Does 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.
In my last blog post, I gave some examples of the science of organizing. I explained that what we do is not magic, it’s science. This time, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the magical ideas I have encountered over the years about organizing and professional organizers. I call these ideas organizing fairy dust.
Beware the inbox. On the face of it, an inbox makes sense. It provides a single collection place for your unsorted items. The problem is that you gain a false sense of organization, because while there is an easy plan for entrance, there is no easy plan for exit. The best solution may be no inbox at all.
Just as a doctor asks several key questions before making a diagnosis, so does a professional organizer. In a home office, one of those questions is “where is your trash?” If the client proudly points to a decorative little bin that is overflowing with paper, then I know we are looking at some easy structural solutions and some larger conceptual challenges.
I am actually making a case against baskets. I realize that for many with visions of a home beautifully organized into pretty little matching baskets that this is organizing heresy, but hear me out. More often than not, baskets are clutter traps. Items go in, but they don’t come out. We have a false sense of control because an ugly collection of items have been contained in a beautiful vessel. But
The other day I rushed home from work and jumped straight on the computer. My wife walked by my office and said “Take off your coat and stay a while!” You might wonder what this fascinating story has to do with organizing. A while back I wrote a post called “Envel-nope”, about why un-shed envelopes have no place in the home.
It’s a common question but it has an uncommon answer. Mail doesn’t go anywhere. That’s because it stops being mail the second it comes out of your mailbox. Bills-to-pay need a home, material-to-read need a home, and statements-to-file need a home, but it’s a mistake to allow the daily collection to take up residence ANYWHERE.
When does mail stop being mail? The second it comes out of your mailbox. That stuff piled up on your dining table is not mail. It’s bills to pay, solicitations to toss, statements to file, magazines to read, and material to review. Each envelope contains paper that requires action. Because those actions are hidden inside those envelopes, one fears the worst, but expose them to the light of day and you realize that your necessary actions are either a. easy or b. unnecessary (for now).
Want to make your home more inviting? The dining table is usually a great place to start. If it’s piled with mail, schoolwork, and crafts then it’s not very welcoming. To keep your table clear and inviting, it helps to think of it as a runway at the FedEx “Super Hub” at Memphis International Airport. The most valuable organizing tool is a clear surface for processing.
Envelopes are necessary to help deliver mail, but mail stops being mail the second it comes out of your mailbox. At this moment envelopes are not only unnecessary, they are a natural enemy to staying organized. Envelopes help in the sending of paper information in three ways. First, they conceal the information from outside eyes.