The Pyramid Effect of Getting Organized

You can’t do “a” until you get “b,” “c,” and “d” done.  And sometimes that’s a short version – since there are times you have 10 things to accomplish before you can work on the thing that you most want to work on.  This is one of those common struggles we all face.  It doesn’t necessarily correlate to how much space and stuff you have.  Nevertheless, a series of things need to happen before you can achieve your goals.

First, it’s most helpful to make a plan before you dig into anything.  This can feel counterproductive – you want to use the energy and motivation to jump in and start getting things done, not to be still and think about the process.  It will save you time and energy in the long run since you can avoid making more of a mess in an area that needs to wait until further into the process.

Often this means making a list, which some of us do better than taking action. 🙂  For instance, if you have furniture that needs to be shifted between rooms, it can help to figure out what needs to happen in order for the space to be made available.

  • You know you want the dresser to be moved into the spare bedroom.
    • The spot for the dresser in the spare bedroom has a reading chair and a desk.
      • The reading chair needs to be moved to another space in the spare bedroom.
        • The only other space in the spare bedroom is filled with random, full bins – they need to be moved somewhere.
          • The bins need to be sorted and organized.
    • The desk needs to go to the corner in the dining room.
      • The corner in the dining room has spare chairs for the table; those need to go to the basement.
        • The driest place in the basement for the chairs has boxes that you need to break down to make space for the dining table chairs.

This is a relatively simple example of the pyramid effect just to get the dresser into the spare bedroom.  It’s even easier because it deals with large items that are fairly clear-cut.  And you know that you it will be simplest for you to break down boxes in the basement as the first step, then to move the chairs from the dining room down, and then you will be able to move the desk into the dining room.

Making these types of plans only work when you know what you want to do with each of the items in question.  It can be further simplified when you are getting rid of things – if you were getting rid of the desk – then all that would be left is dealing with moving the reading chair.

Second, when considering the pyramid effect of getting organized, you might need to think about the big picture and avoid small picture thinking.  Thinking about planning for the small details will be important, although you’ll be more effective if you wait until the time is right.  So, like those bins from the example above – it would make the most sense (probably – since there can be variables to change that!) to wait to dig into them until after the furniture has been rearranged.

Initially, think about broad categories (or zones, activities, etc.) that relate to your life and stuff.  These will vary from person to person as well as be different depending on what and how much you’re working on.  You might need to consider the relevance for life right now – are there things that you need to keep quite accessible versus things that can be buried a little deeper (though still with related things)?

Sometimes it makes the most sense to make bins, piles, whatever in a specific, available space related to a broad category and leave it for a while.  If you have all your gift wrapping supplies piled in a corner, bin, etc., even without any further organization – you still know where they are when you need something.  This can apply to any category – office supplies, recipes, financial papers (not needing your attention), tools, exercise equipment (small ones), art supplies, articles of interest and everything else.

The degree that you apply this can vary – a lot will depend on the space available as well as the “homes” you already have set up.  If you already have a place for office supplies, even if it’s full, you’d put all other office supplies as close as possible to the ones you have.

The initial steps are to get everything that’s in the same category together.  It’s challenging to create good organization for things when you don’t have all of it available to you.  Once you have all the like things together, then you can begin to organize it – you can see that you will need more space for tools (or whatever), that you need to make space “here” for this, the subcategories you need for these papers, and then consider what containers and organizing tools will support you.

If we continue with the pyramid analogy, you need to create a strong foundation to build on – which means waiting to make decisions about the small details until you get the big stuff (categories) together.  There’s no arguing that it can make things feel more tedious  – especially if you’re eager to get organized.  Yet in the long run you will find more success that you take things slowly and methodically.

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  1. Pingback: Paper Pyramid | Sustainable Organizing, Milwaukee WI

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