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Organizing mistakes.  We have all made a few and suffered the consequences.  One mistake seems to bubble up to the top of the list over and over.   If you can identify when you fall into this one, you can make some small changes and get out of its trap.
  • What is the most common organizing mistake?
  • How can you avoid it?
By far the most common mistake is creating systems that are too complicated.  This is especially true with systems that are shared with others, whether it is other family members or co-workers. The more simple the system the easier it is to stick to.


First, what’s the purpose of creating an organizing system?  The answer should be very straight forward.
  • You want to create a place to put things so you can find them when you need them, take them out to use them, and put them away when you are finished.
Sounds simple, but this seems to be more challenging to many of us.  Consider this…the system should be:
  • simple
  • easy to use by many
  • general, not too specific
  • clearly labeled
  • logical
  • clutter-free
OK, Got it?  Not yet…how about some examples.  Let’s look at a few situations; some at home, some at work.

At home you can look at your pantry.

A complex system is pantry full of outdated items, foods you don’t like but maybe received as gifts, too many of a food you don’t eat very often.  This is clutter.  Clean it out and get rid of it.
  • Anything outdated will go in the trash.
  • Anything current and useable can go to a local food bank or shelter.
  • The rest should only be items you like, use, and are current.
Once you have cleaned out the clutter create a system that is easy to use by yourself, but also for all your family members.
  • Sort like with like.  Cans with cans, baking items together, pastas and spices together, etc.
  • Place them on the shelves in these broad categories.
  • Use containers like open food storage containers or closed clear plastic shoe boxes, to corral smaller items within a category.
  • Consider heights so that you don’t lose “air space” when placing items.
  • Place mose frequently used items at the easiest to reach shelves (knees to shoulders), least used items up high or down low, and the heaviest items down at the bottom.

Now it is time to LABEL.  Still keep it simple and flexible.
  • Instead of soda cans, label it drinks.  That way if you drink soda now, but switch to sport drinks next year the same label will work.
  • Label a section baking…don’t get more specific.
  • Label a section can.  Don’t get crazy with soups, veggies, beans, etc.

How about your files at work?

Think about setting up a system that if a temporary assistant came in they could find their way around your office even when you are out.
  • Clean up your files and get rid of the clutter.
  • Create Categories that are broad and easy to understand.  These can include:
    • To Do
    • To Read
    • To File
    • Pending
    • To Pay
    • Client files by name or number
  • Label everything clearly.
Don’t get hung up on colors.  If you like to use colors limit the number to 2-4.
  • Be specific about the color categories.
    • Green=money and finance
    • Red=hot
    • Blue=archive, retain
  • Make sure you have plenty of back stock of the color folders so you don’t get stuck if you run out of a color.
I hope these examples are helping you make sense of this.  Focus on the reason to make systems.  It’s worth repeating!
  • You want to create a place to put things so you can find them when you need them, take them out to use them, and put them away when you are finished.

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This is a series I did a few years ago.  It’s worth repeating!