As an organizing consultant, I help my clients take control of their surroundings, their time and their information by designing custom organizing systems for them based on their habits and by teaching them the organizing principles that I have learned over the years. I believe that organizing is both an art (the design) and a science (the principles).
One principle that has been on my mind lately is what I refer to as the Capacity Principle™ or the seventy-five percent rule.
Capacity can be defined as:
- The amount of space that can be filled; room for holding; content or volume.
- The point at which no more can be contained; filled to capacity.
My recommendation is that any container, drawer, cabinet, closet or filing cabinet be filled to only three-fourths of the total capacity. The one-fourth empty space allows for ease of retrieval of the contents. A common reason for the failure of a filing system is that the drawers are filled to capacity or beyond. It is actually painful to file!
When I speak to groups I demonstrate the Capacity Principle™ with the following experiment. Imagine a large round clear jug filled three-fourths full with golf balls. Near the bottom of the jug is a special orange ball that you want. To retrieve it, put your hand in the container and push through the white balls, grab the orange ball and pull it out. This task was relatively quick and easy.
Now imagine the same jug filled to capacity. There isn’t room for another ball. In fact to get the lid on the container you must shake it a little. The orange ball is near the bottom of the container. Try putting your hand in. Wiggle your fingers and push through… oops there went some of the balls rolling out onto the floor… under the furniture. You get the picture. Your hand caused the container to be filled beyond capacity which resulted in chaos.
My potential clients have the habit of filling their containers and spaces beyond capacity. A seemingly harmless habit can cause a total lack of order. They call me when they are overwhelmed by the chaos.
Do yourself a favor today and start living by the Capacity Principle. Remember – you must leave space to retrieve and put away. Life will be so much simpler when you prevent the chaos caused by filling your cabinets, closets, drawers, garages and filing cabinets beyond capacity.