Have you ever had a time when you’ve been looking for something and can’t find it? Of course, this is part of being human. Let’s add another piece – you can’t find something that you know you “organized”? This too is quite common. Many times over the years I’ve had clients call me after an organizing appointment wondering where we put this or that. Frequently I’m able to tell them – within one or two possibilities.
Nevertheless this can be supremely frustrating. “Oh my, I went to all this trouble to make things logical and get organized and now I feel even more lost.” Believe it or not, I’ve been there and done just that. It can happen to anyone – from the most organized (which isn’t me by the way, I’m only mostly organized) to those who struggle more chronically with stuff. The reason no one is exempt from dealing with this has to do with several factors – and these factors can give us insight into steps we can take to minimize this happening.
First, when do you work on an organizing project? This is something to plan – design things with a clear intention. And to be completely clear, that doesn’t mean you can’t sort and purge in the meantime. It does mean to make intentional decisions, ones that you have thought out and considered for a while. There are times when our mindset can hinder our efforts – so if you’ve suddenly decided to reorganize those shelves, you might forget where you moved that one thing to that you didn’t want on the shelf after all those years.
Have you heard how it takes a minimum 30 days of doing something consistently before it becomes a routine? Consider the impact of moving one thing somewhere else after all the years you’ve lived in your home. You’re likely to automatically go to the shelf (or wherever) and be surprised that it’s not there. Then you run the risk of not quite remembering where its new home is.
Choosing to change things is something to do only when you’ve had time and energy to consider your options. If you’re tired, this probably isn’t when you are your best nor is it when you are making the best decisions for yourself.
A good example of this can be when dealing with papers. How many names can you think of for your car? Car, Auto, Make, Model, His/Her Car, Old Junker, etc. This can be applied to most papers, and the title needs to make sense to you or the person doing the filing. It’s amazing how one title can seem logical in one moment and completely illogical the next – it becomes hard to locate the correct piece of paper. This can be avoided by taking time to think about what makes sense to you and let it marinate – see if something better comes to mind.
Second, if you cannot wait to organize and don’t have time to make a plan, make a map. You can create essentially a cheat sheet of where things are; it can be as simple as a list, i.e. 3 ring binders – lower right shelf in bookshelf in spare bedroom (behind doors). This can be helpful too when your memory isn’t as good as you’d like. I have a list of our files – the category, the file name, which drawer – and it’s in order so I can always find it even when it’s slipped down and looks like it walked off! The map can even be more literal – a sketch that lays out what your space looks like and what lives in each space.
Another option is to label everything. My husband and I joke that it could be so easy for me to take labeling to an extreme – where the cat would walk around with a label – “cat”. Nevertheless, creating labels can be a good solution to help track where things have been moved.
Here’s a potentially disturbing truth – there’s no absolute answer for escaping our forgetfulness. There are many factors that affect our functioning and therefore our effectiveness when we reorganize. Keep these points in mind when you decide to tackle your next organizing project and minimize the chances you will need to send out a search party for that moved item.