On Being Organized

My apartment may not be extraordinarily tidy, but I do usually know where things are. It has taken me years to develop workable systems, but I think I've now got it all figured out. Originally, I used what I called "The Land System". This is not named after Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera. Rather, my theory was "Wherever something lands, that's where it belongs."

Turning that system on its head, I later tried out the "TDBT" system. Whenever the thought crossed my mind "That Doesn't Belong There", I had to move it. My theory was eventually things would migrate to an appropriate spot. This sounded like it could work, but it never solved the problem because I couldn't decide where things did belong.

I realized that one of my main problems was that I didn't have a way of classifying my possessions. Sure, I could put my guitar in the back of a closet, following the principle that things I don't use any more should be least accessible, but what of the things I did use frequently? This led me to the difficult question, how do we assign categories to the wide range of things we own?

When I moved to my current apartment in May of 2001, I had a chance to explore the idea of categorization: I had lots of drawers and cupboards – all empty and just waiting for my stuff. My solution might cast some doubt on my sanity, but it actually works.

I have one drawer that is for "Connecty Things". These are tools for putting things together, like staplers, tape, glue and string. In a leap of intuition, I also put a ruler in there, following the idea that I can use it to connect two dots with a straight line. (Hey, I warned you this was going to sound strange.)

Compelled by inexorable logic, the drawer below Connecty Things is "Cutty Things", which includes scissors, knives and a three-hole paper punch. I have far fewer cutty things that connecty things, and perhaps that speaks well of my character. I hope so.

Moving into the kitchen I faced a tougher challenge. I mnemonically labelled four drawers CHCH, starting from the bottom. These stand for Covers, Holes, Clips, and Handles. I trust that's clear.

No? Okay, well, Covers comprises things you use to cover other things. Holes are, well, things with holes, like strainers, collanders and my trusty cheese grater. In a flash of insight, I also included scouring pads, because they've sort-of got holes in them; they wouldn't work if they didn't. Clips are things like potato-chip bag clips and zip-lock bags (okay, I cheated a bit on that one).

Handles, as the name implies, are implements with handles on them. There are a lot of kitchen doo-dads, such as cutlery, with handles, because handles are a helpful innovation. If you don't believe me, try using a spoon without one. Come to think of it, chopsticks are nothing but handles. Ooo, I think I just had a Zen moment.

I won't go into my other wacky categorizations, partially because this could quickly become boring, but mostly because this is still an ongoing project. Alas, like most people I still have numerous boxes labelled "Misc". I'm making progress, though: on some of the these boxes, the word "Misc" has been crossed out and replaced with a more descriptive word, like, "Computer Stuff". Some of these boxes actually reside in the appropriate room.

I do, however, occasionally lose ground in my efforts to be more organized. Once, in a moment of weakness, I scratched out the word "Misc" on one of the boxes and after giving it a few minutes' thought, carefully wrote out "Very Misc".

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