Hugh Kenner, late professor of English at Johns Hopkins University and a former client of mine, wrote in Discover magazine: “Consider my desk. I take a reference book from a shelf. Knowing I will refer to it again soon, I leave it on my desk for now. And this letter inviting me to a conference. I’ll leave it next to the book for now because I’ll be referring to it when I make travel arrangements. These notes for the essay I’m writing — I turn to them frequently, so I’ll leave them here for now.”

“I’ll put it here for now, so I can see it” is the motto for Everything Outs — people who think that out of sight is out of mind and who believe they work best when everything they need is right out in the open. There’s nothing wrong with this approach to organizing, until/unless you keep covering up one layer of things with another. When too many things are left out, it becomes impossible to find anything.

If you are experiencing Everything Out overwhelm, try the following approaches:

1. Do a desktop survey to determine if you still like and/or use the items you keep there. Remove any that no longer serve their purpose.

2. Follow a basic sorting system for your incoming paperwork so things don’t get buried and forgotten in your in-box.

3. Consider desktop organizers that increase your available workspace through divisions or open compartments.

4. Make effective use of wall space for storage and display. Separate bulletin boards that contain important information and reminders from those that display inspirational items, photographs, cartoons, quotes etc or they will be come one big mish-mash.

5. Using dots, color-code categories of information for quick identification when you’re searching frantically through piles.

6. Look for clear or translucent accessories to give you that feeling of openness and accessibility.

Remember, it’s OK to keep things out. Just make time to keep them organized.

Are you an Everything Out? What strategies do you use to make things manageable?