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How to Find Anything: The Magic Word

How to Find Anything- The magic word

I always say that the goal of any organizing project — the essence of organizing– is VISIBILITY.

Let me say that again– VISIBILITY. It's the magic word! Gain visibility to your stuff so that you can find anything… here are 7 ways:

  • Grouping: Putting like things together is the first step to visibility. You can group sorted items on a shelf together, so you can SEE that all of the soups are together, all of the cereal is together, all of the sweaters are together, etc. You can also group like items into containers, which leads me to my next point…
  • Visible display methods:  Clear containers vs. opaque ones allow you to better see what's inside. Open shelves allow more visibility than closed cabinets. (Sometimes closed is good if you want to cover them up, but to find things faster, open shelves are best in general.)
  • Labeling: Even if things are grouped together on an open shelf, you can still benefit from labeling that shelf to make it official. It's a visible reminder of what the group is meant to be and where it lives. In a closet, you can label groups of hanging clothing with our Simple Division® Garment Organizers, available on our website or at The Container Store®. Labeling kids' toy bins with picture and word labels is helpful, not only for initial visibility, but also for childrens' reading skills (print a photo of the toy from Google Images).
  • Indexing:  Are the Christmas stockings in the attic, or at Grandma's? Before you climb up in the attic to check, wouldn't it be better to refer to an index of what you have up there? When you organize a less accessible space, make a quick list of everything you have stored. You can also take photos of each box and annotate them with a description, tags and even a quick audio narration of the contents, using Evernote on your smartphone (free)! Sometimes for indexing it's even more effective to number a box or binder or shelf, so you can go right to it (Think, "Box #7 has holiday decorations," for example). Indexing is also powerful for having visibility to your paper files. Make a list of what's in your file drawer and refer to it before thumbing through the folders.
  • Keywording and File Names: Visibility to digital files is easier when they are named and tagged properly. Search is not meaningful if you don't keyword something well. Name your files and folders consistently with a "naming convention," which is a fancy phrase for having a policy of how to name things. For photo folders, I always name them by date, in this format:  YYYY-MM-Month-Description (Example, "2012-06-June-Trip to Miami"). All of my folders are sorted alphabetically in date order this way. And I name photos with descriptive words like the people in them, the name of the place, etc. within that folder. If you use Picasa (free) or other photo organizing software, you can also keyword photos with all of the description you want, which is searchable. 
  • Alphabetizing: If you are so inclined to alphabetize soup cans or spice jars, that does allow more visibility to your collections so that you can find things faster. However, make sure there is an ROI on any organizing project you do– that the gains you receive from the project are worth the investment of time you put in up front. Alphabetizing certainly works well for the classic file cabinet full of folders.
  • Vertical storage: My friend Geralin Thomas taught me this little slogan, "Vertical is visible– horizontal is hidden." File folders and binders are vertical– piles are horizontal. You can't see what is in a pile! Another friend, Clare Kumar, is the inventor of the Pliio system for folding clothing and storing it vertically, which is available on HSN. Vertical storage allows you to flip through something and LOOK at it, instead of having to root through it in a pile.

Are you convinced? Think about the magic word VISIBILITY so you can find your stuff, and you'll be able to avoid some other choice words!

What are some other ways you've gained visibility to your belongings? Share in the comments!

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