Do you have a bulletin board? If so, and if it is nearby, take a moment now to look at it. What words would you use to describe it? On the positive side, perhaps you might choose:
On the negative side, your thoughts might run to words such as:
- Hard to read
- Out of Date
Some may say, “Does it really matter what my bulletin board looks like as long as it holds what I need?” Admittedly, a bulletin board does not consume much workspace. In fact, its ability to take advantage of vertical space is one of the reasons that a bulletin board is so useful. However, it is important to remember that visual cues, like the ones on a bulletin board, are only effective if they can be seen.
In the world of bulletin boards, I find both of these perspectives often apply. Bulletin boards are one of those spaces to which we frequently add and from which we seldom subtract. As is true for all places in our homes, this equation will ultimately result in an undesirable and dysfunctional system.
For instance, look at the rendering below of an average bulletin board.
What you might quickly notice is that the various items on the board are crowded, overlapping, and hanging crookedly. This is the way most bulletin boards look, and the “feel” of a board like this is one of chaos and confusion. If the goal of a bulletin board is to be a space where you can look up and find inspiration, refreshment, and/or information, this arrangement is falling short.
Let’s look a little closer. Notice in the next image that only the six pieces in red can actually be fully seen, and therefore accessed.
In contrast, the six pieces in green are obscured to the point that they can hardly be seen at all. As a result, having these items hanging on the bulletin board is worthless.
Lastly, the remaining pieces, which appear in purple in this fourth image, are only partially visible. We may be able to dig them out enough to read them, but this will require that we stand up and lift or move some pieces out of the way. Not only is this a hassle, but it may also cause us to dislodge other pieces in the process and cause a bit of an avalanche. When we have to exert effort to access what we need, the system is cumbersome and ineffective.
The best approach to organizing a bulletin board is to regularly circulate materials on and off. This doesn’t have to be something you do every day or even every week. Organizing your bulletin board once a quarter or when the seasons change is a good rule of thumb.
The “how to” for this project is pretty straight forward. First, take everything off of the bulletin board. When I say everything, I mean each and every last thing, including the pushpins that you can corral in a container. The goal is to be looking at this.
As you remove the items, pile them into categories. For example, you may have a pile of photographs, schedules, reminders, children’s artwork, phone numbers, codes, instructions, etc.
Now look through each pile and remove anything you no longer want to be hanging on your board. There are a number of reasons why an item doesn’t warrant being rehung. Maybe the information is out of date, or perhaps it has just been hanging there so long that it no longer inspires the emotional response that it once did. Pieces may also be faded, ripped, or otherwise damaged.
If you happen to have passwords on your bulletin board, I suggest you store them elsewhere, in a less public and more secure location, such as a locked drawer or a digital password manager.
Now it is time to reload. When hanging items on a bulletin board, follow these four guidelines:
#1. Hang pieces by the top TWO corners.
Unless the piece is very rigid or small, hanging it by only one thumbtack will result in the paper hanging crookedly and potentially curling in on the edges, both unattractive.
#2. If possible, use either clear plastic or monochromatic pins.
You want the content of the displayed pieces to be what stands out, not the pins themselves.
#3. Leave “breathing space” between pieces.
You want to be able to see the cork (or other background surface) between the pieces.
#4. Keep items within the bulletin board’s frame.
Don’t hang anything in such a way that it appears to “leave the picture” and migrate outside of the board and onto the wall.
These principles may sound silly, but they really do help you craft a space that is both functional and visually appealing. When you are finished, you should have a result that looks something like this:
Now you might be thinking, “If I make my bulletin board look like this, I won’t be able to fit everything I need there.” My first reaction is to suggest that you give it a try. You may discover you need less than you thought.
However, if you sort all the materials and they simply will not fit, I recommend that you establish other locations for some of the items. For example, less attractive pieces can be taped to the inside of a cabinet door where they are still accessible but less visible. Or, you might decide to photograph some of the more “data” oriented pieces and keep the photographic record in a folder or on your phone. You might want to go so far as to hang a second display board in a nearby location.
Just remember that layering the information makes it hard to find, and therefore is not a good approach. Aim to be able to easily view whatever it is you decide to hang up.
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Do you have a bulletin board? How would you describe it?