My clients are sometimes shocked at how few products we actually use when organizing their offices. In many cases, we actually end up getting rid of more products than we bring in. The time and place to get real about what you need is in the store. Your decisions about what to buy are your first line of defense in the fight against superfluous organizing products that will be left in the bag, tossed aside, or half used at best. Next time you have the urge to throw products at the problem, have a heart to heart with yourself right there in the store aisle. Talk out loud if you must. Or, you have permission to channel me. Imagine me next to you, diplomatically asking these questions with that look in my eye that isn’t so diplomatic: 1. Is it a higher quality or more beautiful version of something I already have? If so, buy it and toss or donate the product you are replacing.
2. Do I know exactly what I will put in it? If not, don’t buy it, even if it is on sale.
3. Am I ready to use it now, or is it a “one day maybe” purchase? Only buy products you will use within the next week. Don’t bend on this. We all know how one week can turn into five years.
4. Is one enough, or should I buy more? Let’s take magazine file boxes for example. If you are out to organize periodicals, then buy enough to organize them all. See your plan through to the end.
5. Am I buying too many, or will just one suffice? Let’s take highlighters for example. Knowing that one will probably outlive you, is the family pack of two dozen really necessary?
6. Am I going to regret this not matching the others like it that I already own? If you’re already using multiple boxes of one brand and color, resist the spontaneous urge to buy others that don’t match. You’ll thank yourself for sticking to one type when clean uniformity is carried throughout your project.
7. Am I sure I’m buying the exact one I need? Printer cartridges come to mind. Yes, I too am guilty of making a special trip to the store only to come home and curse the little box that reads the cartridge code for NOT my printer.
8. Should this be see-through, opaque, covered, or lidless? Don’t underestimate this. Getting this answer wrong could be the demise of your entire system. When in doubt buy containers and folders that are transparent. For files that need to be readily accessible, don’t let a file box lid come between you and your paper.
9. Am I thinking about this too hard? If so, don’t do it. The longer you have to think about a purchase, the less likely you need it in your life. I recently gleaned this wisdom from reading about the guys who purchased Instagram. If it works for a billion dollar purchase, then it works for a $25 purchase.
10. Is it likely that I already have five of these but I just don’t know where they are? Packs of staples come to mind…..enough said. Take the time to look for what you need before buying more. This applies to jars of pasta sauce, white tank tops, phone car chargers, boxes of Q-Tips and so much more that is outside the realm of the office.
11. Is this going to become a proper system, or just a place to hide more junk? This one’s going to require a real heart to heart. When in doubt, drop it, walk towards the exit and don’t look back. There’s no way around doing the purging, grouping, naming, and thoughtful containerizing. Buying organizing products isn’t organizing. Hiding junk isn’t organizing. Organizing is organizing.
Have you ever bought an organizing product that you later regretted? What from this list would have kept you from buying it? Have you ever organized only to realize that you actually have more containers that you need? Do you agree that purging must precede buying?? Please share!