Anchors In Your House


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.

pool noodles anchored in a chair

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
beach cover up on a nail

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.

rafts hooked together

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.

*     *     *

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.

*     *     *     *     *

Can you think of items that you have anchored to a fixed location in your space?

34 thoughts on “Anchors In Your House”

  1. You have an interesting take on the value of having an anchor. This “anchor thinking” feels like the “everything in its place” idea except with the benefit caveat. That benefit being when we assign a home to something and return it to that home when ready, it will always be there for us when we need it again. I usually think of an anchor as something weighing us down in a negative way, but with the perspective you shared, you’ve turned that concept upsidedown in a positive light.

    As an aside, I loved seeing a few of your vacation photos too.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…What Wonderful Change Is Emerging Beneath Your Surface?My Profile

    1. It was a wonderful vacation, and I found that the relax time on the each let my mind wander a bit. I had a client on Saturday whose computer charging cord was knotted and a mess. She straddles two residences and an office. I suggested she invest in a charging cord for each location so she could simply grab her laptop and go, knowing it could be plugged in easily at any of the locations. She may still need to grab the cord for a meeting or something, but having to drag that large thing around everywhere was perhaps suboptimal. Love the way we can ponder and reflect when we are out of the daily grind!

  2. My kids are the people in my home that seem to feel the need to shove their scrap papers and stuff in my kitchen junk drawers. So, while they think they are helping to get their messes out of sight they are only creating a cluttered mess in the drawers instead. That said I do like the ideas of anchors if nothing else. Oh and like Linda I loved seeing some of your vacation pics, too 🙂

    1. It was a wonderful vacation. Glad to know people like seeing these photos:) I find kids often shove and stash because they feel like that will make Mom and Dad happy… things will “look” tidy. Of course, as you have said, this really only creates a larger project for later. With children I feel there should be a happy medium: locations for various items that are easy to access and use, but not necessarily so specific that a child resists using them. I always picture the efficiency of a preschool classroom. These experts have it figured out!

    1. I was green with envy over those chairs with anchors. I got a workout trying to stay put and they were just hanging out for hours, chatting and laughing. I have to figure out where you can buy those. I’m hoping the “anchor” is lightweight and can be filled with water so it is easy to bring along on a trip. My Father was always “helping” my Mother clean up and it always drove her crazy!

    1. The float anchor is the greatest idea! I want one too:) I love that your computer always gets charged in the same location. Eventually you will run out of battery, and having that anchor of the charging cord means you will always plug it in in the same spot, and therefore be able to find it. A win/win!

  3. I especially liked your observation #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.
    So true. Good analogy and visual. I may try this on a couple of clients. Thanks.

    1. Affirmation from you means a lot, Janet. Glad we are on the same page. If the “home” is fixed, and you use it, then your items will always be right where they should be!

  4. I have long been an advocate for having a dedicated home for belongings that travel. I love the thought of giving these things an anchor. It’s such a great visual and a wonderful way to explain the concept.

    1. It’s funny what runs through your mind when you take time out to sit and look and think. That “relax” time is when new ideas come to me. Of course, watching everyone run all over the beach and chase down their objects really reinforced the point:)

  5. Even on vacation, you are thinking about organizing! You are a true Professional Organizer!

    I totally agree. Returning items to their “home” makes life so much easier to manage. I watched my daughter the other day looking through a mess of makeup supplies on her makeup desk and getting frustrated. I am waiting for her to learn this habit so she can streamline her morning routine. Maybe she will get it when she is in college.

    I find that a laptop lock and the power cord in the same place also forces me to keep the laptop in the same spot because if I wanted to move it, I would have to unlock the laptop and pull out the power cord. It’s a great deterrent to leaving my laptop on another floor and having to go up two flights of stairs to get it. I’m lazy that way. lol
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Easy Self Care Remedies for Common Ailments at CollegeMy Profile

    1. My laptop cord is plugged in under my desk, and it is a bit of a hassle to “re-install” the cord if I remove it because I have to feed it up through a small hole on the surface of the desk. This tiny deterrent has led me to pretty much leave the cord locked into that one place. In some ways it is a great thing, because if my computer battery is running low, I probably need to take a break from the screen anyway:)

  6. I love your analogy of “windy” areas in the home where things get swept away from where they were. And the idea that things need to be attached to a permanent anchor, like a hook, jar, hanging folder, etc. I’m working on a blog post about making homes for things and this perspective helped me think about it in a new way!

    1. It’s funny how being on vacation and relaxing can open your mind to think in new ways. I was just so struck by how many items on that beach were getting blown away. If it wasn’t anchored down, odds were it was going to go missing. It just reminded me busy homes. Glad you found it inspiring:), and I look forward to your post!

