Labels, and Boxes, and Files - Oh My!
This year’s press on New Year’s Resolutions has taken on a new twist: the “anti-organization” movement. The “pro-mess” proponents claim that organizing wastes time, leaves no room for individuality, and kills the creative process. Of course, nothing appeals to the media like a good controversy.
These rebels do have a point, though, if you take the wrong approach to organizing. In other words, if you set up your system from the “outside in”, (looking to containers, bins or one-size-fits-all rules to solve the problem) you’re bound to create an unnatural system that works differently than the way you work, and is therefore too cumbersome to sustain.
The philosophy behind my organizing is that in order to create a lasting system, you’ve got to work from the “inside out”. In other words, design your system around your unique way of thinking, natural habits, and goals, and it will be natural and easy to maintain. There is no one “right way” or “perfect system”. Organizing must celebrate and honor your individuality, rather than confine you or put your personality into a box.
Being organized releases rather than restricts creativity. It gives you immediate access to all the materials you need to do your work more efficiently. The key is to design your system to be simple, fun, and visually appealing so that it reflects your creative personality and feeds your style.
Labels, and Boxes, and Files - Oh My!
In the S.P.A.C.E. Formula (Sort, Purge, Assign, Containerize, Equalize) for organizing, two of the steps offer the richest opportunity for infusing your system with your unique personality and style: SORT and CONTAINERIZE.
SORTING is an intensely individualized experience, because only you know how you think and identify your possessions. Therefore, it is crucial that you handle everything. Pick up every item of clothing, piece of paper, or collectible and evaluate it individually. As you sort, focus on the following:
Identify what is important to you—focus on those items you currently use, love and/or that make money, not those that used to be important to you, or might be important to you someday.
Group similar items. As you identify the important items you want to keep, place them on the floor or another surface in related categories that reflect your associations, not someone else’s. They only have to make sense to you. This is one of the keys of organizing from the inside out: to design a system that is intuitive and natural to you so that you can find things and put them away again without too much thought. Keep categories as broad as possible so they’ll be easy to remember and you’ll have the least number of places to look when you start assigning items a home.
Don’t put off or ignore those large piles of stuff in corners or scattered pockets of clutter that seem too intimidating. Skipping them or postponing them to “some other time” will prevent you from seeing the big picture before you set up your system. This will leave you with an unsatisfying feeling of incompletion, which will inevitably cause your system to unravel.
CONTAINERIZING is the stage where your creativity and sense of personal style can really come into play. As you select appropriate containers, keep the following in mind:
Aesthetics. Choose containers that you love. They should be delightful to use and blend attractively with the décor you’ve chosen for your space, whether it’s shabby chic, country cozy, or high tech steel.
Sturdiness. Don’t be tempted to economize. Your containers must be tough enough to withstand repeated use. If they fall apart, break, or feel flimsy, you’ll stop using them.
Manageability. Containers should be easy to handle. If you’ll be storing a lot of items in them, consider their weight when full.
Size. Make sure they are a proper fit for the number of items you will be storing, without overcrowding. Consider leaving a little room for growth—but not much.
Once you have designed your system from the inside out, enjoy the energy you will gain from your space. Your home, office, and even your schedule will reflect and support who you are, what you want, and where you are going. And, it will be natural and delightful to use.