rubber-bandsWhy I Hate Rubber Bands

I guess it all started in my dear Mom’s kitchen.  She would collect various shapes and sizes of used rubber bands on the kitchen faucet.  I just hated the way it looked.  Mom was thrilled that she was she could always lay her hands on a rubber band.  Indeed, the most useful organizing system she had was for finding the most useless organizing convention I can think of.

As a child, I couldn’t articulate what it was about that I didn’t like about rubber bands, but as a professional organizer I can.  Some kinds of containers help you GET organized and others help you STAY organized.  Rubber bands do neither.

Any of my clients will tell you, my favorite containers for GETTING organized are banker boxes and Ziploc bags.  The banker boxes are a good size for sorting, they are stackable, reusable, and you can affix a label to them.  Ziploc bags are great because you can see what’s inside of them, including a label to clarify the contents further.  Both of these solutions are designed to be temporary launch pads to proper systems.

Rubber bands offer no such launch pad.  The only things they can launch is themselves (and that’s not a bad idea.)  We may associate a flexibility with rubber bands, but the truth is, there’s a certain rigidity to rubber bands.  Take business cards, for example.  Once you neatly bundle them up in a criss cross of rubber bands, let’s face it, that’s the end of them.  The problem was that business cards were all over the place and the “solution” is that they are now under control, with rubber bands.  The rubber bands send the message that the business card problem has been settled.  It hasn’t.  It has been bundled up and, in some ways, the problem is worse.  The only card that you can see in the bundle is the top one.

If the intention of this bundle is to represent a FINISHED system, then the rubber band fails even further.  I’ve seen hundreds of organizing systems, good and bad, and there is always one consistent element that makes systems successful:  they’re easy! Unbundling, shuffling, and bundling business cards, to continue with the same example, requires effort, not a lot of effort, but effort, enough not to happen.

Big fat files that are bound up in rubber bands are especially difficult to use.  The resistance of the rubber makes these files difficult to slide in and out of the file cabinet and the bands cut into the files, leaving them in tatters.  One is not encouraged to use files like that, so one doesn’t.

Even for rolls of paper, I try to avoid the rubber band.  If you have a lot of large paper that matters, a set of flat files is well worth the investment.  For small amounts a portfolio is better.  Rolling paper up never improves it.

Finally, rubber bands are NOT so flexible because eventually they dry up, get brittle, and snap.  Granted, this takes quite a long time, but that’s not a problem for the rubber band.  Things tend to sit bound up for YEARS.  Why? Because there is never a plan for moving on from the rubber band solution.  It’s done, settled, and often a royal pain to unbind.

Oh, and it gets worse.  It’s not enough that these monstrosities snap as their bloated contents explode, they actually have the gall to adhere themselves to folders with an epoxy-like strength, rendering said folder non-reusable and non-recyclable.

Rubber bands have their place, on lobsters and broccoli, but unless you are actively seeking a DISorganizing tool, my advice would be to keep these little menaces out of your home office.