: I love to keep track of my schedule and daily  to-do items, and rather than having hundreds of lists everywhere, it is way better to keep one and keep it current somewhere that I won't lose it.  I took some old photo frames that I have had forever and some pretty scrapbook paper that matched my fabric.  I spend some time deciding what kind of layout would work best for me and then cut the scrapbook paper and glued it to white tag board cut to fit my frames.  I used some pretty scrapbook details like sparkly letter stickers and some flourishes to add some detail.  

Curtains: These were a little bit of an after thought, mostly I had some left over fabric and wanted a way to blend the two different patterns a little more. It wasn't quite enough to make traditional curtains, so I used some ribbon tied into bows around the top to hang them.  

Officeredo

I've added some other little details here and there, a little organization caddy with some binders to sort my current projects with all the supplies that I need to keep up with them.  A rug and some plants to warm the space up a little bit more.  It is a space I love to spend my time, which makes getting my work done a whole lot easier.

Where do you work? I want to know! Show or tell me about your space in the comments!  


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


The Ultimate Organization Cheat Sheet for Genealogists

Does it feel some days like you are buried under a pile of papers?  Do you worry if you start organizing it could eat away days, weeks or months of your valuable free time that you could otherwise spend researching your family tree?  

I get it, I've been there. But it doesn't have to be that way forever.  I've created a printable cheat sheet to break down your organization into small easy to accomplish, bite-sized tasks that will help you start to get organized and stay that way once you get there.   

Wondering how to get on the track to a more organized life? Well, wonder no more.

Weekly:  On a weekly basis do these three things.

  1. Mark Your Papers.  As you work, mark your papers so you can easily identify where you will need to file them.  In our Historical Research Planner: Filing Pack we include small color coding labels that are meant for this purpose.  You could also write a surname to further break down your papers into individual file groups you will eventually place them in.  
  2. Sort Your Papers.  Once a week, sit down and sort your "To File" pile so that it will be easy to file everything in one short sitting.  Arrange them in the same way that your filing system is arranged.  If they need to be 3-hole punched to go into a binder, separate them by binder the order you will put them in.  If you have a file cabinet where all of the files are color coded by family group, alphabetized by surname and chronological by family member - organize your papers in a way that will make putting them into these files as quick and easy as possible. 
  3. File Your Papers. Now that you've taken out a lot of the leg-work, use one day each week to put your papers where they belong so they will be easy to find in the future.  

Monthly:  On a monthly basis do these three things. 

  1. Keep Your Binders Relevant.  Binders should include only the papers you need easily accessible because you are currently working on them.  Each month go through and decide what needs to stay in these binders.  If you haven't worked on a particular project in a month or more these items probably need to get taken out of your binders.  
  2. Move Your Papers from Binders to Filing.  The papers you took out of your binder still need a home, start new folders in filing or put them into the folders they belong in.  
  3. Move Bulky or Grouped Files into Boxes. When you notice your filing system is getting a little cramped, it may be time to move your less active files into boxes.  Another way of making space is to move grouped files into boxes.  What does this mean? It means you can use your biggest categorization - For example, in our system,  you might break down your filing system may be COLOR-CODING > SURNAME > FAMILY GROUP > INDIVIDUAL - so to begin with you would make four boxes, one with each color, then put the coordinating color in that box.  As your research grows, you may need a box for each surname.

Yearly:  On an annual basis do these three things.

  1. Update Your Labels.  Go through all of your filing and make sure that everything is labeled appropriately.  Replace labels that are falling apart, or that reflect out-dated information.  If there are files that are big and bulky and could be broken down further into smaller sub-folders do this now.  
  2. Index Your Boxes.  When everything is where it belongs, create indexes so that you can find the information quickly and easily.  This will become more important the more information you amass in your research.  Start with boxes, and place the completed index in the front of the box or on the top if the box isn't used often.  Make two copies of the index, one that goes inside the box, and another to be kept in a "master index" which you will file to keep track of all of your boxes. 
  3. Assess Your System. The best system is one that works.  Look at how you are organizing your information and the process you are using to keep up with organization.  Is it working for you? Could it work better? Tweak accordingly and come up with a plan for the following year. 
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Did you like this information? I put it together in a printable so that it would be easy for you to keep somewhere visible for a reminder.  

