How To Organize Items When You Don't Know What They Are

You can organize anything, even if you don't know what it is or does. Don't get me wrong - it helps tremendously to be familiar with the items you are touching so you know their purpose and can decide where they fit best. But a lot of times fear of the unknown paralyzes us to the point of not acting or doing at all, so the mess stays a mess.

As a wife, have you ever wanted to help your husband organize the garage but felt afraid of touching "his stuff" because you didn't know what it was? As a husband, have you ever wanted to pick up the closet you share with your wife but felt afraid of touching "her stuff" because you didn't know what it was? These battle lines are often drawn between hers and his and theirs (the kids) because we are afraid of doing something wrong.

One of the stages of getting organized is sorting and it's an important one. It's what you do before the decisions are made to keep or sell or donate items. It's the process of putting "the like with the like" and boy, is it important. It is also something that you can do to help the ones you love with their items, even if you don't actually know what they are. Some examples:

  • Electronic cords - what on earth do they do/where do they belong?

  • Small toys - are they part of a bigger set or by themselves?

  • Kitchen tools - how exactly do I use this thing?

  • Craft supplies - so this does what now?

  • Tools - I don't know what this does and I don't want to

But, you say, but.... "I want to help, but I don't know how." "I'm afraid of throwing away some itty bitty yet vitally important piece." "I don't want to hear that I made more of a mess when I was just trying to help." "I'm worried about upsetting their current system, even though I really can't see any rhyme or reason to it at all."

These are valid concerns for sure. The easiest way to avoid an issue is to resolve to not throw anything away. You are merely doing a "surface sort" to help get everything related in the same part of the house or the same room or the same box. It's like separating out the junk mail from the real mail before you put it on your spouse's desk. You can put the junk in the shred pile, but ultimately it gets a second look before they get rid of the paper. You are basically starting the journey that someone else has to finish because their level of understanding about these items goes deeper than yours.

I know it seems a bit intrusive, but think about what I do every day. I go into a stranger's home and do this for them. They trust me to do this so why wouldn't your loving family be able to trust you, an actual family member, to do it as well? If you've accidentally thrown out something important of theirs in the past - aha! - that is probably the issue. So resolve to help not hurt from now on. Repeat after me: just sort, don't toss.

Asking permission is an important step not to be missed as well. Some people are very private and your help is not requested, nor will it be applauded, thank you very much. So for cases like those, moving someone else's items from "your space" to "theirs" might be about all you can do. A conversation can be struck up well before you start (not when they catch you knee deep in their stuff) about boundaries and how you can help in any small way. You might find that they really do want help but only when it's offered proactively, not reactively during an argument.

So, bottom line - can you help even if you don't know what you've got your hands on? Yes! Overall, you are bound to be more helpful than harmful, even if you end up sorting an audio cable in with the box of camera cables. At least the cables are all neatly wrapped, near each other, and none are lingering in other parts of your home. If you do it right, pre-sorting (whatever the heck those little thingamabobs are) can save time and be helpful for everyone in your household.

#help #zones #cleaning #inspiration #electronics #crafts #garage #stuff #sort

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