Ah, the I know I put it somewhere organizer. So Type A organizer on the outside, yet so lost at times when it comes to finding those things he or she put in a "safe place."
I know I put it somewhere organizers:
- may look organized, but often struggle to find what they want when they want it.
- are likely to have a wide variety of unrelated things stashed together.
- organize by putting things in the place that is most convenient at the moment, rather than in a logical place.
- lack a system and/or fail to establish consistent homes for their belongings.
One theory psychologists use to explain the memory process is a three-step model: encoding, storage, retrieval. In order for us to successfully retrieve something from memory (remember it), it has to have been properly encoded (entered) and stored (put somewhere it can be accessed).
That same theory can be applied to the organizational process, particularly for the I know I put it somewhere organizer. Since all available storage space is created equal in the mind of the I know I put it somewhere organizer, these folks need to limit their options so they aren't tearing the house apart looking for one thing. For them, the key to successful retrieval lies in successful storage or finding homes that make sense.
- Location rule #1: Store items where they are used. Storing an item close to where it's used (e.g., oven mitts near the oven) not only makes sense, but it also makes it easier to remember where we put things and, therefore, to find them when we need them. If we know our "somewhere" is limited to the storage spaces in the area where the item is typically used, we reduce our search parameters from "it could be anywhere" to "it's somewhere in this drawer." Quite a substantial reduction -- and one that requires much less time and energy when we need to find something, even if that something is (still) just stuffed in a drawer.
- Location rule #2: Store like items together. This key combines storage and retrieval. If we use Location rule #1 and store an item in a place that makes sense, we're more likely to remember where we put it, which makes it easier to retrieve it. Storing like items together piggybacks on Location rule #1, making it easier to find things because of the associations we make (e.g. I'm putting the oven mitts in the drawer with the cookbooks). These associations provide visual cues which act as retrieval cues. In other words, making a connection between, say, the cookbooks and the oven mitts, helps the I know I put it somewhere organizer remember which somewhere is the one he or she chose for both items.
- Use retrieval cues. Some things can be used in a variety of spaces, making Location rule #1 challenging. And while opening the drawer and seeing the cookbooks can provide the "aha" moment that reminds us where we stored the oven mitts, it's even better if we can figure out which drawer to open in the first place. To do this, the I know I put it somewhere organizer can benefit from taking a page out of the I need to see it organizer's book, and using strategies like labeling, color-coding and see-through storage. Unlike the I need to see it organizer, the I know I put it somewhere organizer can put these see-through, labeled or color-coded containers behind closed doors (because out of sight isn't out of mind for I know I put it somewhere folks), or they can simply use these strategies and containers in the first place. Clear plastic bins come in many sizes and colors and can be incredibly helpful in revealing those "safe" storage places to I know I put it somewhere organizers.
About the Author
Transplanted Jersey girl Lisa Lawmaster Hess is the author of a blog compilation, three novels, and three non-fiction books, including the award-winning Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania. She blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, Organizing by STYLE, and here at Catholicmom.com. Read all articles by Lisa Hess.