Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Getting Organized: Products Come (Almost) Last

I bought all these things at The Container Store, but I'm still disorganized! -- a common lament

As much as I write about products, and believe that it's often important to use tools (address books, calendars, storage containers, etc.) that are well-suited to you, I also say this: Products don't solve all your organizing challenges. I've gone into many homes and offices littered with products that didn't work - or maybe never got used! And you can't make a good choice about containers until you know what you're going to contain - or choose time management tools until you know how you plan to use them.

In the last couple weeks I've been reading a number of other organizers stressing this same theme.

In her book Eliminate Chaos, Laura Leist provides a 10-step organizing process; "shop" is step 8.

Wendy Davie writes:
It never ceases to amaze me how obvious it is when a non Professional Organiser has written an article on "How to declutter". I have been doing a little surfing this evening and an amazed at how much interesting!!!! advice there is out there to help people become more organised and declutter.

A word of warning, if somewhere in the first 3 tips is the advice to "buy plastic boxes", "buy storage containers" or "get a storage unit" appears in any article you read about decluttering, you can rest assured it was probably not written by a PO (Professional Organiser).
And Margaret Lukens has a post entitled Habits, not Gadgets, where she says:
Sometimes we behave as though we could purchase greater efficiency in the form of a special planner, new software, or the latest technology. ...

What we need first and foremost is to establish the habits that will allow us to take full advantage of whatever methods we choose to use. ...

I’ve gone into some offices that have dozens of fancy boxes and containers, racks, sorters and memo boards of every description, but the owner of the office still feels (and is!) as disorganized as ever. In some cases, the containers themselves become another form of clutter.


Michele said...

Thanks for the gentle reminder. Organizing tools are so seductive!

Julie Bestry said...

Amen, Jeri! When we see such products in the store, they're new, tidy and dust-free (as opposed to the "stuff", which is old, dust-laden and jumbled. I'd hazard to say it's not even the products themselves that we (or our organizing clients) desire, but what the represent: a new beginning.

I'm always finding weight loss metaphors that fit the organizing process--here, that cute little size 6 outfit (or organizing product) may provide incredible motivation when we're standing in the store, but until we've jettisoned the extra pounds (i.e., clutter) and developed a realistic plan for reducing and maintaining our girth (again, clutter), often, the purchase serves more to taunt than inspire.

Thus, organizing and storage products are essential (we don't want to be "naked"), but we have to wait until we've accomplished the bulk of the organizing before we have a sense of what products we truly need.'

Thanks for this timeless and timely reminder!

margaret said...

Jeri, I love your product recommendations and I happily send clients to them -- when they're ready! The right tool for the job is a wonderful thing, and you help us find the best ones. Thanks for the reminder that everything has its proper order - habits first, then tools. Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company