It is the start of a New Year, full of promise, hope and the thrill of trying once again to organize a household, a barn office, calf supply room, farm shop and the list goes on. I laser my focus in on the tasks of doing a better job with the concept of getting organized every single year. My plan is simple. I channel the organizational guru, Marie Kondo. I could even re-read her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” or watch her how-to Netflix shows. I have been to organizing seminars. I know the four piles of organizing when sorting through a mess: toss, recycle, give away and keep. The keepers are supposed to be filed neatly, tucked away in cute baskets, cloth bins or drawers where they can always be found efficiently. Starting the year right was also covered when listening to early morning radio talk show during milking in early January. The hosts interviewed psychics who not only gave their 2019 predictions of weather and political perils, but some also included good advice for people seeking self-improvement in the year ahead. The guy’s name was inaudible due to the milking noise, but the message he gave was loud and clear. Seek to remove the blocks to success in achieving your goals. He mentioned people who have stubborn personalities which could thwart their self-improvement efforts (who, me?). He urged listeners to seek intellectual motivation, ongoing education and spiritual development. He made it sound so doable. I was really fired up to get going. Then my 20-something daughter who really likes organizing offered to help me get busy cleaning the house basement mess. Stuff is stacked all over on the floor down there, while the shelves hold boxes of old National Geographic magazines that will never be looked at again. Take everything off of the shelf and put it in one big pile in the middle of the room and then when you see all you have, it motivates you to get rid of things, my daughter told me. If we just get the stuff off the floor and onto those big shelves, it will not look like you are a hoarder, she added. Well, that was all the motivation I needed. I do like these ideas, but then there is a big mess that might take several weeks to actually sort into those four piles. So, we compromised and did one section of shelves at a time. It went well at first, resulting in getting a big garbage bag full to toss and several boxes hauled to our county recycling unit. Things to keep were organized, labeled and stacked neatly on the shelves. There would actually be room on the bottom two shelves to store the Christmas snow village when it gets taken down. And, yes, some things are still in the middle of the floor, because then several calves were born. Others needed vaccinating, weaning and moving. There were trips to visit my mother’s, holiday parties to attend, daily laundry and cooking happened, and the basement was ignored. My hope is to get back down there before spring and work on other shelves. The entire house needs going through after the accumulation of 21 years of three children’s things, various boxes from parental homes and so on. Really, the reason I started thinking about putting things in order is because of farm tasks that I have put off for far too long. The desire stems from a need to keep better records of calf health, diagnosis, treatment regimens and outcomes. Calf health records are not well kept or entered into our record-keeping system, so we do not know if a heifer has had past health issues. Starting this month, I am using a treatment log to record calf health events. The next step will be entering all of the information into computerized records so they can be tracked over the animal’s lifetime. Beyond calf health records, we recently went over all of our dairy’s FARM program protocols to bring them up to date. The importance of having this paperwork current and in a place where everyone working with our cattle can refer to it cannot be overstated. People consuming our products may want to know how we handle our animals and keep them healthy. If we have a program in place to record all of the events, it can only help with this goal. Even if no one comes knocking on our barn door to ask to see our records, it is a good exercise to make sure we are all on the same page. The result is doing a better job. So, whether it is keeping calf health records or sorting through the piles of life that has happened, I am determined to plow through my stubborn roadblocks to success and keep chipping away in 2019. Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.