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Thinking Out of the Box

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Author: Marc Rifkin

Much of my time as a Professional Organizer is spent helping people to put things into containers and boxes. But, success in this business requires as much thinking "out of the box" as it does about putting things into containers. I was reminded of this recently, while consulting with clients who owns a large, well-appointed suburban home. Two of the issues that the clients presented were the lack of closet space on the main floor, and the constant clutter on a small, built-in desk. Limited closet space resulted in coats' being deposited in the front entry. Shoes were removed inside the garage and dropped on the floor, by the other door into the house. The homeowners were tired of tripping on shoes. And the last thing they wanted (guests) to see was a wall of coats hanging in the foyer. So, the challenge was clear: This active family needed more closet space.

The second problem was the built-in desk. Located adjacent to the kitchen, the desk was an obvious clutter trap. It was probably designed as a bill paying area, or maybe a place for children to do homework. But, the family had a home office, and the children were teens. Over time, this space had become a phone desk, magazine dump, mail dump, etc. So, I asked the client some questions:

"Do you use this desk?"
"A little. For this and that."

"Do you need the desk?"
"No."

"Would you miss the desk if it went away?"
"No."

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I'm thinking about ripping out the desk, adding some doors, and turning the space into a closet. Is that what you're thinking?"
"Exactly."

What's the point? The architect designed a built-in desk, the builder built a built-in desk, and the homeowner bought a built-in desk. But, the space wasn't working as a desk. So, we took the same space, and gave it a different name: closet. Same space-different use. Better use of space. More productive use of space. More effective use of space. The ability to make these connections, and visualize new uses is part of thinking out of the box. Sometimes we have to stand back, remove the preconceptions, and let out imagination work. Containers and boxes are important. And sometimes we need to put the containers aside, and think out of the box. It's an important part of learning to become organized.

About the author

Marc Rifkin is a Professional Organizer, and owner of OASIS professional organizers, which provides home and office organizing services throughout Greater Seattle.

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