We have all done it. Left an item or note out on the counter or table as a reminder of a task that needs our attention. Even with the best of intentions, I know I am not the only one who has left that same item undone and sitting out for weeks.
Can it really work to leave an item out as a visual reminder? I am referring to those items that can quickly turn into piles of clutter, as they get buried under other items that find their way on to the counter. This is totally different than items that have a designated spot, like an entry way launching pad, where you organize items for your day.
I, myself, am guilty of creating visual piles. I think I could blame this trait on my genes. I previously shared the years of paperwork we worked on in part 1 of my dad’s office organization. Surely it must be genetic.
All blame aside, there is a way to incorporate your preference for visual cues when organizing your space. Create clearly labeled, permanent homes to serve as your visual reminders. The labels will keep you accountable to your clean space and help you refrain from piling papers and items that don’t belong.
This idea is utilized all throughout my dad’s office to keep the space usable and easy to maintain. He uses paper to serve as his visual cues. For example, he has receipts he keeps out for reference when reordering supplies. Our solution was to tape a labeled envelope to the inside of the supply cabinet door to stash the receipts.
This simple act will avoid receipt clutter on the desk while staying true to how he naturally functions, using visual cues.
What about all the little scraps of paper you leave out as a reminder to follow through on? Or the papers hanging around your living spaces that you want to reference but don’t necessarily require a permanent space in your filing cabinet?
This type of paper belongs in what I like to call Action Files. Pay attention to what action is required of paper laying around in piles or even being shuffled from place to place. Do they fall under tasks to do, contacts to be recorded, information you would like to read or just trash? As you sort through the individual papers, themes emerge and the types of action files you need tend to fall into place.
In my dad’s office, we used an action file station to house his common to-dos found scribbled on paper. It is unrealistic to try to reform a long established habit of writing on random slips of paper (although I did get him a small notebook to try to keep his notes contained).
The goal with Action Files is to create structure with a labeled home to store each task or item of information. My dad excels with file folders and so those are the backbone of the system we put into place in his office. He can grab the file folder to take to his desk and work. He can file his notes in the proper to-do for later.
We also implemented a system to work through new paperwork as it arrives and to avoid becoming discouraged with growing piles.
We found an orphaned drawer divider from another area of the home and put it to work in the now cleared out desk drawer to organize supplies.
If instead of notes of things to do you leave the actual item (library books, clothes to be mended) out on the counter, consider giving these items a permanent home too. Find a basket or container to corral these items together. You’ll know where these “to do’s” are located without having them out on the counter or dining room table.
By organizing in a way that respects your working habits and is specific to your style, the space can stay organized and it won’t feel like a chore to maintain. An organizing system only works if it works for you.
Look around your living spaces. How do you use visual cues? Take notice of which ones are working and which ones constantly turn into clutter?