Organizing is a simple concept whose difficulty lies in implementation. But it’s very easy to understand how to organize anything. Today we look at the steps to organizing.
Before we talk about how, let’s tackle the why. Mainly because I believe that if you don’t understand why you’re doing something, you’re not going to do it.
So let’s start with a recent factoid: The Pixie Lost & Found Survey found that the average American spent 2.5 days a year looking for lost items (source).
2.5 days. 60 hours. That’s more than a week of work.
That’s 60 hours you could be doing something else. Something with a better return on your time than frantically running around the house digging in cushions and pulling out drawers and upending bags.
So being disorganized has a direct and negative impact on your productivity.
But Let’s Not Overdo It
There is a flip side to this, too.
If you are hyper-organized, you are losing productivity as well. Too much organization means that you spend too much time maintaining your organization system.
There is a big difference between knowing where your socks are and having them sorted by color and length.
So what you have to do is find that area in the middle – where you’re not searching for things, but where you’re still able to have a life.
How To Organize Anything
So let’s get down to this. How do you organize anything?
To properly do this phase, you need to know how you are going to store the outcome. This takes a bit of forward thinking. Are you going to keep them all in one place (like a coat closet)? Or are you going to keep the same grouping in multiple places (like having pens and pencils in the kitchen)?
Collect all the like items in the area you are trying to organize. These may be the same type of object (your coats in the house) or have the same purpose (office supplies in the kitchen).
The point here is to gather up all these like items into one place. If you are trying to organize a type across the house, you will have to gather items from around the house. So all your coats would be gathered in one place. If you are trying to organize your office supplies in the kitchen, you would gather all the pens, pencils, highlighters, staplers, tape, rubber bands, etc. in the kitchen.
The key here is to get all of it for the area you are trying to organize.
To properly do this phase, you need to consider what you actually need, and then evaluate the items against that standard.
How many coats do you need? This will depend on climate and your personal style. Maybe you just need a rain jacket. Maybe you need everything from a rain jacket to windbreaker to a down-filled parka.
How many pencils and pens do you need in the kitchen? (Believe me, I know they multiply). How many rubber bands? How many paperclips?
Once you know how much you need, evaluate the items and choose what to keep. If you decide you need three pens in the kitchen, choose three (that work, please) and donate the rest. If you find you have four windbreakers and need one, choose the one that best suits your purpose now (because if you have more than one, there is a reason you bought them…)
A word about getting rid of stuff: I am all for recycling and reusing. Be creative with your re-use. Donate pens and pencils to a local teacher. Take old towels to the local animal shelter. Get the coats cleaned and get them to a thrift store. Under no circumstances, though, donate things that are dirty, torn, broken or in poor shape. Throw them out.
3. Put Away
Once you have done the purge, it’s just a matter of putting things back. Remember back in step one when you decided where you were going to keep these things? Put them there.
You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just put things back in a way that makes them easy to get to. You don’t need to alphabetize your shirts or put your socks away by color…unless that makes it easy for you to find them again.
Sadly, organization is not a one-time deal. Stuff creeps back in. You should plan on doing the organization exercise as often as you need to…but not more often.
So there you have it: how to organize anything. Collect, purge put away and maintain.
It’s an easy concept, but the work involved is not trivial, so many people claim that they can’t organize things.
But wouldn’t you like to get that 60 hours back? Wouldn’t it be more fun to take a trip to the Bahamas instead of looking for a pen to sign a permission slip?