Often when I get overwhelmed with clutter, my first line of defense is a piling system. To clarify, my definition of a “piling system” means that I organize my things contextually, or based on function (i.e., what they are doing), rather than putting things that look the same all together.
Some years ago I started using an old shoe box to aggregate all the items I wanted quick access to for decorating and repairing my apartment. The box contains a hammer, screwdriver, exacto knives, three different kinds of tape (electrical, duct, and painter’s), tape measurer and a box of hooks and nails for hanging things on the wall, among other things.
It may not seem like these things go “together” because I have wall paper/fabric samples, exacto knives, different kinds of tape and some tools. If you went to a hardware store you would likely find all of these things in their own aisle. However, for my purposes it made perfect sense to “pile” them together. Usually when I’m fixing something around the house, I need more than one of the things in my quick access box. Before I created the pile I spent a lot of time locating each item.
There were a couple of reasons contributing to this:
1. I hadn’t figured out my system yet, so a few things were still “homeless.”
2. I was using these things constantly and it was taking too much time to put everything away, wherever it was being stashed at the moment, and then retrieve it again. Consequently, things were left in random places resulting in time wasted to find them.
Having the quick access box made it easy to find the things I needed instantly and put them away when I was finished.
Other times with paperwork, electronic documents or emails, I create piles (or folders) based on actions. For example, I set up folders in all of my email addresses to collect tax-related documents. Then when I’m ready to list my expenses, or assemble my documents, they’re easy to locate. I have a similar system set up on my computer to manage tax-related documents. As a small business owner, and someone who has to file cross-border taxes, it amounts to a lot of paperwork!
The piles may not look neat, but I know where everything is. Finding things and putting them away is quick and effortless.