Organization Is Like a Railing

Given my job as a professional organizer, it won’t surprise you to know that I love all things organizing. The process brings me joy and the results make me feel peaceful. Nonetheless, I think it is helpful to point out that getting organized is not really an end unto itself. Instead, the organization of time, space and belongings is simply a process that helps us live in a desired manner. An ordered life is much like a railing: the secure structure we hold onto as we take our daily steps.

Railings, like most constructed edifices, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are simple and functional, while others are decorative. Some are grand while others are humble. Some are finely polished while others are roughly hewn. Regardless of style, railings serve purposes that are similar to those provided by an organized system for living. Let’s consider a few:

Beautiful iron railing

Railings Provide Reliability

Life can be rough, and much of the time we cannot clearly see where our steps are leading. Any given day may require that we tread into unknown places where the going is slippery. When the footfall is uncertain, railings provide a sense of security.  As long as they are maintained, railings are reliable and stable objects onto which we can grasp and rely. In the United States, building code typically specifies that railings stand between 34 and 38 inches high. As a result, we instinctively know where to reach with our hand. Even in dim lighting, we can locate the railing.

An organized lifestyle can serve much the same purpose. By having possessions in predictable locations and tasks slotted into habitual times of day, we experience a sense of peace and security. We may not be able to predict exactly what the day will bring, but we maximize our efficiency by establishing an element of expectedness to our resources.

Wooden railing on a bridge

Railings Avert Falls

Have you ever stepped on a broken step or caught your foot on the edge of a riser? It is frightening to feel your foot give way! More than once I have been thankful for a nearby railing that has steadied me and kept me from falling.

Being organized can similarly “save the day.” The ability to produce a needed document, locate an important key, access a crucial contact number, prove a critical payment, find a necessary supply, etc. can mean the difference between a crisis and a victory. When a crisis occurs, the knowledge that we have sufficient time and resources to address it calms us down while we work toward resolution.

steep stairway

Railings Ease Climbing

Have you ever had to climb the stairs to the top of a tall building? Those last few steps can be challenging. Last year, I got the chance to ascend the steps of the Miguelete Tower in Valencia, Spain. By the time I got to the top, my quadriceps were burning! When energy flags, it is common to reach out and pull on a nearby railing to help get us to the finish line. By engaging our arms, we utilize more of our body, alleviating a bit of the pressure on our legs.

An ordered space and clear set of priorities can do the same. When the going gets tough, it helps to have access to as many assets as possible.  We may need cloud back-up if our computer crashes. We may need 15 minutes of white space in our schedule to deliver a forgotten supply to our child’s school. We may need a spare outfit for a baby who has had a blowout in the car seat. Whatever the need may be, we will react more resiliently if we have taken the time to organize all of the tools that we have in our arsenal.

Spiral railing

Railings Add Beauty

While railings are primarily functional, they can also be beautiful. Some have intricate patterns tucked into their bannister and spindles. Others are twisted in breathtaking spirals. Some are draped with cascading flowers. Still others are decorated with fanciful sculptures. When life requires that we take the stairs, railings provide a visual distraction that makes our journey more pleasant.

The same can be said for a well-ordered space. Maybe you love bright colors and want to “organize by the rainbow.” Or maybe you like the simple elegance of clear surfaces and minimalism. Order is inherently appealing to the eye. When our space is appealing, with sufficient space to accomplish needed tasks, we will enjoy living and working there.

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Have you ever noticed a unique railing? Can you think of a time when you depended on one?

16 thoughts on “Organization Is Like a Railing”

  1. I never considered that railings are built to a specific height so that we instinctively know where to find them. When I help clients develop their systems I talk a lot about making them intuitive and second-nature – this is a perfect comparison! Great post, Seana.

    1. Totally agree, Sara. I often ask clients, “Where would you think to look for this if you needed it?” That way, I am going with their established thought pattern. Having an instinctual approach to finding things helps, especially when we are rushed or stressed.

    1. That is just how I see it, Diane. I definitely rely on my systems. I count on knowing that I would have put something in a particular place, or recorded an activity in a particular way. Habits alleviate the need to repeatedly think how to do things!

    1. Yes, a system needs tweaking and maintenance to be effective. There aren’t many things in life that we establish, walk away, and expect to stay in good working order forever. Our lives change, so our systems should be changing as well, right?

  2. I can definitely think of times I’ve depended on them, for sure, for support and supporting the kids and even sliding down one or two as a kid.. but that’s probably negating the point.. haha.. although they do lend a sense of freedom and release!
    And yes, I can think of gorgeous ones too – that I see through real estate photography.

    Another great analogy, Seana!
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    1. I’m amazed by the beautiful craftsmanship that goes into such a functional structure. Some of them are just so beautiful. And then there are those that we interact with, like the railing on the Brooklyn bridge where people leave padlocks. So fun:)

    1. It’s amazing what can be done with a functional structure. Railings are often unappreciated… until we reach out and grab on. When we need one, it sure is good to have it there, just like an organizational system. Structure, support, and a little something beautiful to behold all at once:)

  3. Always love your unique perspective on things, Seana! And the images throughout your post were really stunning. I like to think that we provided a railing of reliability to Journey Home last week! And I personally love how a well-organized space indeed adds beauty to our surroundings. 🙂

    1. I’d like to think we did that for Journey Home too, Sarah! It felt good to contribute to a worthy cause. We spend so much time helping people to let go of things that I sometimes forget the great need so many have to acquire things!

  4. I love the beauty of the boundary of a railing. It’s decorative and functional. It’s a great analogy to our life’s work in these ways. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    1. “Boundary” is a wonderful word, Ellen! Boundaries are assets we establish to keep our life on track. Of course, sometimes life jostles us around, but even then boundaries can help us steady ourselves and stay on track.

  5. Railings have kept me from falling many times and conversely I have fallen because there was nothing to grab. Organizing tools are very helpful in guiding us and supporting uses we go through our day. Very good comparison.

    1. Sorry about the fall, Dianne. I am always grateful for a railing nearby, and have no shame in grabbing on! Anything that helps keep us steady and on track is a good thing.

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