I cook with recipes. I like to follow a guide and not have to think too much. And when I don’t follow a recipe, I often end up with an inedible glob that I throw away, so there’s that too.
But with organizing, I cook intuitively. Sure, there are constant ingredients such as having things you use closer to where you use them, and putting like with like. But these are guidelines that get you to completion, not step by step instructions.
What works best is to take all the ingredients you want to use and add them to taste as you go. With organizing, you have the ability to remove an ingredient that turns out not to work. Not so when you over salt the soup!
Here’s an example. My client wanted to rearrange her clothes that were in several closets, plus garment racks in the basement. After we moved all her current season suits and casual wear upstairs, we started putting off season clothes on a garment rack.
She wanted to figure out what else would go on that rack. I told her we should stick with moving items she wanted to have nearby to the upstairs closets and then see what was left. I could tell she really wanted to plan the end of the project right then, even though we didn’t know exactly how it would go. We didn’t know yet how much we would find that didn’t need to be upstairs.
I’ve experienced this with other clients. They seem surprised that an organizer would not have all the steps worked out in advance according to perfect logic. This is a big misconception about organizing, that it’s all about logic and order. Those tools are useful, but they need to be in the service of what my client needs and wants.
I suggested that once we got all the garments she wanted upstairs, we see how everything fit. It turned out all her dresses did not fit in the small side closet. To fix that, we redefined some of the dresses as suits because they had matching jackets. Then they could hang with the other suits where there was room.
Once we put them in, her trousers were hanging in a spot where, because of the way the closet doors moved, it was dark and they were hard to tell apart. To fix that, we moved them to the far left, along with her skirts. The tops were now in the trousers spot, but since they were lighter colors and different styles, the lack of light didn’t matter.
Good organizing is about being flexible so that the system accommodates your needs. Good organizing is about being able to see the big picture and then move in to shift the pieces around to make it come into focus. A pinch of this and a pinch of that.