Pefect Organization System … and Other Myths

There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ organizing system. Unlike other people who talk about minimalism, I’m not talking about a literal interpretation of that statement – as any system can be improved. I think the human element determines most of the likelihood of improvement or success for someone trying to organize. For what it is worth, a superbly-motivated person can do a miracle with plain cardboard boxes or plastic bins. (Just as you can get a trainer, go to the best gym, buy pre-packaged foods OR control your diet sensibly and walk a lot to lose weight.)

Organization is never a finished system. Anyone can set up an astonishingly efficient method to deal with excess, clutter, and stuff – but few stay the course. Possessions tend to multiply quietly. It’s not a sudden process.

It is the intent to implement a system, any system, and work it that matters. If you have disposable income and wish to invest in an expensive ‘name-brand’ organization system, please do so. But your system won’t outperform someone who listens to me and has nothing but cardboard boxes and a commitment to try something different.

Each person has his or her own balance in the house. How much stuff should be in there is highly subjective. But even though the amount of stuff is subjective, the ATTITUDE toward the stuff is strikingly different for a motivated organizer/minimalist.

If I were to go into someone’s house to help them with organization, among the first questions I might ask is “Regardless of what is in there, are you willing to consider ridding yourself of some of it?” Reticence when answering indicates that there is more going on than just a huge pile of stuff in the way. Organizing might help, but only to allow the person to pile more stuff inside the house. And so on…

As for me personally, I have a lot of stuff around me that I would personally get rid of and then determine whether I miss it or not. But I live with another person who has different ideas of what ‘enough’ is. My wife is much less inclined than most of her contemporaries to want a bunch of stuff, including shoes, clothes and strange kitchen appliances. My balance is determined externally by my wife rather than my own comfort zone. I probably would have 100 pictures and pieces of interesting things on the walls and 2 pieces of furniture per room on the floor. I think it would be an interesting game to see just how few things we would use and need for a year.

Just like everyone else, I have an ‘extra’ room, the one that most people feel like they need. It’s the room-size equivalent of the crazyglue drawer in most people’s kitchen. Everything can easily get piled in there, especially when you want to quickly (instead of permanently) reduce clutter. As a minimalist, every time I put something in the extra room, I consciously note that I’m doing it. I know if I stop noting that I’m doing it, the extra room would probably end up like most people’s houses – crypts for stuff instead of living places.

Talking to many people has led me to the conclusion that many people are wanna-be hoarders. They have an attic, an extra room, basement or garage that gets stuffed to conceal how much unwanted stuff they have piled in their house. It doesn’t add fun or interest to their lives; it is there because of the perceived value and the horror of the thought of it being given away. They know they should give 1/2 of it away but somehow the piles of stuff obtains its own gravitational field, so it sits, accusing you year after year. Moving it from the living room corner to a closet or other place doesn’t address the “stuff stress” that comes with it.