The One Organizing System Every Household Should Have

The Donation Depot is essential, not only as perhaps the most important organizing system in any home, but also as a perfect example of how an organizing system should work.

Everything must circulate

In my upcoming book, The Circulation Solution: The Ultimate Organizing Approach to Lasting Clutter Relief, I share a very simple philosophy: circulation prevents accumulation. I’ve been blogging about this for years and now I am expanding upon it in a book.

Circulation prevents accumulation means that to stay organized, you need a plan for movement in a series of manageable, reliable steps. The perfect model is the dish’s path from cabinet, to counter, to table, to sink, to drying rack, and back to the cabinet.

Circulation is also necessary for the lifecycle of our possessions. Stuff circulates INTO our lives all too easily, so we need a competitive plan for it to circulate OUT of our lives. That’s what a donation depot is all about.

How it works

In any healthy household, there is already a plan for trash and recycling to circulate out. Usually it involves a trashcan and a recycling bin in the garage or an outside area. I maintain that it also makes sense to keep a regular area to collect items to donate. I find that a shelf, at eye level with two bins (pictured) to be ideal.

Manageable and reliable

Ever find yourself with a collection of donates, but also find yourself challenged with getting them out the door? Maybe there are too many or they are in an inconvenient location, like the basement or attic, or both! By limiting your donations to just one shelf and two bins, you are giving yourself just enough so that the trip is worthwhile, but not so much that you’ll be overwhelmed.

Compelling Location

Locating this limited area in the garage, makes this system more compelling because the bins can be set up to be staring right at you, as you stand in front of your’s trunk. When you have made reduced the distance of the collection and the removal vehicle to a matter of inches, you have made the system as manageable and reliable as possible.

Favored Products

Choosing the right structure is important. I like these folding crates from The Container Store because they are the right height and depth to fit two on a shelf and they don’t come with lids. Lids discourage use. I use clear recycling bags inside these bins, because that way you never have to remove the bins from the shelf. You just take the plastic bags when they fill up. Finally, I like a bold label, so there are no excuses. Don’t overthink the categories. Just separate clothes from non-clothes or “bric-a-brac.”

An organizing system is ultimately made up of just two components: the appropriate structure and an easy habit. They work hand in hand. It’s not realistic to think that when you produce just one shirt to donate, that you are going to drop what you are doing and drive to you local donation center any more that it is likely that you will feel like hauling down twenty bags from the attic. This structure guides you and makes it as easy to maintain a manageable and reliable habit for your excess stuff to circulate OUT.