I enjoy watching the television show NCIS. Agent Gibbs, the main character is in charge of a team of agents. Gibbs has a long list of rules that he lives by. He frequently cites a rule when guiding his team. Gibbs is serious about his rules. His agents get that; however there is a slight element of humor in regard to the rules. Yes, the rules are important. The agents respect them and they have fun with them.
Over the years I have compiled a set of principles or rules for organizing. These rules guide the structure for my organizing systems. When you are aware of and understand these rules you can win the game of organizing. I like to think that we have fun when applying these rules too.
The Decision Rule – Everything you own needs a home
Clutter is the result of indecision. You must decide where you are going to store your things. This is important because it is impossible to put something away if you don’t know where “away” is. Delaying decisions causes surfaces to pile up, closets to fill up and pantries to become jammed with out of date food. These delayed decisions cause mental clutter as well, and its chief symptom is “overwhelm.”
Busyness can be the reason for not stopping to put things away. Most people bring home shopping bags, drop them somewhere near the door and then get busy with the next thing on the list. When shopping visualize where the “away” for your new find will be. Make that decision before you bring it through the door. It only takes a couple of minutes to put a few items away.
Are you suffering from decision fatigue?
Delaying the decision to put something away can be caused by decision fatigue. We make hundreds of decisions every day. We decide what to eat, what to wear, where to go, what to listen to, what to say, what to toss and the lists go on.
According to this New York Times article by John Tierney there is a limit to the number of decisions we can make in a short amount of time. We will take shortcuts to avoid making a decision. Deciding to do nothing is the ultimate time-saving shortcut, but it results in cluttered floors and surfaces.
Another factor may contribute to decision fatigue. Tierney, quoting social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, writes “Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low.” Getting plenty of rest and eating a healthy diet everyday can help you be a better decision maker. This gives new meaning to the rule, “Don’t shop on an empty stomach.” Likewise, the best time to tackle an organizing project is after a light and balanced meal.
What’s behind your cabinet and closet doors?
There is another common reason for delaying the decision to find homes for your items. Your drawers, cabinets and closets are full. Could it be time to de-clutter those spaces? Are you allotting space and energy to things that are no longer important? Spend some time next month freeing up those spaces so that they can become the “away” for the current stuff that is cluttering up your surfaces. Remember the Decision Rule – Everything you own needs a home.
You can see the whole list of rules here.