280Effective organizing begins with assigning basic categories, but “important” is NOT a category. It may be tempting to think, “I’ll just keep all my ‘important stuff’ together in one safe place and take my chances with the rest of it.” This is not a safe practice. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. “Important” changes with time. If this is the one system that makes you feel safe then the odds are very good that you don’t have a system for disposing of once-important items that have now long expired.  These outdated items build up, burying the truly important items.

2. Only one tops the pile. If your most important files go into a pile then only the one at the top can reliably get the most attention. Slightly older, possibly more important files are likely to get buried by newer, less important files.

3. Findability failure. It is essential to distinguish between items that you must make a point of acting upon and items you simply need to be able to FIND. These tend to be bundled together in homes I find employing the “important” category. Important action files are hidden by too many files that simply need to be found easily.

4. Too much keeping. Since there is an isolated location for “important” items this decreases the likelihood that careful thought will be put into everything else. When you don’t have a clear policy about WHY you keep certain things, you tend to keep too much. If, instead, you keep a minimum of the so called “less important” files in a file cabinet of simple categories, then you allow enough space to easily find the “important” files.

5. Too much is important. There are simply too many subcategories of “important” to make it a manageable size.  Again, this decreases the likelihood that the actionable items will get done. If you get clear on the junk you don’t need to keep and set up a user-friendly filing system, you can let go of the fear that you’ll never find an item once it goes into a file cabinet. What the important file and the less important file share is a need to be findable. Otherwise, you should ask why you are keeping it at all.

TODAY’S KEY TO UNLOCKING CLUTTER. Unlock the “important” category and open the door to findability.