Good Organizing Is Not About Hiding

make it go away bagDoes the bag, in this photo to the right, look familiar? I see so many bags like these in client’s homes that I have a name for them. I call them make-it-go-away bags. Mail and other junk tends to pile up on the dining table or on the kitchen counter and when company is coming over, this stuff is hastily swept into a bag, which is hidden in a closet, a cabinet, or a more remote room. While there is an impetus to create these make-it-go-away bags, there is no impetus to process them. The problem is, of course, these bags have a way of accumulating and important things can go missing.

So how do you deal with these make-it-go-away bags in a way that’s not painful? Here are some tips:

A runway for takeoff

While the dining table is still clear for company, enjoy the clear processing space. A plane cannot take off without a clear runway.

Expose the vampire

Clutter is like a vampire. Hidden away in the dark it is scary and powerful, but if you expose it to the light of day, it is instantly vulnerable. When you spread the long-neglected contents out on your table, you will wonder what you were afraid. Most of it will vanish.

Sort fast

Don’t get hung up on taking actions, but do focus on sorting by actions, and do it FAST. For example, don’t pay the bills to pay, but do sort them together, and take them away to a bill paying area for later.

Quick Wins first

One of your sort piles will be junk mail and other quick wins. Don’t hesitate on that action. Toss immediately to open up more vital processing space.

Act or Find

With the more important papers that remain, don’t overthink it, at this point. Just ask your self a simple either/or question: Do I need to make a point of acting on this or do I simply need to be able to find it reliably? Actions, like paying bills, should be out where you can remember them, but things like statements, that you simply need to be able to find reliably, should go in a user-friendly filing system

Clear the decks

Don’t stop with “mostly done” or “pretty much there.” Clear your decks 100%, so you will be ready for a swift processing again, next time. A clear work surface is your number one organizing tool.

Have you ever created a make-it-go-away bag or box?