Why is organizing so much fun for me, and not for everyone? Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked games and puzzles. I woke up with a song in my head, “One of these things is not like the other”, from Sesame Street. I’d already written most of this post and realized that “One of these things…” is an organizing game too, no? Let me give you some other examples (each title is also a clickable link):
Sorting Toys and Games: From the earliest ages we love to sort things by color, size, and shape. Remember how much fun that was? No, I don’t remember that far back either. But they teach important hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills that we use all the rest of our lives. Just think of your home as a giant sorting toy!
Concentration: The object of the game is to remember what you’ve seen earlier in the game and turn over pairs of matching cards. My memory isn’t the best, but I do seem to have a knack for remembering what I’ve seen in a client’s home and how it might help us with a problem we are facing. Even if we are only organizing the home office, or the kitchen, or whatever, I like to start with a tour of the whole house. Very often I will notice something in one room – a table, a basket, a piece of art — that can be used to greater effect in another room. Or, maybe we’ll be going through a person’s stuff and I make a literal match – here’s that missing shoe!
Sliding Tile Puzzle: In organizing and redesign projects we usually need a staging area. This is where we set up sorting boxes labeled KEEP, TOSS, and DONATE. Or, where we temporarily relocate furniture and accessories that are no longer needed. But some homes are so full of clutter that there simply is NO space for a staging area! They remind me of those handheld sliding tile puzzles. The one I had as a kid was a map of the U.S.A. The tiles started out all jumbled and you slid them around until all the states were in their proper places. Just like organizing, it was usually not possible to move any one tile directly to its final destination. Both a series of moves and a little patience were required.
When you buy a brand new “15-puzzle” (shown above), there is a space-saver that actually says right on it, “Remove to Play”. If you don’t remove that little piece of cardboard, there is NO space, or staging area, to which you can move ANY of the tiles! In cases where there is no appropriate staging area, even in the garage, even outside, we look for categories of stuff that can be tossed, sold, donated, or temporarily stored off site. Sure, the stuff that remains is still jumbled, and there may be many small moves along the path to order and success. But once we have removed enough stuff, we can begin to play! Look around….what do you need to remove in order to play?
How Many Squares?: This puzzle has been making the rounds on Facebook. Everyone guesses 24 or 32 or whatever. Because I came up with the “right” answer of 40 (the animated link shows exactly how), a friend commented, “I’m betting that your ability to see ALL the possibilities is what makes you a great organizer!” What a nice compliment! But also I think she’s right. I routinely am able to see storage space where my clients see none. And I can visualize several stages of a project, and the end result, when they can’t. I either convince them, or they just decide to trust me. The stages usually involve some combination of sorting, purging, rearranging, and containerizing. Any sort of “thinking outside the box” exercise will help you see things differently.
Wood-Rope-Ring Puzzles: YIKES! Have you ever tried to solve one of these? This is one type of puzzle that I avoid! If your organizing systems rely on tricks, sleight-of-hand, brute force, or a genius level IQ, you might want to rethink them. An effective system should be as simple as possible to ensure regular use. So, take the cleverly- and tightly-packed toys out of the original container and store them in a bin that is big enough to toss them into easily. Don’t store things in front of other things and expect to remember what’s behind them. Use shelving that allows you to access items on the bottom without having to removing a stack of other stuff on top first.
Actually, I think everyone DOES like games and puzzles… of one type or another… and most every task or project can be made into a game if you just think of it that way.
Update: Funny, but the #1 game I hear others comparing organizing to is Tetris. I think it’s an amusing analogy, but not one I actually like. Why not? Because the goal of the game is to arrange the game pieces as tightly as possible, with no gaps. This is like the cleverly- and tightly-packed toys I referred to above. Yikes!
What games do YOU like, and how can you turn YOUR mundane tasks into a game?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share with us in the comments below.
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