Get your free copy now!

How do you keep organized?  What strategies work for you? Let us know in the comments!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


If you liked this post you may like these products from our shop: 

Sneak Peek! Family History Research Planners Coming in October!

Things have been so exciting here!  The launch of the new ebook The Purposeful Family Historian is right around the corner, and on that note I have even more big news!  I have been working for nearly two years to perfect The Historical Research Planner System which will be debuting this October!

UPDATE 10/1: They're here!! When you finish with this post, check out the shop to get your planner pack as an instant download! 

Those of you who are on the mailing list got the news first but I have new exclusive details today.  Not on the list yet? Sign up at the bottom of this post to get all the details first AND the Free Photo Memories Workbook in your inbox. 

The system is available as three separate packs, which integrate seamlessly with one another or are useable one at a time, all of which are printable PDF Smart Forms with Fillable blanks:

  1. The Calendar Pack - to help you set goals, break them down into tasks and schedule them for increased productivity and focus.
  2. The Genealogy Pack - with forms to organize your entire family tree while keeping everything color coded for efficiency and organization. 
  3. The Filing Pack - has everything you need to file your whole project, utilizing coordinating color-coded box labels, file labels and binder tabs.  

Are you as excited as we are? Let us know below! Keep checking back to get updates about the launch!

Tara Cajacob


Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


The Organized Genealogist: Sort It All Out

Is your workspace totally over run with stacks of paper? Dining table buried in “proof” and "evidence” from your family history research?  If so, you are not alone. 

We all know getting our foot in the door is the hardest part.  So, where do you start?

Big to Small
Of course it would be nice to know exactly where every single piece of paper should go, right off the bat.  
But it is totally unrealistic.  Sorting every individual page all at once will leave you in a mess worse than what you started with and feeling bogged down and totally overwhelmed.  Instead, we’re going to start big and  work toward the smaller, detailed organization. What the heck does that mean?  In the same way it can seem daunting to fulfill a huge goal (i.e. lose weight) it can be daunting to take on a huge project like organization.  So, we combat this by breaking it off into bite sized chunks that we can do in our spare time, here or there.  Come up with a way to break up your research into about four groups.  I like the surname of each grandparent  (each of your grandfathers' surnames and your grandmothers’ maiden names).  There are other ways to break it up, but I find this is a good division point.  

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Getting Boxy With It
Get a box for each of the surnames you are using to divide things up and an extra one for “other”papers.  Label each one.  Remember, however you decide to break it up, we are starting with BIG, general headings.  We don’t want to do any detail-oriented work right now.  

If you used my example of grandparents, you would  put any document pertaining to any ancestor of that grandparent in that  box.  So, your grandpa’s dad’s military records, go into your grandpa’s box.  Same with your grandpa’s mom’s baptismal records—even though she has a different surname than the one that is  on the box.  Doesn’t matter.  Any of her parents’ (and their parents’) records will also go in there.
 
Don’t Know? Don’t Sweat It.
 If you get confused or hung up on a record don’t worry about it, put it in the “other” box for now. We’ll go back to it later.  The goal right now is to get every document into one of those boxes in as little time as possible.  The sooner we get this step done, the sooner we get to move on to the next.  When we reach the next step we’re one step closer to conquering our mess and setting up an organizational system that will keep our paper’s straight from now on! 
 
Hopefully, just by finishing this step, you already feel like getting organized will be a bit easier and you can see a noticeable difference in the state of your work space!  

How do you sort your genealogy information?  Let us know in the comments! 

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