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I've recently discovered I harbor a real passion for organization.

I probably should have known it, really; I've always kept all of my books in alphabetical order, with multiple books by an author kept chronologically. Likewise for my music and movies. In college, I took an internship based on dating, identifying, labeling, then storing, by age and type of garment, an extensive vintage/historical clothing collection in a local museum. I've purged a back-logged, disorganized, shambolic file room, then re-organized it and created and codified a retention and recall system to keep it manageable. I've worked with the City archives to help identify and catalogue historic documents. I've re-vamped my current department's supply and storage rooms to make it easier to find the products or items and make keeping inventory simpler.

In fact, it was during this most recent project, the storage and stockroom cleanout, that I realized how thoroughly I enjoy putting things in order. I enjoy the physicality of the work, building up shelves, loading and stacking bins, throwing away garbage with a vehemence. I enjoy the aesthetics of tidy, clearly labeled bins stocked neatly on the shelves. I arrange things in the bins so that all of the product labels face the same way, so they are readable, and because I think it looks better that way.

It all started in a chaotic toolroom, after I'd gotten permission to order a panoply of bright, primary-colored industrial bins from Granger. I'd measured the various tools and equipment and placed a prodigious order of bins. When they arrived, I looked at the vast cardboard boxes of bins and the strapped-together stack of divided trays, and quite honestly quailed. It seemed like too massive a stack of boxes; certainly I had miscalculated, or Granger had sent me somebody else's order in error! I checked the packing lists against my order, and against the items received. Yes it was all correct, and seemed to correlate with the measurements I'd calculated.

Well, it was time to see if my calculations were wonky, or if I really did know what I needed in order to whip that rubbish tip of a storeroom into shape. I unpacked all the bins, assembled the divider trays, and cleared off the shelves and took everything out of the storerooms.

I determined to load the shelves for maximum safety, stacking heavy tools like crowbars and pickaxes on the lower shelves, smaller utility toolsets above the demolition equipment, then above that, safety equipment, testing apparatus, first-aid, measuring, and recording equipment. I cut barcodes and product numbers off the boxes that items originally came in, and pasted them to the bins that now housed those items, to make it easier to re-order when supplies started to run low.

By the time I'd finished, I'd filled a large recycle bin with broken-down boxes, paperboard, and scrap paper, a good-sized trashcan with plastic bags & miscellaneous crap, and had cleared the way in the toolroom so that a shop vac, two stacks of road cones, and a rubbermaid step stool (for my convenience) could be moved in; previous to my handiwork, one couldn't physically walk into this glorified closet for all the things stacked on the floor or leaned against walls.

Giddy with this success, I undertook to tidy up the electronic equipment storage room, ordering and assembling four heavy-duty industrial shelving units and arranging computer parts and accessories, printer, fax, and copier toner, and various rolls and bales of cable required in the daily grind of keeping an office-load of computers connected and happy. There's a drawer full of mice, another full of mousepads. Any printer in the place has an immediate replacement toner and a backup, just in case, all arranged by make & model of printer. When somebody calls down to me and tells me their printer's out of “ink” all they have to do is tell me the model of the printer, and I can run back there, pluck a box off the shelf, and have them back up and printing in as long as it takes to walk to their workstation.

I've made the other supply room more user-friendly, too. Each floor has a well-stocked supply cabinet, with the basic goods of office life arranged attractively in clear bins, in easy reach and line of sight. Drawers contain the paper goods needed to keep our paperless society ticking along; file folders folders, expanding files, pastel papers in all hues, copy paper in 8.5″X11″, 8.5″X14″, 11″X17″ writing pads in steno, letter, and legal size, envelopes of varying sizes and sturdiness, letterhead, it's all in there, and labeled on the front of each drawer or cabinet door, so you don't have to open each one until you find what you need.

As I've been working on these projects, I've made a number of discoveries and had a couple of epiphanies.

1. I really, thoroughly, earnestly enjoy organizing and tidying equipment, supplies, and to a lesser extent documents and files.

2. I like finite projects. I prefer to find a big damn mess, figure out what it's going to take to clean it up, clean it up, leave an explicit system for maintaining it, and wash my hands of it.

3. I get really bored if I have to sit still much.

4. Most people are really shitty at looking for things, and will just dig through and fling stuff all over and leave a godforsaken mess if they can't find what they want.

5. If you can't see it, it doesn't exist. This axiom leads toward perceived shortages, overstock of some items, and a revisitation of the scenario described in line 4.

6. Conversely, if the box (or other pertinent container) is there, the product must be there, right? This is why I thought, in one cabinet, that there were a gross of blue ink pens, when in fact there were something more like about 70 (still quite a sufficient number, though significantly fewer than 120). There were easily five or six partial boxes of an identical product; people kept opening a box, taking a few pens, then setting it back in the cupboard, willy-nilly. In other cases, there was what looked to be a good-sized box of something (erasers, for example) which proved to be entirely empty, or to have one item in it. People who do that, who put back an empty or nearly empty box are the same people who leave 1/3 of a cup of coffee in the office coffee pot to avoid making the next pot, and who, at home, put the empty cereal box back in the cupboard. These people are the bane of my existence. Bane, I tell you!

So, now all of the supplies and equipment are easily surveyed, and if anything is running low, it's easy to tell, and easier to put away when the re-stock orders come in. Plus, I now run a centralized stockroom from which I can distribute goods, as needed, to each cabinet, and find it easier to keep up a timely and accurate re-ordering scheme.

So, yes, you might guess I like organizing stuff. I do. I'm actually seriously considering starting a business in a year or so, doing organization consulting for other companies.

I wonder if the Container Store does business acounts…?

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