When my niece was very little, she once mistakenly said “I can’t like that” rather than “I don’t like that.” In the ensuing years, it became an inside joke in our family to describe situations or events which we don’t care for.
In the world of organizing, there are many possible solutions for storing and managing belongings. I fully acknowledge that each person is different, and any solution that is working is a good one. However, for me personally, there are a few approaches which I try and avoid.
- Rubber Bands for Paper. These sticky little items are good for some uses, but not paper. They bunch up, get stuck in a file, and eventually dry out and break. If you want to hold papers together, the best option is a staple, followed by a paperclip.
- Post-it Notes as Reminders. I love Post-it notes… they are so handy and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. But writing a password or a “to do” on a Post-it note and sticking it on your computer or wall around your desk is not a good solution for at least three reasons. First, in a very short period of time, your brain will adjust to the note’s presence and stop noticing it, rendering it useless as a reminder. Second, you shouldn’t have passwords out in public view. Ever. Third, the adhesive is meant to be temporary, so it will eventually fall off.
- Round Storage Containers. As a general rule, I prefer square or rectangular storage containers because round ones – especially when nestled up against each other in a drawer – waste a lot of space. Yes, there are times when I use them (e.g. a painter’s bucket in the garage to hold ice melt), but generally, I want to be making the most of every available inch.
- Storage Requiring Multiple Steps. If you have plenty of time and love being organized, this isn’t an issue. But if you are more of an “I’ll drop it here and put it away later” kind of person, then any storage system where you have to take items out of one container and put them into another is not a great idea. My classic example is a lucite spaghetti holder. Yes, this looks nice on a shelf, but most of the world is not going to spend the time to take the spaghetti out of the box and put it into a separate container. The result is a lot of unused decorative containers, crowded in with the original boxes, making you feel guilty for not using what you spent money on. Who needs that?
- Rigid Organizing Systems. Any good organizing solution needs a measure of flexibility: a drawer should have a little extra space for a new t-shirt, a pantry shelf should be able to comfortably accommodate grocery fluctuations, and so on. I resist any solution that only works if everything is “just so.” For example, a spice rack which only holds bottles of a certain size is limited right from the start. Odds are, someday you will come home with a bottle that doesn’t fit, and then where will you put it? When I’m working with clients, I always try and provide solutions that will continue to succeed even if circumstances shift a bit.
* * * * *
As I said above, if you have a system that works for you, hooray! If it is working, don’t fix it. What matters most is designing systems that you will use and enjoy.
Have you ever tried a solution that just didn’t work out?