When an organizer goes off script

In all things organizing, like many of my colleagues I employ standard long-established practices for their inherent benefits of safety, efficiency, and optimal results. I’ve learned my ways (and what aren’t my ways) by reading the myriad how-to books,  from trading tips and tricks with others in conversation and by working together, and through trial and error. Our underlying skills are the same, but the differences are in how we present, use, and experiment with them.

A case in point is something so incredibly mundane: how I label bags.

At the beginning of an organizing session where triage of things is about to occur, it is quite common to prepare a bunch of receptacles – usually bags, boxes, or bins – for collecting outbound items or things to be redistributed around the house. Many times floor space and piles with aforementioned designations suffice, but for the sake of this post, let’s focus on physical containment.

When using containers that are similar but not easily visually differentiated from one another, labeling them clearly is key. Destination categories might include “donate” (or be designated for specific local donation venues), “return” (if the likelihood of items belonging to others will be unearthed), “elsewhere” (in the house), “recycle,” “trash,” “sell,” “giveaway,” “shred,” etc.

I do a fair amount of home office triage projects, and there are usually three primary categories: recycle, shred, and trash. To help both me and my clients remember which bag is which: I line them up in alphabetical order: R – S – T.


(Bags courtesy of a client. Apologies for the Whole Foods advertisement!)

But I’ve experienced and observed a problem with this system. The majority of my clients sort their desks, files, and piles from the comfort of a chair. When sitting and looking down on the bags, it’s really hard to read what’s written on their sides.

So last year I deviated from the script:


I started labeling them on the inside. I haven’t seen this in an organizing book…yet. Maybe I should start writing my own script.

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  1. Avatar
    Sven Reply

    I definitely think you have an organizing book in you. These little tips and tricks can really make a difference in people’s lives, and they’re very original. If you make it fun and visual the way you’re wont to do, it’s a total slam dunk.

  2. deb
    deb Reply

    Thank you, Sven : )

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