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Posts Tagged Systems

Don’t Rush To Systems

I hear it all the time. “You wouldn’t believe how many times I organized this room and the stuff just keeps coming back!” When I work with the client on this room, I immediately see why.  We may clear a shelf off and she immediately starts putting stuff back on it.  In other words, she is skipping ahead to setting up systems before we are finished with the sort and purge.  This is a bit like putting the cart before the horse.  It just won’t go anywhere. The reason this just won’t work is because there is no limiting factor to keep the quantity under control.  Before you can establish this limiting factor, you must first establish what a reasonable quantity of stuff is.  That is why it is so important to complete the process of sort-and-purge FIRST. The approach to effective organizing is to take all the LESS important stuff out of the way, so that you can easily get to the MOST important stuff.  When we clear a shelf off, the client sees the open shelf as an […]

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Receipt Control


One of the most familiar items to go homeless in any work environment is the receipt. You may be frustrated with how messy they look everywhere, but the solution is never as easy as throwing them all out, because they DO matter. Not ALL of them matter, but without a clear plan, one tends to keep them all, just in case.

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When Empty Is Full

One of the things that makes it so difficult for us to stay organized is the need to fill empty spaces.  I’m not entirely sure where this need comes from, but I have seen that it is very real. Sometimes the folks I work with make me feel like I’m doing TOO good of a job.  We may create a completely clear work surface and a couple clear shelves and they may declare “Well, what’s going to go there?”  The pendulum has swung from being overwhelmed with clutter to being under-whelmed without clutter. I guess it comes down to being careful what you wish for, but emptiness is a good problem to have.  It’s much easier to fill empty space than to create it.  Perhaps the panic sets in at the thought of what needs to fill that space to block the wrong thing from creeping back in.  It takes some getting used to, but empty is good.  Empty means options and therefore empty is full. I am not a practitioner of Feng Shui, but the part of the philosophy […]

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Organize Before You Mobilize

One question I get all the time is “Should I get organized before I move or after?” I say definitely get organized before you move, because good organization travels well. Save Money Good organizing begins with good purging.  There’s no better time to purge than before a move.  The more you get rid of, the more you will save on moving costs and storage costs.   There’s a lot of low value stuff we tend to hang on to because it may come in useful, while we are settled, but when it’s time to move, that stuff can take up a lot of truck space.  Now is a great time to let go.   Toss of donate, if at all possible. Reassessment Answers Placement. As you are packing up your stuff, now is a great opportunity to rethink exactly WHY you are keeping what you keep.  When you answer the question of WHY you keep something, you also answer the question of WHERE it should go.  It’s important to note that you may be keeping the same item for different reasons.  Take, […]

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Organizing Outside The Box

Boxes are indispensable tools for GETTING organized, but to STAY organized, you need to “think outside the box.” It’s the first question I get when an excited client agrees to begin work with me, “What kind of containers should I buy?”  I hate to dampen their enthusiasm, but I always explain that I will determine the appropriate containers and furniture AFTER we determine how much we are containing.  It’s not unusual to end up needing NO new containers! We do use a ten pack of banker’s boxes, but strictly as sorting tools.  They allow us to focus on editing one category at a time and the boxes get reused multiple times, but ultimately the goal is to empty the boxes, not fill them. A full, lidded box is great for stacking and saving space, but it can be a dangerous solution if it ends there.  Organizing systems need to be designed around use, not concealment. Shelves, hooks, and slots make better solutions for items that get used the most. For items that get used less often, but still need to […]

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Disorganization: It’s Not You

This time of year many of us resolve to be more organized in the New Year. That’s great! Step one is: believe in yourself, because YOU are not the problem.  I’m amazed at how many of my clients say things like, “It’s a sickness,” “Don’t be mad at me,” “I’m a slob,” or “Am I the worst you’ve ever seen?” In most cases disorganization just comes from being too busy, having too much stuff, bad systems, and misguided mindsets. Too Busy OK, this may sound like a cop out because EVERYBODY is busy, but don’t overlook it. If you find a half hour window to reorganize the pantry and your daughter needs help with her algebra homework, the pantry has to take a back seat. You have your priorities straight, so give yourself some credit. Your free time is limited which makes removing all the unnecessary obstacles that much more important. Too Much Stuff Perhaps the most unnecessary but relentless obstacle to getting organized is too much stuff, aka “clutter.” There is only a small minority of us encouraging you […]

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Organizing is a Piece of Cake

I am often asked what furniture, closets, or shelves to buy and when I answer by saying  “an answer to the question of systems must be preceded by an answer to the question of quantity,” I am given a look that says “Why are you making me eat my brussel sprouts before I eat my cake?”  So be it. Let’s talk cake! If you compare clearing a cluttered room to baking a cake, then asking about furniture and shelves is like asking about the flavor of the frosting before you know the flavor of the cake.  A cluttered room is a loose mess of ingredients.  You can’t start by applying frosting to that mess.  You need the structure of the cake. First you need to sort out the ingredients.  Maybe you have more flour than you need for this cake.  Maybe some of that flour has clumped up and needs tossing.  Maybe you discover you don’t have as much sugar as you thought you did.  Maybe you were planning on a chocolate frosting, but you discover these wonderful fresh strawberries […]

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All Systems Go!

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, January 2008  ALL SYSTEMS GO! “Never mind all this ‘Sort-and-Purge’ nonsense, just give me some SYSTEMS to keep me organized!”  O.K., no one has ever actually spoken these words to me, but I hear this sentiment all the time in questions like: “What can I buy?” “Where does this go?” “Why can’t I stay organized?” I’m sure that many of you have been frustrated when I answer these questions by saying things like: Systems come at the END of the organizing process. Don’t ask WHERE to put something.  Ask WHY you are keeping it. You can’t hope to STAY organized without user-friendly systems. So be it!  LET’S TALK SYSTEMS. Organizing systems consist of a simple formula: Appropriate STRUCTURE + Easy HABIT = Effective SYSTEM BOTH structure and habit are necessary for a system to work well. This formula applies to all organizing systems, but let’s look at the example of laundry.  Every good organizing solution allows for easy circulation, because, as I’ve often said, CIRCULATION prevents ACCUMULATION.  So let’s consider how easily your […]

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