The last post described the sometimes excruciating process of Evaluating our stuff - the "E" in my L.E.S.S. system. This final post in the series gets to the meat of any organizing project: Sorting and Systematizing. We're on the downhill side now, folks.
If we've Learned what we have, and Evaluated the usefulness or sentimentality of the objects we're organizing, we're ready to move on to creating the categories that are most meaningful to our situations. Yes, we need some of those standard Sorting categories, such as:
But sometimes I find that there are items that defy these categories - things like the Mardi Gras beads we talked about last time, or maybe a vintage record collection (category: local university music department), designer handbags (category: sell on a site like Fashionphile), or old family photos (category: send to the genealogist in the family). If someone has a great reason for creating a new or different grouping, I'm all for it as long as it moves progress on the project...AND we create a clear plan for how the items will reach their final destination.
On the other side of the coin, new categories can actually be a disguise for the Evil Anti-"S": Stalling. Are you thinking up so many different ways to distribute your stuff you won't ever be able to really make good on the promises? If you're saving old books for a niece who lives 500 miles away, are they really ever going to get to her (and are you positive she's going to appreciate them)? Maybe the extra categories are a way to put off the process of letting go, but that's a whole other post. Sort with clear purpose, and Stick to your Sort.
When that last box for Goodwill or the local free shred day has made its way out the door, you can finally relax and look at the space left for Systematizing the stuff you really need to keep. This is part where I love to customize things for clients. Think about how often you need the item, whether you're short or tall (can you reach your most-accessed files in a bottom drawer if you're 6'4"?), and if you need visual clues like color-coding or big labels (I think labels are always a must, really. Not because you don't know what the items are, but because a label encourages you to keep the item in the same spot all the time. In fact, I almost added "Label" as part of the acronym, but L.E.S.S.L. just didn't have the same ring to it).
Think back to what you Learned about yourself in the first part of the project. Are you really going to keep your spices alphabetized all the time, or is that just something you read in a magazine? Will cardboard boxes do the trick for long-term storage, or should you invest in some sturdier bins (Clutter Alert: don't shop for organizational items until you've completed Sort, measured your spaces, and checked to see what you already have. Buying ahead most often results in buying the wrong things, and wasting time and money).
If the system is set up correctly for you, you'll know pretty quickly. You may have to try out more than one System to find the best solution, and that's o.k. I revise some of my systems pretty frequently, because with raising kids and running a business things change a lot. Organizing is a process, not a final destination.
What kinds of sorting categories and systems are working for you? Is L.E.S.S. becoming More in your life?
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?