I was recently reminded of a favorite organizing expression: “Don’t put it down — put it away”.
I love that saying because it is so simple, yet so rich a description of human behavior.
Take a look around your home or office. Do you see things lying around simply because you placed them somewhere, meaning to get to them later, but never did?
In my clients’ homes, I see this frequently at the front door. When they get home, they put down the keys, the mail, the packages, the shopping bags so that they can take off their coats. Then they move on, but the stuff remains stuck where they left it.
In your office, it could be a pile of meeting handouts that you put on your desk when you get back after a meeting. You’re eager to return phone calls or see what e-mails you missed. You mean to do something with those handouts later, but later never comes. Before you know it, you’ve got a huge pile on your desk, and you are also having trouble finding certain papers that you know you have, but where are they?
Taking a minute to put something away – rather than just putting it down – will save you so much time later, as well as prevent a huge clutter buildup.
One reason why people put things down instead of away is that these items have no “home”. As my clients know, my #1 organizing principle is “Every item must have a home.” When you bring things into your house or your office, think about where those items go. If you can’t answer that question – because these types of items don’t currently have a home — then ask yourself, “Where would I be most likely to look for this if I wanted to find it again?” The answer is the item’s de facto home. Once you’ve identified the home, put it away. After all, why hold on to something if you won’t be able will find it again?
When you exit a room, always take a look around for items that don’t belong there. On the way to your destination, relocate them to their proper homes. You will be amazed at how much calmer you will feel to have reduced clutter. And when you’re looking for one of those items later, you will be so glad you took the minute or two to put it away.