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3 Crazy Cheap Organizing Tools

Do you know why smart people have a marker in the bathroom?

To save time, silly! Why else? (No, drawing on the walls is not recommended. There are better products for that.)

I know there are more important things to think about and higher ideals to promote, but sometimes it’s the little things that have the most significant impact. Making daily products work better allows room for the bigger life stuff. So, after decades of organizing folks to get through their days more gracefully, I can proudly say, “I’m a big fan of Sharpie® markers.”

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds, and it actually does tie into bigger social issues.

This bottle’s design is enticing, the font evokes feelings of a traditionally reliable product that promises clean hair. Unlike many containers, the contents and purpose are easily identified. In my shower most of the product labels seem to be designed by people who aren’t nearsighted or aging, and or assume the general public has fighter pilot vision.

This, my friends, is precisely why you need a Sharpie® in the bathroom!

More than once, I’ve failed to wash my hair by trying to lather up with conditioner because I grabbed the wrong bottle. The small, elegant font that identified the shampoo bottle was indistinguishable from the conditioner container. Marker in hand, I destroyed the original aesthetic by scrawling a big C and S on the respective bottles. Late no more.

There are a gazillion products touting how organized and productive you’ll be if you use them, but markers have them beat for return on investment value.

I bet your sleekly designed TV remote fits in your hand comfortably. But if it’s like mine, it has black buttons against the black housing. It looks well designed but is aggravating to use, especially in a darkened room.

Use a metallic silver Sharpie® to write bolder instructions on the device. Or black if your remote is white.

This next simple yet time and money-saving tip comes from the classes I teach about controlling paperwork effectively. It doesn’t matter which brand you use, but never open your mail without a highlighter in your hand. People are delighted when I hand them out when we meet in person. Everyone enjoys a present, but more importantly, they see immediate results.

They’re not only inexpensive, they save time and late fees when you highlight the amount and due date the first time you look at the page.

Why the first time? Because each time we have to reorient ourselves to the visual design of a product or a form, we waste brainpower. By highlighting critical information immediately, your eye will automatically go to the colored text first the next time you see the page.

Big results start with small actions.

And finally, even though you thought you were only going to learn why smart people keep markers in the bathroom, I’m offering a third professional tip: buy a labeler. Label everything, except the dog, who should already be labeled on the collar with your name and number.

My first Brother labeler, which I bought in 1998, lasted reliably through over 20 years of regular use. It was about $100 at the time and worth every penny. The replacement version is now under $30, making it an extraordinary bargain in comparison.

This brand produces adhesive-backed vinyl labels in a myriad of colors and fonts, including a security version that thwarts theft because it leaves a telltale residue when removed.

When my kids were younger, my bike was labeled Mom’s-touch and die.

(No letters, please. They knew I was mostly kidding.)

When family feigned ignorance about where to put away groceries, I pointed to the bright yellow, inescapably clear labels cereal, beans, pasta on the larder shelving.

Homes with groups of multiple light switches in one area are easier to navigate with labels like overheads, sconces, or bookshelf spotlights. Labeled doors and drawers are more usable for OOSOOM folks, making spaces much less cluttered. (Out Of Sight Out Of Mind)

I’ll leave you with one final thought. As I wrote at the beginning, there are probably important things to think about and higher ideals to promote, and here it is.

Why is the hair care bottle so frustrating?

It's not so much that I was inconvenienced. It's because the the designers didn't try to help me, the user. That's why I feel ever-so-slightly slightly empowered when I see my big S and C: I've back taken control of my shower, my day.

User needs weren't fully considered. (Yes, that thought applies to far more than shampoo.)

For example, there are only a few manufacturers that put Braille on a package! Yet, there are over 30 million Americans who have different degrees of visual impairment, even with contacts or glasses, and that doesn’t factor in presbyopia (eye muscles stiffening from age). No amount of dollar store reading glasses will help in the shower.

So, next time you struggle with a product or finding a due date on a bill, don't assume it is your fault. The design was not structured for success, as a wise client used to say. Find a better product or add a fix that works for you.

What small change in product or routine made a larger impact than you initially thought?

What product change would make all the difference in easing your life?

Like a good marker, it highlights exactly where to focus your thoughts, time and efforts.


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