Myth: Piles of papers or things are organized and people can find anything quickly in those piles. They say, “Believe it or not I know where everything is.”
Reality: It takes a lot of time for people to find specific papers within piles and often they don’t find the papers until they’re no longer needed. This leafing through piles often causes a lot of stress that the user is accustomed to but relieved to eliminate by getting organized in the end. Papers grouped together by topic are the most useful and findable.

Pile

You know the scene. You walk into an office or cube and see papers everywhere. The piles of papers might be neat – stacked horizontally as individual towers of unknown ‘important stuff.’ The piles of paper might be smeared across the desk leaving no desktop showing and looking like a mound. Usually old piles or special collections were relocated to the floor making it difficult to move about in the space.

Sometime you can’t have a meeting in the person’s office because there just isn’t a clear view between you and him or because the visitor’s chair holds the papers related to the last couple of projects.


When decluttering offices with clients I often hear, “Oh, there it is! I haven’t seen that in a while,” and,”Oh, there it is, I could have used that last week!” Hours before, when we first got together, they said they can find anything then they show the reality ~ they lost things in the piles.

Last week we found a folder titled, Review, in Jane’s cubicle. The contents of the folder help her contribute to her annual performance review at work every January. She usually looks at the last couple of years’ goals, objectives, and progress and is ready to write her portion of the review with long-range point of view. But, this year her she had to write it on the fly because that folder was buried under months of completed paperwork. We relocated the Review folder in a file drawer designated for the personal side of her recordkeeping. (That is opposed to the project collateral of her other file drawers.) We labeled the folder more clearly and she will be able to find it in a snap next time she needs it.

Another frequent result of piling things is ending up owning multiple of them or having to go without. For example, Howard always borrows scissors from Blake since they have a low wall separating their cubes. When decluttering Howard’s space we found scissors ~ they were under the pile of thing in the drawer all along.

Some readers will relate in that they have multiples of things because they couldn’t find their thing so bought another. For example, they might have 3 or 4 vegetable peelers. Often I hear of closets with 5 of the same color shirt in basically the same style because the original shirts got hidden in an over-crowded and disorganized closet. In the garage they might have 3 identical hose nozzles.

The productive solution to this clutter myth is to put like things together, identify the home for the group, label the home, and return items to the home consistently.

Previous Myths:

Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity SOPs & tips (such as how to get home for dinner) to groups.

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