Those Random Items

Do you have a ”junk drawer”?  Or several?  It’s these places where things collect that don’t have a better place to live.  We all have items that don’t quite fit in with another category.  These things can eat away at us or simply accumulate in a particular space (or everywhere).  They can cause a lot of frustration and might even stymie us from moving forward on those things we could deal with.

There’s no question these things are annoying.  It can make us feel stuck and sometimes stupid – why can’t I figure out how to deal with them?  And we all have these things – we get to a point that we aren’t quite sure what to do with them.  What do I do with this?  Where do I put that?  Often we then just throw them altogether somewhere – hence the junk drawer.  Or, in my case, I have a folder in my file cabinet called “Etcetera” and no junk drawer.

The first question to ask yourself is how do you behave when a space starts to get cluttered.  We all have a different approach.  I tend to become bothered by it and find time to go through it.  I regain control of that space fairly quickly.  On the other extreme, some people are either rather blind to it or are so frustrated by it they ignore the growing mess.  And we easily keep adding things to that pile or file so it does keep growing.

Most organizers are adamant that you never have a junk drawer or an “Etcetera” file.  Although I understand their point, what is more important is how you responded to the question above – “How do you behave when a space starts to get cluttered?”  If you avoid dealing with that space and keep adding to it, then it is a better idea to find a different way to handle those random items.

I don’t recommend a junk drawer generally – even if you are someone who deals with it promptly when it starts to fill up.  Undeniably, figuring out what to do with those things can be frustrating – for all of us.  Before you tackle handling these random things, organize the things that are more clear and straightforward.  The oddball things are best saved to the last in the organization process.

So, you want to figure out how to deal with those random things?  Ideally you want to pull them all together.  Also, if you have other things that need organizing, deal with that first.  You want to avoid having too much around you when you work on the puzzling, random things.

  • What kinds of things are they?
  • How many do you have like it – i.e. can it be grouped with any other category of things?
  • How many have commonalities between them – i.e. do you have 2 like items among the pile of oddball things?
  • What is the next action that you are going to do with it – i.e. you need to make a phone call or are waiting until you see someone or you simply want to save it?
  • What is this things purpose for you?

As with all organizing, it’s about figuring out various factors that I sum up with the term categories.  This is defined by how we use things, where we use them, how often we use them, and on and on.  The idea is to have the categories “big” enough to make it worth making a category – for instance, it rarely makes sense to have a folder in your file cabinet with 1 piece of paper in it.  While on the other hand, you want it to be “small” enough category that things won’t get lost amid all the other things – for instance, a work file is often too large since there are so many different facets and it would be more effective to have it subdivided.

When you are looking at those random things, consider what categories they might fit into.  Sometimes this means thinking more broadly – you didn’t consider that this could be memorabilia or whatever.

There is value in walking away sometimes from trying to figure out the place for these random things.  When we are frustrated, it’s more challenging to think clearly – and it’s better to set it aside for a while.  You can make a list of these things and look at periodically and consider options.  Or ask a friend or two for their ideas on how to categorize them.

I recommend a basket or bin for those unknown electronic components and items that belong to something else but you can’t remember or find – then they are all together when you figure it out.

Don’t let those random things stop you from organizing what you can.

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