Organizing Needs by Life Stage

Organizing is a “living” process. By this I mean that getting and staying organized is not something we do only once. While we may establish some systems that we carry over the course of a lifetime, we are also likely to experience shifting needs as as we age.

In working with clients of all ages and stages, I’ve observed a few common needs that tend to emerge at various periods of life. I put together this little infographic as a summary of needs we are likely to have at various points in our lives. This is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it ironclad. Some of us may take “the road less traveled,” and will correspondingly have unique organizing needs. Still, I hope this may prove helpful in codifying what systems we need to implement today, as well as provide insight about those we may be facing in the future.

storage needs by age

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What requirements would you add at these various stages of life?

23 thoughts on “Organizing Needs by Life Stage”

  1. Being in mid-age, I suppose I need a few on your list, especially for memories and memorabilia as I have collected enough over the years here even though I am not one for clutter. Still I have kept my fair share of those that envoke memoires here for me.

    1. Every family member deserves some storage for memorabilia, including Mom! One beautiful bin can become a treasure. You are pretty organized, Janine, and might be able to add a few tips to this graphic I know:)

  2. I find memorabilia to be a very interesting area. When I was younger, I kept all kinds of stuff, including ticket stubs and event programs. The more events I went to, the less inclined I became to keep these items. As a result, I now have event memorabilia from my teens, twenties and even my thirties, and probably none from the last ten or twenty years. Which makes me wonder if I should just toss the ones I have!

    1. I have had a very similar experience, Janet. I haven’t kept stuff for a long time. I think I am leaning toward doing a bit of “curating” of my older memorabilia. I’d like to sort through it all and pull out only the most significant pieces, and perhaps attach a written story to them so that they might be meaningful to my children in the future. I think ticket stubs I will pitch, unless they were for some historically important event:)

    2. I think about this a lot. Letters are another example. I used to save letters. Well, I guess I still do, but so often now our communication takes the form of audio, video, email or social media. There’s no real easy, effective way to capture today’s “important” communications, so, in a way, why keep all those letters? As for things like ticket stubs, I tend towards making a photo collage out of them. By which I mean, assemble the best ones on a table and take a photo of the collection before discarding them.

      1. I love that idea of taking a photo of a collage of ticket stubs, Hazel! I’m not sure I could part with the hand-written love notes I got from my (now) husband when we were dating. Those are precious. I feel sort of sad for the younger generations who won’t have that. I agree that there is no good way to capture today’s important communications.

  3. I love the infographic, Seana. I will share it on several of my organizing Pinterest boards. Thank you for putting this together. I agree there are several stages in life and our processes need to be modified to support these times in our lives. I often tell my client, organizing is not a one time only event. It is a process and must be reassessed when the process doesn’t seem to be working any longer. The most difficult part is determining “when” to do these changes. We don’t always see that it is necessary to change until we are at least a year or two into the next phase of our lives. Staying awake to what isn’t working is important to realize when we need modifications to our processes.

    1. Yes, I completely agree. We are often well into the next stage before we identify our new needs. I think this is normal. Another reason why it can be helpful to have a professional coming alongside to alert us to what is coming, and to plan accordingly. Thanks for the pinning!!

  4. I love this info-graphic! My son and his wife have a 1 year-old daughter. They are just discovering how rapidly their needs for her (and her needs) are changing. Last year my son finally realized the benefit of a good filing system when he had all the related paperwork for this new baby (birth certificate, social security, health record etc.). I down-sized a couple of years ago and could probably down-size a little more but I’m really comfortable with what I’ve done.

    1. Isn’t it funny how having children can completely upend our lives? As you point out, it not only makes us deal with the new baby’s needs, but also can stir us to take a serious look at how we have been living, and whether we need to make some changes. The arrival of little ones often means we have no spare time, so adult systems become suddenly critical!

  5. Hi Seana,
    Love this. For seniors downsizing, packing and moving can be important. Alternatively, if the seniors are not planning a move downsizing and going through everything can be important as not to leave everything for loved ones to go through. Yes, simplifying is so important for seniors.

    1. The whole process of simplifying – and potentially downsizing – can feel daunting. BUT, it is very rewarding and a wonderful gift to future generations. The whole key is having the time to not be rushed balanced with the discipline to keep at it!

  6. What a great visual and handy timeline on what to focus on when. I love the little pictures and especially that caption: Accumulation sets in. So true!!

    1. I know we certainly went through the accumulation phase. Now I think we are headed toward simplification. Kind of moving at a snail’s pace, but we are starting to mentally embrace the mindset, and taking steps in the right direction. My husband is a “keeper,” so this is really big progress for him:)

  7. These are all great ideas. I think for Seniors, it is always a good idea to get one of those “Last Wishes” books that details everything from your funeral arrangements down to al the info for your will, life insurance policy, bank accounts, safety deposit box keys, etc. I also like the Grandparent books that you fill out detailing your whole life history, ancestors, your personality traits, family members/family tree info, etc.

    1. I love that idea of a Grandparent book. What a family treasure to have all of that information in one place. And for sure on the “Last Wishes!” It should include passwords for social media as well. Nothing feels more painful than getting spam from a dearly loved, deceased relative.

  8. This needs to go viral! How cool. I’ve got kids in the elementary level. As for me, I think I’m between early and made adult. I definitely still have things at my parents’ house, but also the need for that has dwindled to nearly nothing.

    1. Aw, thanks for the affirmation Tamara! I still have lots of stuff that belongs to my girls, largely because they have no place to put it where they are currently living. I think I have finally gotten everything out of my parents’ home. When they downsized, it had to come to me or be tossed.

  9. Your infographic is fabulous! I love the way you described organizing as a “living process,” and one that has shifting needs. That’s one of the aspects of organizing that I love most; working with clients through the changing stages of their lives. Things that were once relevant are no longer, so letting go becomes easier over time. The other thing that occurs to me is the flexible nature of organizing. There isn’t a one size fits all. But there also isn’t a “done once,” and that’s it. Systems and needs change as we move through the various stages of life. One thing I’ve noticed is in general; millennials acquire less. That may mean that as they enter their later adulthood, they might not accumulate as much as some of us or our parents have. Time will tell.

    1. The millennial trend will be so interesting to watch. I wonder if they will keep to the more “minimalist” lifestyle, or shift into acquiring more as their families grow. I love the organic and morphing process of life, and the corresponding ways we adjust our belongings and systems to reflect our shifting priorities:)

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