What the heck are these "systems" she keeps talking about?

Ah yes, one of my favorite words….well aside from containerizing of course! I touched on this subject sometime ago here but I have a few more thoughts on the matter….gee what a surprise!!

System: a method or set of procedures for achieving something (in this case, organization)

Whenever I’m helping someone organize I first need to talk to them about how they’d ideally like to use their space, what’s working, what isn’t working, how they want the space to flow, who else needs to use the space, etc… Why is all this important? In order for me to determine the best “system” for them I need to know how they operate. Each and every person will answer these questions differently.

Therefore the steps you take to achieve organization or otherwise known as the “system” you create should be designed with your unique circumstances and personality in mind.

What happens if you don’t? You won’t work the system and the system will fail. There may be nothing wrong with the system, it just might not be right for you.

For everything you do, you already have a system but the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not that system is working for you and if not, why?

Let’s use the example of a dining room piled high with papers since I recently received an email from a reader regarding this dilemma. Here is what she wrote me:

Do you have any ideas on what to do with mail that piles up? My dining table (which is the dumping ground for EVERYTHING) gets so cluttered with mail. I don’t pay the bills the day I get them and it just piles up, and then you know how it is “out of sight, out of mind”, I get late notices and then extra fees. Very frustrating! I’m trying to do better.

Current system = dump mail/papers on the kitchen table leaving the bill paying to chance

What’s not working = table gets cluttered, bills get buried and forgotten and not paid and as a result she has to deal with late notices and extra fees leading to feelings of frustration.

So the problem isn’t that she doesn’t have a system. The problem is the system she is using is the WRONG one for her. That particular system might be a great system for someone else, it just isn’t working for this reader. I could go in and set up MY office system for her and call it a day. It would certainly be the easiest thing for me to do since it is the system that I am most familiar with. However I don’t assume for one minute that what works for me will work for you. Great if it does, I’m happy to help! But keep in mind that to any organizing problem there are multiple solutions. For instance, if we go back to our example, there are a few systems I can think of that might be helpful.

1. Set up an office space in another room with a designated space for all the various papers that need to be addressed on a regular basis

2. Set up another area in the dining room that will have designated spaces for the various papers that need to be addressed on a regular basis

3. Use a mail type file sorter that could hang on the dining room wall

4. Use a filing cabinet or rolling cart, etc..etc…etc

Without seeing the space and knowing a few other things I’m unable to pinpoint the exact root of the problem and devise a new plan and system right now but you get the idea…..there IS a system that will work for her.

As I’ve said before, organizing is an ongoing PROCESS. The first step in the PROCESS is your Plan of attack. Before you do anything you need to know what it is you want to change and what it is about your current system you don’t like.

How do you know when you’ve hit pay dirt and your system is working….believe me you’ll know! If you are having no trouble managing the system, feelings of frustration and stress have eased, perhaps you’ve gained valuable time and/or resources, you’ll know, you’ll be very very happy!

A cautionary tale though…..because organizing is an ongoing PROCESS you need to remember that what works today might not work next year or even next month…..be prepared to evaluate regularly and if necessary rework your system. Here is an excerpt from a previous post that I wrote that I feel is important to include here again:

Do not get discouraged if your newly created system doesn’t work for you the first time. Expect it. The only way to know if something is going to work for you is to actually use the system for awhile. Time will tell. If the chaos, confusion and frustration don’t subside then try again. It will get easier once you become more familiar with what works for you and what doesn’t.

Are the procedures used in your “systems” achieving organizational success for you?

Filed under: Organizing


8 Responses to What the heck are these "systems" she keeps talking about?

  1. 1
    Becky says

    I love this post! I have a similar problem that I’m trying to work out (hence the before/after pictures). I’ve been dragging my feet with it because I just don’t know where to start or how to set it up. But, this helps. Thank you! I need to go back and reread your post(s) on the PROCESS! And, take a look at your system. I know it will help give me a jumpstart! Thanks again & have a great day!!!

  2. 2
    org junkie says

    Hi Becky, thanks for your comment! It is a dry post I know but so often I hear people say that they don’t have a system and no matter what they try they just can’t get organized. THAT is a system in itself and if it bothers them that much, they need to stop complaining and do something about it. In other words, keep searching because there is a system for everyone, it just takes some longer than others to find the right one. Hope that makes sense!
    Thanks again,

  3. 3
    Kim says

    Great post, Laura. You are so good with words. I’m pretty good at organizing and “containerizing,” but not writing. You need to check out my TWO posts today on my pantry and my closet; I was wishing you were here to lend a hand..LOL.

    Have a good day.

  4. 4
    org junkie says

    Kim, I’m heading over now to take a look and I wish I could be there to help you, I need to clear my head. It has been a rough day.

    Stephanie, you wrote that so much better than I ever could. Yes those are all things that are so important for people to consider and identify about themselves before they can find a system that works for them. It is also important for people to be honest with themselves and not try to be something they aren’t. If piles are how they work best, why fight it, just work with it.
    Thanks for that,

  5. 5
    Barb says

    I am simply in awe of you, Laura. Honestly, before I met you, I thought I was the most organized person in the whole world. I had no idea anyone out there could improve my organizational skills, but girl, you set me straight.

    You take organization to new levels. No wonder you have such a huge following.

  6. 6
    Jennifer says

    I have a lot that isn’t working for me, but mostly I am just NOT a born organizer. I don’t really care. I like things when they are functional and organized, but obviously not enough to do something about it, right??? Any help for me??

  7. 7
    Laurie Fancy says

    I organize and I organize, and nothing seems to last. My ‘system’ always works… for a while, then I slip up and forget, and the problem is bigger than ever! My PINK room (aka- my craft room) seems to be the family’s personal dumping ground — our catch-all room. I seem to have a junk pile/ cupboard in every room. I feel sooooooo overwhelmed!! UGH!!!! I hope your site can give me some positive insight!


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