    1. Remote controls is a great one. I have that issue with library items with many of my clients. The time comes to return things and they have no idea where they are. A basket or bag designated only for library items is a great solution (preferably near the door so it is easy to grab and go!).

  7. What a wonderful metaphor! Isn’t it amazing how a change of scenery gets the creative juices flowing? Love seeing your vacation pictures. They brought a personal slant to the post. I loved the photo of the anchored pool noodle. It drove the idea home.

    Great tip about the laptop having an anchor aka power cord. I treat my laptop as a desktop so it is anchored unless I take it out of the house. I love the idea of a second power cord. I can keep the anchor in place and keep a spare in the laptop bag.
    Karen Sprinkle recently posted…Are You Feeling Frustrated by Incomplete Projects?My Profile

    1. The benefit of having multiple cords struck me once when I realized my daughter’s old cord was sitting abandoned on her desk (she had gotten another one to take to college). It was so easy to leave the one “installed” at my desk, and to keep the other in my bag. Fixed storage containers are so great because they can’t get moved. The responsibility is on us to hook up to them, but if we do, things won’t get moved.

  8. Great analogy, Seana! I keep an extra phone charging cord in the compartment between the front seats, my keys & watch on hooks by the door. I also have a specific church tote bag and library tote bag. The library items have a designated cubical shelf. It reminds me of Marilyn Paul’s “getting to ready” in her book It’s Hard to Make a Difference when You Can’t Find Your Keys.” You put things away so they are ready when you want to use them!
    Olive Wagar recently posted…Organized is Better Than OverwhelmedMy Profile

    1. You and Janet both have the “library” thing figured out! I have a phone charging cord between my front seats as well. Way too much hassle to moving that cord around. I like charging to be easy in all my most common stomping grounds.

  9. I love that analogy! And I’m so missing our recent warm vacation. I think we’ll try for another one in April. YES.
    I definitely see how things get un-anchored. That happens to us a lot. As for things with definite anchors, the TV remotes. Even when they’re lost, they’re just in the couch cushions – ha.
    And the computers – even the mobile ones – all have their anchored locations.
    Tamara recently posted…Brilliant Ways to Really Upgrade your GardenMy Profile

    1. I’m laughing big time about the TV remotes:) Few things are as heavy and anchoring as a couch. I love that one! Another trip in April sounds divine…

  10. I liked all of your ideas and I think I do most of those things. However there are a few especially unorganized places in my home and I am trying to get them anchored to a specific place. One of the most difficult is the “pending pile” on my desk. I have a folder for that but it’s full of longer term pending items and the ones on my desk are needing attention soon. I clean it up and “low and behold” it reappears quickly. An area to work on obviously.

    1. Sounds like you might benefit by setting up some “action files” on your desktop for things you need to do, and reserving the “pending” file for things you are holding, such as returns you are waiting to clear. Paper is often the biggest challenge, so you are not alone!

  11. I was recently making a similar point to your anchor theory when I was talking with a new client on starting a new habit. I introduced the idea of hooking it on to an already established habit – using the ‘anchor’ habit to ground another habit. The visual of an anchor is something we can envision and relate to.
    Your vacation pictures are great by the way. I know you’re counting down the days until summer!

    1. And I know you are soaking up this soon-to-be snowy day! I love the idea of attaching a task to an established habit. I had the same conversation with a client on Saturday. We were talking about the need to empty her sink each day because once it got filled, she stopped rinsing and disposing of plastic containers which were piling up. We came down to doing whenever she brushed her teeth in the evening, as that seems to be a habit that most people adhere faithfully to.

    1. I suppose too many anchors could drag you down, though. If that floating raft had 6 anchors, instead of one, it might get pulled under, or perhaps the lines would get knotted up. As with all things, simplicity is the key. One location, one appropriate anchor. Anyway, fun to be on vacation and let your mind wander and be open to new ideas, right?

  12. I love the anchor concept! It’s true that anchors are both physical and cognitive. A place for everything and everything in its place is a physical spot. The cognitive anchor is holding fast to allocating time and thinking about the value of an anchor.

    1. Sarah made a similar concept about the idea of anchoring a task or process to an established habit. I love this idea! Why not take advantage of habits we have already developed to help us structure our time and behavior?

  13. It looks like you had a wonderful vacation! I love this analogy. You are right, items are more likely to stay put when they are attached to a fixed object. Your point about electronic gadgets is great! I often ask my clients if their phone has a home, and usually it does not. I will now use the analogy of the outlet and power cord acting as an anchor.

    1. Phones end up all over, don’t they? And I also find family members tend to snag other people’s charging cords (especially Mom’s!) and take it somewhere else. Makes me think we need to lock these things up:)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.