It’s Not Enough To Be Clean

Organization is a great thing. While I know I’m not the best person to be giving organizational advice, I do know a thing or two about a lack of organization. I’m not a messy person, but I have the disorganization gene. Seeing books and papers on my floor should trigger an event in my brain that says, “Those don’t belong there; put them away.” But it doesn’t. This is a problem that I’ve been fighting with all my life, and while I’m far from conquering it completely, I’ve learned a thing or two about the way I work and about the way messes work. But for the moment I want to write about good organization and bad organization.

There are, in fact, many ways to organize things, but I’m concerned with two of those ways: the right way, and the wrong way. I’ll describe the two ways in no particular order; if you want, try to decide which describes you best.

  1. You put things away where they look good, and where they fit. Things are usually neat and tidy, and there’s no clutter.
  2. You put things away where you think they should go. They don’t always go back to the same place, but they go in a place that makes sense to you. Things might not always be tidy, and sometimes it takes you a long time to clean and organize.

So which one are you? Most of you are probably expecting me to say that number 1 is the right way. Because more tidier is always better, right? WRONG. I say that number 2 is better, and here’s why. If you put things away in a place that makes sense to you, then you’ll always be able to find them. If you put things where they fit, or where they look good, then you have to remember where everything is. But if you put them where it makes sense, you only have to remember your normal behaviour, and forgetting your own behaviour is a subject for another kind of article. It’s like a graph (my major is showing, sorry;) you could remember all the points on a graph, (0,0),(1,1),(2,4),(3,9)… or you could just remember a single equation that describes them all: y=x^2. In this case, the function represents the way you normally work, so there really isn’t anything to remember.

How do you organize yourself this way? The actual implementation is a little harder than the theory, as is usually the case with theories, but it boils down to thinking about where you’re putting things and trying to make your usage of things efficient. Sometimes you won’t even know how you need to organize something until you’ve thought about it (or not thought about it) for a few days: that’s why it can take time to get organized this way. You’ll probably need to try a few things and decide which way works best, and which ways don’t work. You’ll also have to think about the way you’ve organized yourself now, and what road blocks you run into that prevent you from being efficient and from staying organized.

That brings up another thing to consider: staying organized. It’s not enough to just put things away according to how you’ll use them; you have to put things away where you know you’ll actually put them away. For example, on my bookshelf, I have a section specifically for the text books I’m using now. That section is on a separate shelf from my other text books, but I know that if the text books that I normally use aren’t in an easily accessible location, they’re never going to end up being put away in the proper place – they’re going to end up on my floor.

As I said at the beginning of this post: I haven’t fully conquered my disorganization yet, but I’m much more organized than I used to be, and when I’m not busy with school, my rooms are usually organized. The great thing about organizing in a way that makes sense is that once you start doing it, it becomes natural. If you make it easy for yourself to stay organized, then it’ll take less effort for you to force yourself to stay organized.


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