Andrew Mellen, author of “Unstuff Your Life!”, is often referenced as the most organised man in America. We spoke with him and asked for his best advice on organisation.
Mellen uses a simple strategy he calls The Organizational Triangle, which includes three powerful rules to help you stay on top of your life. It looks like this:
Here are the fundamental principles of the triangle and how you can apply them.
Rule 1: One Home For Everything
Mellen advises, “Evaluate what you need to store, find an adequate and appropriate space, and establish a home for each thing.” When you’re done using an object, put it back in its home immediately so you won’t have to search for it later.
In the office, you should have one master filing system. If you use this strategy, anyone who works together can find whatever they’re looking for in 30 seconds or less.
At home, find wherever it makes the most sense for each object to live. Make sure the homes for your keys, phone, and wallet are highly visible, easy to access, and near where you plan to use them. Mellen emphasises that specificity is highly important, so you shouldn’t be vague about where you put things.
For example, don’t simply place your keys
near the front door. Instead, you should establish a concrete home, like a coat hook or a bowl. You can also be strategic about where you place daily objects, such as your mail. Hopefully, you can find a home near a trash can so you can easily recycle the junk mail, or a table so you can quickly pay your bills.
Mellen says, “If everything you own has a home, it can only ever be two places: out being used or back in its home, awaiting its next use.”
Rule 2: Like With Like
Grouping similar things in one place allows your physical space to reflect how your mind already categorizes things. For example, all your office supplies should be together, from paper clips with paper clips to pens with pens. Many people also keep their sentimental objects spread out across the house, but unless they are for decoration, it would also be best to keep them in one place.
Mellen advises, “Use technology to the fullest. Try not to live in a paper world and a digital world at the same time.” Figure out when you need paper copies and when you can upload them into digital copies to save space. Then, try to group everything together into one server or filing cabinet.
This rule is especially helpful when working on projects. If you put all similar documents and files together onto one server, people only have to go one place to find the most recent, updated versions.
Rule 3: Something In, Something Out
When you bring a new item into your space, something else needs to move out. Mellen emphasises the importance of maintaining equilibrium with your things, so you can avoid clutter. He says, “Make sure you have enough of everything that serves you, and nothing that doesn’t.”
Mellen gives the example of storerooms. Oftentimes, businesses have rooms full of dead technology. “But if you upgraded, it means you didn’t want the old machine. You’re creating clutter by using valuable space that you’re renting to store something you no longer need.” If you’re holding onto your old technology because you want to harvest data from it or recycle it, don’t wait to finish those tasks. Chances are the older your technology gets, the harder it will be for you to use it.
In the digital world, this rule is especially helpful. Mellen asks, “If you have a final version of your document, how many former drafts do you really need?” People often keep old versions of their documents because of a few great lines they plan to use in the future. Instead, Mellen advises, “It’s better to harvest the gems, keep them in a separate file, and let the drafts go.”
Oftentimes, people are also hesitant to throw things away because of the stories behind the objects. Mellen says, “If the only reason you still hold onto these things is because of the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you look at these objects, ask yourself, ‘If I don’t use them, how important is it for me to keep them?'” If you want to keep the sentimental feelings without having the physical object, try taking a picture of it instead.
Mellen points out, “Unless you live in a mansion with unlimited storage, something else will eventually be vying for the space that your sentimental objects are taking up. Are your feelings more important than the practical usage you could get out of other things?” You should only keep the objects that align with your values and that will help move you further along the path you want to take.
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