Recently I went on a beach vacation. The weather was warm, sunny… and windy! Everywhere I looked I saw things blowing around. The only way to avoid having your belongings swept away was to attach them to something heavy. Watching beachcombers try to keep their items together became an amusing way to pass the unplanned time.
Fortunately, most of us don’t have strong winds gusting through our homes on a regular basis. As a result, the idea of needing to “anchor” our belongings may, at first glance, seem unnecessary. However, it has been my experience that other forces often blow through our homes that render similar results, such as:
- Family members, who stuff items into drawers or closets to make the space look tidy
- Belongings that are brought in and land on top of existing possessions
- Seasonal or temporary items that end up impeding access to storage locations
- “Thoughtful” people who clean up “for” others by moving their things to a different location
- Cleaning services, who gathers items into stacks or bags in order to clean the underlying surface
Here are a few lessons I learned from watching items on a windy beach:
1. Items are more likely to stay put when they are attached to a fixed object.
- Keys on a ring
- Change in a jar
- Robes on a hook
- Ties on a rack
- Shirts in a drawer
- Paper in a hanging file
- Pens in a jar, etc.
2. Items that live in particularly “windy’ zones may need an especially strong anchor.
Have you ever seen the pen in the bank or post office that is tied to a string? Anything that regularly walks away may need an extra layer of attachment (e.g. a label, a lock, a tether…) to keep it where it is supposed to be.
3. Objects that are not kept in their designated locations are likely to get tossed about and lost.
-> Papers in a loose stack
-> Clothing on the floor
-> Miscellaneous loose items tossed into a drawer
-> Toys and game pieces piled on a table
We seem to have a subconscious belief that an item that is just lying around can be moved. After all, if it were important, it would have been placed in a more secure location (or so we may think).
4. Anchors only work if you attach to them.
I saw these three rafts in the same spot every time I took my daily walk along the beach. I couldn’t figure out how they were staying in place while everyone else was being blown about. I finally stopped to study the situation, and realized that they were attached via a small rope to a tiny anchor. It is kind of hard to see, but the rope is under the man on the left’s hand in the water. The other two rafts were hooked up to the first one.
When I took a raft out into the water, I had to keep kicking and swimming to stay in the designated area. In contrast, these three people floated in the water for hours without moving an inch. Once they attached themselves to the anchor, they simply relaxed and enjoyed themselves. If they had disconnected from the anchor, however, they would have been swept away just as I had been.
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The idea of having a “place for everything and everything in its place” is not new. Still, watching the wind convinced me that a well-functioning storage location is one that is specific, secure, sized to the object and somewhat fixed.
For example, consider a laptop computer. The beauty of these gadgets is that they are mobile. We can carry them over to the couch if we so choose, or into another room where we can have peace or watch TV. However, the charging cord – its anchor – should live somewhere that it is “permanently” attached to the wall. Admittedly, we may periodically need to charge the computer in another space, but on a daily basis, the cord shouldn’t move around. Having a stationary charging cord means we will regularly return the laptop to the desk or location where the charging cord lives. Storing the computer in the same spot for charging each day means we are less likely to leave it somewhere where it might be covered up, moved, borrowed or damaged.
Another example is a student’s or a professional’s work supplies. These may include a planner, books, important documents, calculators, reference materials, presentation folders, pens or many other things. The anchor in this case is the backpack briefcase. When the individual is working, items will need to be pulled out and used. However, when the work session is over, items should go back into the bag which gets placed into a staging area until it is needed again, such as under the desk, next to the door, on the credenza, etc. The same idea applies to sports gear, arts supplies, music and more.
The benefit of “anchor thinking” is that it encourages us to store items in a fixed destination, as opposed to a temporary (though momentarily convenient) location. When we push ourselves to restore items to their permanent, unmovable location, we increase the odds of being able to find things the next time we want them.
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Can you think of items that you have anchored to a fixed location in your space?