The Architecture of a Pile

  • By birdie@getorganizedcolumbus.com
  • 14 Mar, 2016
Pile of blankets
I’ve noticed over the years of working with clients, those with both large and small jobs to tackle, that the architecture of our piles is constructed in similar ways. A pile’s foundation is designed by our reasons for keeping; growth of the pile is perpetuated by our repeated reasoning; and the pile becomes a burden once we become disconnected with its contents. We can deconstruct […] 
I’ve noticed over the years of working with clients, those with both large and small jobs to tackle, that the architecture of our piles is constructed in similar ways. A pile’s foundation is designed by our reasons for keeping; growth of the pile is perpetuated by our repeated reasoning; and the pile becomes a burden once we become disconnected with its contents.
We can deconstruct the burden layer by layer, as we recognize the beliefs and reasoning that most of us employ to build our piles.
At the top layer is what I like to call, the  Physical To-Do List. This layer is composed of things we hold on to that remind us we need to take action. This is especially true of paper items that harbor dates, reminder notices,  and phone numbers of people who we need to contact and follow-ups we need to pursue. But it also includes, mail and invitations that need to sent and items that need to be returned to the store, etc. The to-do pile may also take digital form via stored emails, stored voicemails, stored photos, saved documents–anything that jogs our memory and helps us “maintain” a to-do list. The good news is, this is the easiest pile to address. Physical items make lousy to-do lists as they take a short-term need and translate it into a long-term problem. A little investigation into the right type of calendar/contact list/and action planner that meets your needs will release you from holding on to physical relics as reminders.
The second layer, is quite potentially the most contentious layer of the pile-the I Might Need That Later Layer . It’s the most difficult reasoning pattern because it is hard to argue with what one might potentially do one day when one actually gets around to doing it. Bottom Line: this reasoning is based purely on hypotheticals. To combat these fanciful ideas, we need to be realistic. Have you participated in said activity recently? When will you be able to get to it? If you determine that it will be used one day, then we need to remove it from the pile and assign it a home for longer term storage and easy access.
The third layer is–the Layer of Unfound Objects . As in, If I find the mate/or part to this, I will have the set–or something will actually work. Give the object one last round of seeking. Then cut your losses, reclaim your space, and move on.
The fourth layer is the Layer of Perceived Value . As in, this item seems useful, but I don’t know what to do with it. Or, maybe someone I know will want it. Usually we tend to overestimate how much our own things are worth to others. I have clients take a photo of the object and text it to that individual right on the spot. If interest isn’t reciprocated, we can donate, discard or sell the item.
Strewn in between these layers are items we actually do need or use–the scissors, our reading glasses, the book we were looking for–things that just need put away. The useful items seem to be the glue that binds and supports the layers of unnecessary things, and certainly creates a mental block to eliminating the pile all together. Let’s eliminate the glue and return these items to their rightful homes.
So go ahead and take a look at one of your more daunting piles. Maybe it is on your desk, in a junk drawer, sitting just outside of your closet. Can you see any of these reasoning patterns have contributed? Now can you begin to challenge the architecture of your piles. Happy sorting!
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