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To Organize (Part 2): Putting Everything Away

  • Posted on July 13, 2010 at 1:06 AM

In my previous post, I wrote about how prioritization and balance between important and urgent goals is necessary for my organizational process.  After I figure out all I have to do, the next most important thing is having an “away” to put both things and projects.  First, I must note that having an understanding of what you want to accomplish and what is important to you is essential before you determine how to go about putting things away.  The decision of what constitutes away will depend a great deal on your priorities and your personality.

Obstacle 2: To put things away, you must have an away in which to put them.

While this seems pretty straight forward, it isn’t always so.  It can be tempting to resort to clutter piles.  I certainly do!  The problem with this is that if the clutter piles never get sorted, the tasks buried in the clutter piles rarely get accomplished.  Furthermore, documents you’ll need later are harder to find when needed if they’re not stored properly.

That being said, some vague “aways” are fine.  Just don’t use them to avoid work that needs to be done.

Solution 2a: Make an “away” for things.

Living in a materialistic culture like the U.S., families tend to accumulate things.  There are those who avoid this.  We are not among them.  My family is given many things throughout the year—toys, books, clothes, ect.  We are also sent things like bills and documents to fill out.  We collect movies, books, and games.  We are not as attached to things as our culture tends to encourage, but we have many things and they all need to have an away in which they are put.

So, the first step to organizing your things is having an away in which to put them.  In order to determine how many aways and what kind you require, you have to consider your priorities.  For example, we have a playroom where we keep the boys’ toys.  There is a big toy chest that is full of rarely used big toys.  There is a smaller toy chest that is full of often used big toys.  There are two bins for stuffed animals and two bins for plastic toys.  There are also smaller bins for particular sets of toys.  I used to be rather, um, compulsive about how to put all the toys away.  This compulsion didn’t help the boys find their toys—which was how I justified it—and they didn’t appreciate the effort I put into it.  So, I stopped.  It took a lot of effort, but I stopped.  The effort required to put things away where everything was sorted was too much work and too little benefit.  Take care to avoid activities that require more effort than the benefit they generate!

When putting things away, you have to decide how much sorting is necessary and limit yourself to that degree of sorting.  Is it enough to put all your books on book shelves or do you need the books arranged in a particular order?  The answer will depend on your needs and your priorities.  The same question can be asked of any set of objects, but only you can answer it.

Solution 2a: Make an “away” for projects.

While there usually are objects associated with projects, projects are categorized differently.  What kind of projects do you have?  If you are like me, many of your projects are ideas.  Between the computer and a filing cabinet or two, I can store most of my projects.  But I also have drawings, index cards, and other items to arrange.

The trick to arranging projects is to have a set of places for each kind of project.  I use cork boards to put long projects-in-progress on display.  I take a sheet of paper, make an envelope out of it, and store notes on index cards in separate “envelope” for each segment of the project.  I also sort projects (ongoing and past) in file folders, in/out boxes, and the like.

There are many systems you can try.  Or you can mix and match systems to create your own unique system—which is what I do.  The purpose is to be able to find everything you need for any project you wish to work on and to keep projects-in-progress safe from destruction.  Whether you use stacks of labeled shoe boxes or a tidy set of trays, you can organize your projects in any way that works for you.  This may involve some trial and error, but you’ll find that all that effort was worth its while once your system is up and running.


Organizing your work takes time.  Sometimes that time can be hard to come by.  However, the effort you put into organization saves you even more time in the long-run.  Of course, now that we’ve talked about the processes of organization, there’s still one piece missing.  How do you turn that organization into accomplishment?  That’s the topic of the next post!