Keeping Things Close to Where You Use Them is Not Always the Right Answer

You’ve probably heard that you should keep things close to where you use them.  I’m even fond of this idea.  It makes sense.  Doesn’t it?

It only makes sense it some circumstances.

I was using this principle in one of our closets.  I had my medications on a shelf.  When I refilled my pill containers, I did it close to this closet, so they were handy.  Recently we pulled everything out of the closet and as I handled all the various items, I started thinking.  This closet actually held many different things, as closets are wont to do.  There were movies, memorabilia, craft supplies, a handful of books, repair projects, and various other odds and ends.  Of course, as time moved along, I started keeping other odds and ends in there too.

The thing was that I only accessed the medications periodically.  The pill containers are refilled twice a month.  This closet is almost prime real estate in our home.  So many things could go somewhere else and be just as accessible.  I’d set it all up when we moved in, approaching a decade ago, and it made sense.  I was storing the items close to where I used them.

This is one case where keeping something close to where I used it was not the best use of the space as well as it was breaking one of the other guiding principles – keep like things together.  It makes better use of our space and easier to find things by keeping like items together.  We have a linen closet opposite the bathroom, where many items are kept since our bathroom is tiny.  Now my medications have moved in there, on a higher shelf since I access them only periodically.

One of the reasons that organizing principles are only guidelines is that you cannot necessarily follow them all, they can contradict each other.  Then you need to make a choice about which one makes more sense for you – the user.  In this case, the idea of keeping things together now seems better, though it didn’t start out that way.

We need to consider the space too.  In my case, the closet was so handy that I was keeping lots of different things there.  They got crowded, yet I could still get what I needed when I needed it.  It was convenient.  I could argue that I started using it for so much just because it was handy.  Yet, if it’s so convenient, then I wanted to use it for the things that really mattered.  I don’t want filing cabinets in my living room even if I do handle all mail and even do my pre-filing sorting here.  This becomes even more important the smaller the space you have (a post coming soon on small spaces).

Although keeping things close to where you do them makes sense, questions that often get forgotten are – how often are you doing it and how elaborate is it?  If it’s something you can easily pick up in one hand, you can simply pick it up and move it to another space without difficulty.  I would cringe at the idea of someone lugging load after load of supplies to do something in another room.

It deserves it’s own post, but also things change, so what worked at one point does not necessarily continue to work.  We need to be able to look at things with fresh eyes and see where we can improve how we’re using things and where we keep them.  Don’t be afraid to break those organizing principles, it’s probably inevitable anyway!

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