Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yes, it has a Home: Containers and the Organizational Styles

Writing last week's post nudged me to make a change at my house. As I wrote about what containers were supposed to do and what they were actually doing, I mentally filled in the chart with problem areas in my house, and realized that one perpetual mess in my kitchen could probably be solved just by changing the container.

I know what you're thinking. Did you change it? And then, did you get rid of it?

Yes! My husband (Mr. I know I put it somewhere) likes the container that wasn't working for me. So, I replaced the container with one that works for my I need to see it style (and will also work for his I know I put it somewhere style). Then, I relocated the old container to a spot near his desk, where he can continue to use it.

Before I dig into containers and the organizational styles, let me remind you that I'm using "container" to describe anything that holds something -- from the file sorter on your desk to the bins in the basement -- and in between.

There's a reason we started this discussion with the concept behind the Y in STYLE -- Yes, it has a home. A key step, regardless of your personal and organizational styles, is establishing consistent homes for things. What those homes will look like will vary by style, but if we don't first decide where things belong, we're going to run into trouble.

Believe it or not, at the root of each of the organizational styles is an understanding of a basic concept of organization -- so yes, you are already doing something right! Playing to this strength as you choose containers and set up systems will boost your confidence as well as your organizational skills. With both organizational styles and personal styles, the key is to identify the homes and containers that match what you do intuitively, and build from there.

I know I put it somewhere 

People who use an I know I put it somewhere organizational style understand the concept of putting something away. Almost any container will work for them provided they have a system for assigning homes and remembering what goes where. 
This is actually easier than it sounds. The I know I put it somewhere tendency to put things in a “safe place” is logical in its own way; what's typically missing is a consistent system. Once the I know I put it somewhere organizer selects specific, logical homes for his things (rather than whatever springs to mind in the heat of the moment), then next step is using these homes on a regular basis. 

Labeling or otherwise identifying these spots so that you remember where things go and therefore put them in the same place every time will help you to move from putting it “somewhere” to putting it “away.” See-through containers can also serve as memory joggers if you tend to have trouble remembering which "safe place" you designated as home for a particular item.
Cram and jam

Cram and jammers have also mastered the concept of putting things away. Once they've established consistent and logical homes for their belongings (that's homes -- plural -- not just one, big, overflowing bin), choosing flexible containers that are appropriately sized for the task allows them to counteract their tendency to cram everything into one space until it overflows. 

To make this adjustment, cram and jammers will need a combination of the right container (spacious, flexible, room to grow) and the right home. Establishing logical homes helps cram and jammers to fight the urge to repeatedly (over)stuff things into the closest space, and making sure that space has room to grow will also help ensure success. 
While cram and jammers do better with open containers, the key container component here is size. Forget small containers or those with subdivisions - every section will quickly become overloaded, resulting in items that are wrinkled, crinkled or otherwise unsightly. Worse yet, things may end up damaged or broken. Instead, choose single section flexible (fabric, for example) storage with plenty of space and no lids to further smash things into submission. The three key concepts here are roomy (containers), logical (homes) and easily accessed locations.
Drop and run 

Drop and run organizers are good at categorizing. Accustomed to dropping things from one activity and scooping up the necessary items for another, most drop and run people have already mastered the concept of keeping like items together. Once they've decided on homes for their things, they need help establishing simple systems that will help them move from putting things “down” to putting things “away." The combination of logical, consistent homes and simple, one-step containers can help a drop and run organizer make the transition from dropping it in the closest available spot to putting it where it belongs.
Like their cram and jam counterparts, drop and run folks do better with open (unlidded) containers. Sure, lids may contain things and make them look neater, but they’re also a barrier to putting things away, adding two extra steps (lid off and lid back on) to the process of putting things where they belong. Choosing one-step organizers with open tops will allow the drop and run organizer to put something both down and away at the same time. 

If you need the finished look of a closed container, aim for drawers instead of lids. They’re easier to manage one-handed and opening and closing a drawer feels simpler than taking off a lid then putting it back on, making it more likely that a drop and run organizer will use it

For each of the styles, there's one common bottom line: you’ll want to make putting things away as easy as possible. If replacing a hanging rod in a closet with shelves means the clothes get put away, don't "should" yourself into believing that a rod is the only way to correctly utilize closet space. The goal here is lofty -- we're aiming to put things where they belong every time -- and in order to achieve that goal, you'll want to make it as simple as possible to do so. 

Next week, we'll take a look at how the personal styles intersect with container choices.

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