Organize with Photographs

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Camera A quick way to get some objectivity about your space is to take some pictures. Our brains are constantly filtering extraneous information out of the visual field. We see what we need to see (sometimes what we want to see). Otherwise, we’d be overwhelmed.

A photograph includes all the information without editing anything out. I mentioned this technique in a previous post about a client who literally did not recognize her living room from a photograph. Your reaction may not be so strong, but you will be able to see things that escape your notice in real life.

How to do it:
Say you want to organize your home office. Get your camera and take a series of photos, starting from the left and crossing the room. Print them and lay them out in a panorama. Does the room in the photos look more cluttered than you thought? Are the piles bigger? Are there more of them, now that you can see the whole room at once? Is there a box under the desk that you’ve been conveniently ignoring?

Remember, this is just information gathering. It’s not an opportunity to make yourself feel bad about the state of your office. You can use these photos to help you identify what to do next. Right now, choose one thing you can do today. Make sure this is a do-able task, not a project.

Tips on task selection:

  • Choose something that’s been there for awhile; that box under the desk, or a hunk of paper off the bottom of a pile. Usually it’s easier to make decisions about older items because they’re not relevant anymore.
  • If you were able to quickly identify something that you know what to do with, do that. Maybe it’s a stack of folders for a completed project that need to be filed away. Maybe it’s some magazines you’ve been meaning to give away but they haven’t made it out the door yet. It’s not cheating to start with the easy stuff.
  • Choose a task that will improve the aesthetics of the room and make it a more pleasant place to be. That could be decluttering the windowsill so your view is clear. It could be taking all the Post-It’s off your monitor and copying the notes onto your to do list, address book or wherever they make sense.

If that worked for you, post the photos on a bulletin board so you can refer to them again and select another task. Bonus task: when you get your office looking the way you want, take another series of photos and post them. You can use them as a guide/reminder of how things are supposed to look so you can maintain it.

Camera from BigTallGuy’s photostream