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Organizing Things ?

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  • Organizing Things ?

    What methods do GTD people like for organizing physical things, more substantial than ideas, records, and reading material ? Has anyone found an author or guru who seems to bring some clarity to the subject ?

    Is this a field where the needs of particular things and circumstances make generalization a la GTD principles too hard ? Do the needs of a garage or toolroom have not much in common with the needs of a library, a clothes closet, or a spice shelf ?

  • #2
    Is this a question along the lines of Julie Morgenstern's "Organizing from the Inside Out"? Her premise is that things should be stored/organized near where they will be needed, but in such a way that they "make sense" for the person whose space is being organized.

    Does this help?



    • #3
      Morgenstern might be right

      I've just begun to look at the literature in the area. Many books seem to focus on the psychoanalysis of the person dealing with the problem. There's more to psychology than that ! And people write as if there were vast gender differences, probably reflecting that women still are in charge of cleaning the house, whether or not they work. The literature of messes and clutter seems to be a literature for women. The problem seems a lot less gender-specific than the literature. The same seems to apply to websites (e.g., flylady).


      • #4
        Not sure this answers the question directly, but an interesting aspect of approaches like GTD is the way they can reduce the need for well-worked-out systems of physical organisation by using lists and placeholders.

        A well-functioning GTD system will contain within it easily accessible information about any physical objects that are 'actionable', and it doesn't take much to see how that could be extended to non-actionable objects, like a garage full of stuff. As long as the location of each main piece or kind of stuff is somehow findable on some kind of reference list, the garage itself can be left fairly messy - or at least not organised according to some particular logical principle.

        Works for me, anyway, in the ongoing search for ways to cope with being completely anal. (At least I have lots of company on this forum in that respect...)


        • #5
          Originally posted by ludlow
          As long as the location of each main piece or kind of stuff is somehow findable...
          Any organizing system has at its heart the most basic rule: "A place for everything and everything in its place." This includes physical objects, but it also includes things to do, goals, ideas, etc. If you have a placeholder, a way of finding things even if appearances are not what they could be, then you have a system of organization. If you throw all of your incoming mail on the coffee table when you come home after work, it may not be the most organized approach but you'll know that your bills are on the coffee table. If, OTOH, every night you put the mail wherever it happens to land, then you may have to travel from room-to-room searching for bills when it comes time to pay them and may only find them, if at all, after they are overdue. Although different methods may apply to different types of things, the first thing I tend to think is what does this "stuff" mean to me and where should it go. This concept explains why an otherwise "apparently" messy person can get things done. There may be a method to their madness that is not obvious to us (i.e., they know the report they need to review for the next project is in the top third of the big pile on their credenza). The beauty of GTD is that it is highly adaptable to individual needs yet helps answer the most basic question of where to put stuff so you can find it when you need it.


          • #6
            Recommended Organizing Book

            The book about organizing stuff I have liked the best is

            The Organizing Sourcebook : Nine Strategies for Simplifying Your Life
            by Kathy Waddill


            because it is practical but based on simple principles. There is a gentle awareness of the frailities of the human psyche, but it is not built around psychology. Neither is it one of those books chock full of tips on using old mayonaise jars to organize your cigar collection and such. Nor is it one of those hyperorganized books (I put Morgenstern in this camp). It is probably the most GTD-ish book I know in this genre. It lays out ideas and principles, gives some examples, examines some common difficulties, and leaves it to you to find your particular implementation of the principals.


            • #7
              The Cognitive Aesthetics of Organizing Things

              Thanks to all for your thoughtful contributions.

              What do we really like to see ? Beauty, simplicity, interest, texture, order seem like general characteristics of what we like. But we also like to see things that give us comfort, the familiar, and things that remind us of people, places and things we like that are not present. One kind of comfort could be that we see things that remind us of what we need to do. If GTD works for us, then that kind of comfort might not be so necessary. Or, at least, we could take comfort in seeing just a little evidence of the system, the gateways to the hidden order of complex lives.

              GTD could give a big payoff if we did not need so many physical cues to remind us of tasks. More of our visual field would be available for affirmations or images that were enhancements to our emotional state. If I knew where all my reference books were, then I could cover them with a richly grained wood door. If I didn't have such a fetish about the knowledge in books, most of them could be in boxes in the attic or could be sold.

              I am so happy with the effect of GTD on my state of mind, that I can be more demanding about my visual field. I yearn for more beauty in my office. I guess I need a trusted system for things: for my office and clothing first, then for my music, then my tools, then my food,....


              • #8
                Form & Function

                I definitely prefer aesthetically pleasing items and organizational methods provided it doesn't get in the way of my functionality. My books are primarily orgaznized by category, author, title except for my "for dummies", "idiot's guide", and "essential manager" series of books. In that sense the visual form of seeing the yellow/orange book spines or the small form factor becomes its own functional category, sort of like looking at an encyclopedia set. I think some museums are a great place to look for inspiration in regards to organizational form and function. Public museum exhibits are mostly organized very effectively and usually displayed in aesthetically pleasing ways. Other examples of organizational inspiration can be the architecture of a building, product design, the dashboard layout of a sports car, the song order on a music album, each course in a 4 course meal, the random stream of conscious babblings of a gtd junkie typing away at odd moments of the day. Okay, maybe not that last part.



                • #9
                  Decluttering/organizing not for women only--really!

                  I'm happy that someone else likes Kathy Waddill's "Organizing Sourcebook," too! She has many case histories which illustrate one or more of her "Nine Principles of Reasonably Organized People." It seemed to me, while reading the book, that the case histories were maybe 50/50 men/women.

                  Agreed that Morgenstern CAN seem detail oriented, but many in her readership are coming from literally not knowing HOW to organize something, rather than improving its organization, so they need fairly detailed assistance. Just read her at the level you personally need. For me, the most illuminating pages were in the front of the book: the questions on why one finds it difficult to get and/or stay organized. ("What's Holding You Back?")

                  Specifically, I answered YES to each of these questions:

                  --Did you grow up in an extremely chaotic household?
                  --Did you grow up in an extremely orderly household?

                  Well, THAT was a clue!! Certain rooms of my house were well-ordered; others, well...ordered.

                  If you really get into this literature, you'll also come across the name of Judith Kolberg, who (I think) coined the term "Chronically Disorganized" for people who just cannot get it together on their own. Her two books have more men than women in the case histories, although by a slim margin.

                  In your original question, were you looking for practical advice, theories of organization, or...?

                  Best wishes.



                  • #10
                    I hope it's interesting to others, too.

                    I thought that this forum might get me what I need without my necessarily knowing what I needed.

                    I'm certainly getting what I need out of this thread:
                    1. Some customer book reviews by folks who I could trust a bit more because of their focus on GTD.
                    2. Some different reactions to the "Things" issue to get me unstuck.
                    3. Perspective.

                    In addition, it's given me some "SomedayMaybe" ideas about workplace aesthetics for personal productivity.