Organizing Tips: Two questions to ask while sorting.

posted by Aby Garvey on July 1, 2014 4 Comments

Organizing Tips: Two questions to ask while organizing |

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to work on a team organizing project. Our mission for the day was to organize a garage, which included a very large collection of tools. This project gave me the opportunity to experience what many people who struggle with organization face while organizing: moments where I felt completely overwhelmed!

Are you surprised? Well, there were two main reasons for this feeling. First, the project was big. It reminded me of going to an Italian restaurant and being served a large plate of spaghetti. With each bite I took, the plate of spaghetti (or in this case, the project) looked bigger instead of smaller! As we took more and more tools out of the toolboxes, the project seemed to grow and grow and grow. Second, sorting the tools was challenging for me. While I know a screwdriver from a hammer, my knowledge of tools, hardware and parts used to fix things around the house, doesn’t run much deeper than that. I was in many ways, a fish out of water.

One of the primary reasons for organizing in the first place is to make items easier to find and use. Consequently, one of the first steps in the process is to sort items, grouping like items together. You can group items together based on the type of item (hammers with hammers, wrenches with wrenches) or by use (everything used for plumbing in one pile, everything used for picture hanging in another pile). This is why the tool project was particularly tricky for me. Since I didn’t know what many of these tools and parts were used for, it was hard to sort. I often couldn’t tell at a glance which items were similar to one another. Luckily, another team member had spent many childhood days helping her father with fix-it projects. So the project did move forward and ultimately get done.

If you get overwhelmed when organizing, keep this story in mind. Remember that the first place to start when organizing is by grouping like items together. If you get bogged down in the sorting process, ask yourself “what is this” to sort by type, or ask “what is this used for” to sort by activity. (And if you don’t know the answer to those two questions, ask a friend!)  ;-)

Happy organizing!


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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and coaching program

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  • July 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Great tips to remember as I launch into a whole basement sort (don’t you love a flooding basement induced clearing out and re-organising??)! Wish you could come and help me….. :)

    • July 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      I wish I could come help Catherine!

      • July 16, 2014 at 7:29 am

        Having finally completed our garage remodel, I can relate! I counted four rubber mallets, since we never could find one when we needed one. And tiny sprinkler parts were in at least five places. I finally set up long folding tables and piled all the tools on them to sort. We donated a lot.

        Painting the walls was a big part of making the garage a space I wanted to spend time in. Plus it’s a faux entryway – I drive in and enter the house through the garage. Just as I want my real entryway to look pretty, why not the entryway where I store my car? ; )

        August 6, 2014 at 9:44 am

        I love this philosophy Beth! My garage definitely needs a good paint job! :)