by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: When storing an item in your home, place it in an obvious place so you can find it easily. (If you don't want to use it, place it someplace inconvenient.)
A couple of weekends ago, I lead a workshop for camp professionals at the American Camp Association’s New England Conference on how to organize their art and craft supplies. (Which is why I’ve written an ebook and four articles on this topic.)
Basically, I was telling camp staff that they wanted to make supplies easy to find by storing stuff in clear, uncovered bins and to label, label, label everything. If things weren’t easy to find or (perhaps more important), easy to put away, things would get “lost” and the counselors would either have to do without supplies or the camp would spend more money replacing items that they already had but couldn’t locate.
Then, one woman raised her hand to explain that she had some special supplies (for knitting, beading, etc.) that she didn’t mind if staff used, but she wanted more control over how they were used – she disliked when things weren’t put back neatly because it was too easy for supplies to get lost or misplaced or to end up disorganized.
I’d been thinking about ways to make things easier to find and she wanted to make some things less easy to find. Hmm.
Then I realized, I knew how to do that. What I’d been telling people wouldn’t work would work for her. She needed to make those supplies less obvious and less convenient.
Identify What Things You Want to Hide in Your House
The things you'll organize in an inconvenient way are items that you know why you want to keep (and not just because you might need them someday).
How to Hide Stuff You Want to Keep
1. Store an Item behind something else – Have you ever bought food for a special dinner or a party that you didn’t want anyone in the house to eat before the event? What did you do to hide this food? Chances are you moved it to the back of the refrigerator, with other items in front; or, you tucked the items on the lowest or highest shelf in your pantry.
You know where people won’t casually look. So, if you have something you want to guard, hide it behind something or move it above eye level or below knee-height.
2. Hide an item in opaque storage – I adore clear storage boxes for organizing art and craft supplies or other materials that you want to use. A label on a box is good; but, let’s face it, if you are looking for glue sticks, in your mind you are picturing actual glue sticks, not the word ‘glue sticks.’
Seeing through a box, looking at the items, makes it much easier to match the image in your mind. So … if you want to make something more difficult to find, put it in a cardboard box, an opaque storage bin, or a dresser drawer.
3. Put the item on the top or bottom shelf - You know how in grocery stores the most popular items sit from eye level to knee-height? That’s because store planners know where we’ll look. Items on the top and bottom shelf aren’t top sellers, but they are things people buy frequently enough to stock.
If you don’t need ready access to an item, but you don’t want to hide it in your garage or attic, store it on a top or bottom shelf. It’s still there, not really hidden away, just less noticeable.
4. Label boxes or use easy-to-identify boxes - You don’t want to lose an item that is sitting in plain sight because the box or bin isn’t labeled. You could also use color-coded boxes – say, store all your Christmas decorations in red or green boxes that stand out visually from other storage boxes. Using a sturdy photo storage box in a floral or geometric pattern as your memory box could make it stand out from general storage.
Again, you are moving these items to a slightly inconvenient location. You don’t want to crawl around your attic, moving numerous boxes out of the way, to find the turkey roasting pan.
For the woman who wanted to make some of her art and craft supplies less accessible to staff, who started me thinking about anti-organizing, I recommended that while other craft supplies should be in clear bins, specialty materials should be stored in opaque bins set on the bottom shelves of her storage space.
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Other helpful articles:
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).