Miscellaneous: why it is a waste of time

Miscellaneous.  That word sends shivers up my spine. In the world of organizing we often say it is best to be specific in how you label files or things you’ve contained in bins. We avoid using the term “miscellaneous” and “general” because it doesn’t tell you … really anything.

When you are specific your brain experiences true sanity.  It doesn’t have to work as hard to get to the main point, the real reason something ended up in a manila folder or a shoe box bin or even on your list in the first place.  Specificity is a time saver.

Miscellaneous isn’t specific … at all.

The reason we make files or label a bin with that title is because we just don’t know what to call a folder or a container with all the items we don’t want to deal with, or don’t know how to deal with. Sometimes, it is because there is emotion attached and we don’t want to go through the arduous task of deciding if that item or piece of paper really does inform our life positively, or really is something to which you will need to refer.

Often we hesitate in making a decision even though we know the answer — but emotion wins out.  So we label miscellaneous.

The bottom line is that when you don’t make decisions quickly on why you are keeping something, and you aren’t specific on exactly where it should go, things pile up or are put in places that perhaps don’t make sense, making it harder to address these items or even find them again – ever.

The “junk drawer” is a perfect example of this. I have always said that everyone should have a utility drawer in their kitchen. A place where everyone in the house knows you can find a pen, some paper, a highlighter, perhaps a ruler.  Many people call this drawer a junk drawer.

There is nothing specific about something called a junk drawer.

First of all, calling it a junk drawer is misleading. Saying you are carving out a space for “junk” doesn’t help your case for living light and on purpose, and with things that you use, like, and need, now does it?

When you say you have a junk drawer, it is almost as if you are giving yourself permission to just put anything and everything odd and random {aka miscellaneous} in that drawer. Before you know it, it is filled with chopsticks, plastic utensil packets, pens that don’t write, spare change, things that need to be fixed, random pads of paper of varying sizes, buttons, and every menu in the house – even the ones from restaurants you don’t frequent anymore.  You can’t find anything.  And in essence, what is in the drawer does become “junk”. You don’t end up using the contents because you can’t easily identify the contents.

It’s time to turn miscellaneous into meaning.

Stop the madness of labeling bins or folders or drawers as miscellaneous.  Instead, do yourself a favor and try these tactics:

1. Be decisive!

Make decisions quickly on what should stay in your space or go. Every bit of clutter represents an unmade decision and so does, often times, a stuffed “junk drawer”!

2. Be specific!

This means that what you contain, whether in a file folder or bin or a drawer, has a purpose. It can be named.  And if it can be named it can be found again — easier and without stress.

3. Do as much as you can in the now.

Things pile up and become a pile of miscellaneous things because we put them aside for “later” – another word organizers try to avoid.  That word itself is miscellaneous in nature.  If you can’t get things put away or done now, use your calendar and designate a specific time.  Tell yourself

 I will do it at 7pm, or on my way to picking up the kids from soccer.”

Use your time wisely and be specific with how you spend it. It’ll save you from procrastinating, help you get more done, and in turn leave plenty of room for fun.

no more miscellaneousness: be specifc so you stop wasting valuable time!

Be a conscious, questioning, deliberate do-er.

Make no space in your home or your head for miscellaneous madness.

Specificity – not miscellaneous – is key – not only for order in your space, but sanity in your brain.

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