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!

Get Organized Columbus

By Tera Harmon 16 Jan, 2018
Ever have that feeling after your home has been cleaned that things still don't seem put away and tidy? Or maybe you get that nagging sense when you walk into a room that things still need a "once over." Even in frequently-cleaned homes, we can feel like there is more to do when our clutter is the first thing that catches our eye in each room. Well the clutter itself may not be the only culprit. Our house habits can help highlight the things we use in a way that is not flattering.  Can you recognize any of these hotspots in your home?
By Tera Harmon 08 Jan, 2018
Photo Credit: Jay Wennington
By Birdie Brennan 04 Dec, 2017
Photo Credit: Kari Shea
By Tera Harmon 27 Nov, 2017
I always look forward to this cooler time of year to review coats and to decide where best to donate them. So many times when we hear about making a donation, we feel pressure to give financially. But giving something once owned and loved can be a fulfilling part of holiday tradition. I especially love involving kids so they can learn the idea of thinking of others at this time of year. Showing our kids how to prepare an item for donation teaches them how to care for others, but it also shows them to consider how their belongings can be useful beyond their own toy box. The act of cleaning up a gently used truck or putting new batteries into a remote control car to donate demonstrates to kids that our items are valuable to others--and that condition matters. This donation ritual is also an important purge ritual before the influx of contents that are about to enter our homes. 
By Tera Harmon 16 Nov, 2017

For even the most novice cooks, between now and the end of the year, many kitchens are about to get a workout. We may be hosting parties, holiday meals, trying a new recipe or two, participating in pot lucks, or baking with friends and family. Would't it be great if everything we need is at our fingertips--clean and functional for when we need it?


So often the tools and items we rely on at this time of year are somewhere in the back of cupboards, sideboards, or stored on basement shelving. I recommend gathering, cleaning, and staging the items you know will be needed in the coming weeks. In last week's post ( https://www.getorganizedcolumbus.com/the-ready-made-pantry ) we talked about a well-stocked pantry for the holiday season; for now, let's focus on the items we will likely need in the kitchen and dining areas.
More Posts

Get Organized Columbus

By Tera Harmon 16 Jan, 2018
Ever have that feeling after your home has been cleaned that things still don't seem put away and tidy? Or maybe you get that nagging sense when you walk into a room that things still need a "once over." Even in frequently-cleaned homes, we can feel like there is more to do when our clutter is the first thing that catches our eye in each room. Well the clutter itself may not be the only culprit. Our house habits can help highlight the things we use in a way that is not flattering.  Can you recognize any of these hotspots in your home?
By Tera Harmon 08 Jan, 2018
Photo Credit: Jay Wennington
By Birdie Brennan 04 Dec, 2017
Photo Credit: Kari Shea
By Tera Harmon 27 Nov, 2017
I always look forward to this cooler time of year to review coats and to decide where best to donate them. So many times when we hear about making a donation, we feel pressure to give financially. But giving something once owned and loved can be a fulfilling part of holiday tradition. I especially love involving kids so they can learn the idea of thinking of others at this time of year. Showing our kids how to prepare an item for donation teaches them how to care for others, but it also shows them to consider how their belongings can be useful beyond their own toy box. The act of cleaning up a gently used truck or putting new batteries into a remote control car to donate demonstrates to kids that our items are valuable to others--and that condition matters. This donation ritual is also an important purge ritual before the influx of contents that are about to enter our homes. 
More Posts
Share by: