Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tricks, Tools and Concepts, via Pinterest
When it comes to organization, there are strategies (tricks) and key ideas (concepts). Tricks like Give it Five! and Don't Put it Down, Put it Away enable us to dig in and make progress. Concepts like homes guide our efforts and create the foundation for our systems.

Throughout these posts, I've been including pictures of various organizers -- clear, colorful, lidded, open -- the tools that can make or break your organizational system. Part of the key to creating a system that fits your style is finding containers that do, too.

Organizers don't need to be expensive. They can be purchased at dollar stores, office supply stores or the dollar section of your local department store (check the clearance sections of these stores, especially in September and January). Or, if you’re crafty, you can make organizers from household or office materials you already have on hand. The idea is to use materials that work for you, even if it means using traditional materials in non-traditional ways. Creative solutions are often the most fun.
As you did last week's activity, did you discover any containers that were working well, or, conversely, weren't working at all? And when I say "containers," I mean everything from the basket
you toss your car keys into to the walk-in closet in your master bedroom. If it contains something, it's a container.

Containers that work get used. Containers that don't, don't. And not only do containers that are at cross purposes to your style not get used, they also work at cross purposes to your entire organizational plan.

Next week, I'll talk about container selection in more detail. For now, I'd like to leave you with three tasks and three charts.

Task #1: This week, be on the lookout for any container that's not doing its job and remove or replace it if possible. If removing or replacing the container will create a bigger mess, leave it alone for now and use the chart below to note the specifics for future planning.

What it’s supposed to do
What it’s actually doing
Does it match your styles?

Task #2: Look at the containers that are working. What makes them a successful part of your organizational system?

Task #3: Scroll through the organizational posts on this blog, focusing not on the words, but the pictures. Which organizers/containers appeal to you? Why do you think that is?

Next week, we'll look at the intersection between organizers and the organizational styles. For now, here are a few guidelines to get you started on the focus and tools of choice for each of the styles.

Personal Styles
If your personal style is I love stuff:
Focus on keeping only things you love (that may be a rather substantial pile) and finding new homes for the rest. (More on that later).
Tools of choice:  Containers in a variety of sizes and divided containers for collections
You may also like containers that show off items that are of special importance.

If your personal style is I love to be busy:
Focus on organizational systems that require little time to maintain; choose compartmentalized containers so you can see at a glance what's missing.
Tools of choice:  One-step organizational systems; separate storage for each activity
You may also like separate containers for each activity or containers that are specific to the activities you engages in (e.g. a dedicated bag for each activity).

If your personal style is I need to see it:
Focus on keeping things visible and replacing actual items with lists.
Tools of choice:  Clear or labeled containers
You may also like containers that are visually appealing, unique or reflect your personality.

Organizational Styles
If your organizational style is I know I put it somewhere:
Focus on establishing homes for everything and putting things away a little at time.
Tools of choice:  Clear or labeled containers
You may also like containers that are distinctive or unique.

If your organizational style is cram and jam:
Focus on establishing consistent homes for everything and making sure containers are the right size.
Tools of choice:  Open containers, flexible containers and one-step organizational systems
You may also like containers that are wide enough to accommodate stuffing without damage.

If your organizational style is drop and run:
Focus on establishing consistent homes for everything and putting one thing away before starting another.
Tools of choice:  Clear, distinctive or labeled containers and one-step organizational systems
You may also like containers that make it as easy to put things away as it is to leave them out.

One last note: don't go shopping just yet, unless it's to buy a duplicate of a container you know is working. Or, if you must go shopping, start small. Choose no more than three new organizers to test out. This is the part that gets worse before it gets better. :-)


  1. What I really need (and won't get, due to the location of my "office space" in the living room) is a blank wall of clipboards right above my desk. Each clipboard would have a category. It would be my visible tickler file, because I NEED TO SEE IT.
    But I can't have that, so I need to figure out what I can do instead.

  2. Cool idea!! Any chance you could install a narrow cupboard with the clipboards inside? You could close the doors when you're not working and open them when you are....probably kinda pricey, though...

  3. Not in this space. My corner only has 18-24 inches of wall space. The rest is window, and an open overlook to the foyer and family room below. Split-level houses have no walls. I'm going to do a Small Success post tomorrow and it will show a before-and-after of my desk. You will see what little space I have to work with here!

  4. Saw your post -- congratulations! You're absolutely right about prime real estate. I wonder if your corner unit is earning its keep -- if you'd have more space with something more streamlined.

  5. I can pack quite a bit into that unit (see: Cram and Jam!) It's really only 12X18, and since I am tucked into the corner I actually have it a little bit off the edge of the desk. I'm making it earn its keep with labeled file folders. If there's an action item that I'd normally keep in a pile, I write something in my planner about it. Like for Friday, I had "Due: field trip form SCHOOL" so I knew I had to send in the form on Friday and that it was in the SCHOOL folder. I got that idea from one of your posts, I'm pretty sure. It's helping a lot. This way I write it down, so I SEE IT, but I don't have papers in a big pile.

  6. Well, you've definitely thought that out! Sounds like a great plan!!