horse-before-the-cart1I 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 opportunity. It is, but the real opportunity is all the excess stuff on the other shelves and throughout the room.

When you clear all the excess stuff from your room and divide the keepers into simple categories, you give yourself a huge advantage.  You are starting with a clean slate and seeing what’s important for this space in a whole new light.

In this new light, maybe you realize you can comfortably fit all your office supplies in a 5 drawer organizer on wheels.  Maybe you don’t need that bookcase at all.  Maybe the space it takes up would be better occupied by a small side table for processing all those papers that you had piled up on your floor.

It’s very difficult to see all these possibilities if you don’t first reexamine ALL your stuff and see what you really need and how much.  Let your needs dictate your systems.  Don’t rush to recreate systems in a structure that may be a bad fit for your needs.  Otherwise you will have no limitations to prevent the excess from returning.