Tag Archives: systems

Designing An Organizing System That Sticks

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Just as not having enough of a clearly defined system can be the quickest path to chaos, having an overly complicated system can similarly derail even the best intentions.

I once knew a woman who operated a clothing resale business. To keep track of her ever-growing inventory, she instituted a system wherein every garment received a bag, which was tagged with a code number, which went onto a particular shelf. Now, if hers was a standard clothing retail operation, this might have been a sound system. That level of detail is necessary when tracking inventory.

But small retailers don’t usually carry 400 unique SKUS. They carry closer to 40. 

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Merci via Just One Suitcase

 

She quickly realized that her hyper-detailed system was not sustainable; she never had enough time to keep up with incorporating new items into the system, it was far too complicated for anyone but her to do, meaning that it wasn’t a task she could delegate to her assistant. More over, it wasn’t actually helping her to drive sales. No one was coming to her asking whether she had a vintage Diane Von Furstenberg sweater dress in an abstract geometric, black and white print and jersey material circa 1970, size 10. They would ask for a dress in their size. 

What was needed was a much Simpler system that required less minute sorting and more reliance on categories–clothing grouped together by type, color, and size.

This is one example of many I’ve seen wherein people’s efforts to get and stay organized fail because doing so requires a completely unrealistic amount of work. 

File folders are commonly created to be way too small in scope, with a folder made for every specific heading (think: Alaska Airlines, and Delta, and American Airlines, and Jetblue, and on, instead of just Milage Accounts). This can lead to overcrowded file cabinets, confusion about correct location, and then, eventually, a giving up, as it all becomes too complicated.

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Style At Home

 

Laundry, too, is often made to be overly complicated, with such extensive delineation between what constitutes a load, what soap to use with each type of load, and what water temperature to use with each. Socks are segregated; everything with the exception of t-shirts must be ironed; towels cannot be combined with bedsheets, bathing suits cannot be washed with beach towels, and on and on. No one can seem to pull off the feat of cleaning the clothing properly. And so the laundry piles high.

(For reference, there are three very clear rules regarding laundry in my house, which David has come to know like his middle name: 1. Use maximum soap, 2. When in doubt, wash everything on cold, 3. To be safe/avoid divorce, hang dry everything, except the things for which you have been given specific permission to dry.) 

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: IKEA

 

I love that people actually love and crave structure, that we do better when we establish rules for ourselves and our household, that we live more freely with more self-selected discipline. And I admire the goal of designing and executing detailed systems. I also know the importance of designing a system that yields to reality. I know that a system that requires that necessary 5% less upkeep has a 95% higher chance of maintaining over time. 

We all have a limited number of hours in the day. As we grow, our lives usually become fuller and busier, leaving us less time for the riff raff of the unnecessary, and, some may say sadly, less time for the overly vigilant systems. It is what it is.

Better to have the toys put away than to not ask the kids to clean up because they won’t be able to successfully put each toy back into the respective bin. Ya falla?

a key tip to designing an organizing system that sticks.

Image credit: Jamie Lynn Sigler via My Domaine

 

If you’re the owner of a very detailed system that’s mysteriously, against all your preferences and ambitions, devolved into chaos, ask yourself: is my system designed with reality in mind? Are my standards unmatched with my current free time? Would I and my family be better equipped to maintain order were I to Simplify the system?

Report back. 

The 5 Non-Negotiables For Buying Organizing Products

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

There are so many people who want to be organized but feel totally overwhelmed at the prospect of selecting organizing products. They’re the ones who treat themselves with a visit to The Container Store, but once inside, they’re lost.

Hours later they’ll emerge; dazed, confused, slightly encouraged thanks to an employee’s coaching, but overall, having no certain feelings that they chose the best possible options for them. 

The confusion ends here. 

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

1. Figure out exactly what items you need organized and contained. 

This necessarily means doing the work of thoroughly editing your belongings before you turn the conversation to product-talk. If you haven’t had the conversation of what you’re keeping and why, you’re in no position to start thinking about the how.

Once you’ve edited, you can start thinking about where you want various items being kept, and in what manner. Let the type of item and the storage location guide the product selection: If you’re storing small items, like single serve raisin boxes or binder clips, you’ll want smaller organizing containers. If you’re trying to accomodate larger things like stuffed animals or shoes, you’ll want larger baskets or bins.

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

So you take the knowledge of the scale of items being stored, and you combine that with the limitations of the preferred storage spot.

Which brings us to number 2…

 

2. The first real qualifiers for organizing products are dimensions.

Let me say this in no uncertain terms: if you have not measured your spaces (and I do mean spaceS–every drawer, shelf, or cupboard you intend to purchase products for) you have no business shopping for or purchasing organizing products.

Get out of the aisle, leave the store, do not collect $200 because you are disqualified. Once you’ve done the work of measuring, you’re allowed to start the shopping. If you leave your measurements at home, sorry, no.

After clarifying that the products you’re considering should roughly accomodate the specific items you have to store, the next determining factor for whether an organizing product is right for you is whether it’s the best possible fit for your space.

Of course there are exceptions to the following (in the form of really shitty, inferior quality products), but generally speaking:

The best drawer organizer is the one you think will work for your drawer-contents, and is the one that best fits the drawer.

The best storage tub is the one that you think will accomodate your items in scale, and that best fits the storage shelves.

The best baskets are the ones that you think will best suit your items, and that best fit the bookshelves.

If the product doesn’t fit it won’t enable organization. If it’s too large and hangs off the edge it’ll look dumb and you probably won’t utilize it to its fullest capacity because you’ll fear its falling over. If it’s too small it’ll look dumb and feel like a feeble attempt rather than a legitimate system.

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

 

3. Now you see it (if you want to), now you don’t.

The next filter for selecting organizing products is a major stylistic one: do you want to be able to see the contents through the organizing product? Or would you prefer to have the contents masked?

The visibility camp you fall in will help you determine whether to go the plastic or acrylic route, or whether your situation is more suited for something like canvas, woven baskets, etc.

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

In general, my vote is for using clear organizers for things being stowed behind closed doors (since it’s not as important for them to be beautiful, and because increasing visibility will increase likelihood of use, ease of maintenance, etc.) and non-see through organizers for items stored out in the open.

 

So, for instance, if I were storing not very pretty office supplies inside an office closet, I would opt for a clear container to corral them. If I were storing the same things on a bookcase in the office, I’d opt for a concealed storage method. Make sense?

 

4. Pick your pleasure

Once you’ve decided on clear vs. not clear, you can then select whatever style options are available to you that also fit your measurement criteria. Color, texture, material–organizing products are just as much a chance to inject your personality and delight your eyeballs as any other decorative object in your home. 

The 5 non-negotiables for buying organizing products. Because The Container Store can be as overwhelming as it can be delight-inducing.

 

5. The Budge’

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that you feel comfortable with the amount you’re spending on organizing products. I recommend this as the final filter because I think most people are pretty clueless when it comes to the cost of these things. Determine your needs and your options and then figure out what you’re able to accomplish within your budget.

While it’s a tough call, I ultimately advocate for devoting funds towards a more thorough organization of one area than for scattered injections of organizing products throughout your home.

The latter will never give you the satisfaction and systematic results that a well thought out, beautifully organized area will. If that means you can only do the kitchen right now and you’ll have to save the mudroom for next month, so be it. 

Image credits: The Glitter Guide, Yellow Brick HomeThe EverygirlEsla Events office In Rue Magazine, photography by Jessica BurkeCamille Styles, The Everygirl