Sorting and Organizing: Sometimes All You Need is a Friend

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I have coworker (in my non-crafting, health care industry day job that keeps the electricity on so I can blog) who likes to say: “Sometimes all you need is a friend” (to resolve an issue). She says this tongue-in-cheek and is usually referring to a complex software challenge and “a friend” means someone who knows how to resolve your software issue, or a tool/reference to guide you towards resolution of your issue.

Although she says it tongue-in-cheek, her statement holds true. In my observations, in many situations in life, such as taking an overwhelming project to sort, declutter and organize your stuff – sometimes all you need is a friend.

Recently I helped two friends with their different organization projects:

  • A friend who wanted to gain control of a huge and unwieldy fabric stash; and
  • A friend who wanted to declutter and organize a desk where intense piles of paper had taken control

Both friends were overwhelmed with the tasks before them.

I can relate to being overwhelmed when it comes to a large decluttering/organization project of your own stuff. In my post The Fabric Purge! I share that during the sorting and reorganization of my fabric stash, I became so overwhelmed I sat on the floor and cried for a while, as there seemed to be no end in sight of my fabric purging and organization project.  I could have definitely used a friend there, even if for just mere moral support.

SORTING (DON’T DO IT ALONE)

I think one of the biggest challenges to taking on a decluttering/organization project on your stuff, is SORTING YOUR STUFF.  Why is sorting your stuff so difficult? Well, because it is your stuff.  It is interesting to you, it has history, it brings back memories, it makes you think about things good and bad, it makes you realize what you forgot to do, it is meaningful to you. You can get stuck trying to sort through your stuff as you take that trip down memory lane or get anxious on what you have YET to accomplish.

This is where a having friend there can help. Your friend knows you but does not have the level of connection to your stuff that you have to your stuff. Your friend can more objectively sort your stuff to help you make quicker decisions. What does this mean? Below are some examples of when I worked with my two friends on their decluttering/organization projects:

Friend with the Unwieldy Fabric Stash – For this friend I sorted her fabrics into what I thought were piles of the same collection, and presented those collections to her to quickly sort through and decide – keep or not keep. I noticed when she was left to sort from scratch she had some memory lane bonding with fabric. I was not pushy, but I kept her moving forward by continually asking her to make decisions about piles of fabric. Once she made a decision I boxed up the fabrics and put them on the shelf. She could not spend anymore time visiting with that particular fabric collection until we finished getting through her whole stash. I did let my friend visit with her unsorted fabric as she liked while I was sorting as she knew when I started asking questions, it was time for rapid decisions. 

Friend with the Desk-from-Heck – For this friend, first I sorted her papers (using my quick best guess from quick glance) into 4-6 general piles such as 1) important looking papers; 2) stuff she might want to keep; 3) business cards and small tags/cards; 4) photos; and 5) junk mail looking stuff. I made quick decisions and since I wanted to respect my friend’s privacy I did not read through any of the important looking papers (statements, business like correspondence, bills, etc.). If my friend had started sorting from scratch on her own, she might have gotten stuck on reviewing each important looking paper, etc. When I was done sorting materials from her desk into the various piles, I handed each pile to my friend and she made quick decision on each piece of paper of 1) keep; 2) recycle; or 3) save for immediate action. Before you know it her overwhelming pile of papers turned into a clean desk with a stack of important papers to go through on her own the next day. Plus by pulling out all the recycling (mailers, catalogs, obsolete papers) it made her pile that actually needed her attention look much smaller and less overwhelming.

In both cases, I think the key to success is having someone you trust (such as a friend) do the initial sorting (even if they get it wrong); and then having a friend with you to encourage you (not pressure you) to make as quick decisions as possible. You can get stuck if you are sorting through your stuff alone.

Even if your friend is not into organization and not interested in helping you sort, sometimes just having a friend there with you to hang out with while you work on your project, encourages you move forward.

Sometimes all you need is a friend. 

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8 thoughts on “Sorting and Organizing: Sometimes All You Need is a Friend

    • tierneycreates says:

      Get the proverbial rubber duck out Torben (that was very interesting by the way) and ask the duck if you really need that photo as you work through your 80,000+ photos!

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      • torbengb says:

        Ah but they’re already digital. I just want to remove duplicates and roughly sort them into folders by year. No duck for me today 🙂

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    • michelevisagie says:

      This debugging method makes complete sense to me from a system coding walkthrough perspective. That’s funny! Do people regularly use this method? I think it could be very helpful!

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      • torbengb says:

        *You* haven’t heard of it before?? And I’ve been thinking all these years that you’re a badass code geek!

        Okay I haven’t ever personally seen the duck in use but in hindsight there have been hundreds of times where it would have been helpful. And it’s referenced often enough is the blogosphere that I would assume _someone_ uses it regularly. Jeff Atwood certainly forced(?) his staff to tell it to the duck: http://blog.codinghorror.com/rubber-duck-problem-solving/

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