Note: This is a guest post by Art Gould, a division manager with Self Storage Company, details below…

I’ve never been much of a neat freak. This is the standard line I used to give people who would walk into my office for the first time and find it hard to disguise a look on their face that could be described as a mixed proportion of shock, amusement, and disgust. I’ve found that understatement is always a cool way of stating the obvious with all the rough edges smoothed over. My friends and co-workers have forever been telling me how much more I could get done if I only took some time to straighten out my clutter and at least try to create an appearance of organization in my life. So a few weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and do something about it.

Being the type of person who tends to commit totally to things, I decided to leave no stone unturned in my mission to self-organize. I read books about it. I watched DVDs. I invested in new file cabinets, new folders, and new software. For the first time in years, I cleaned my desk completely. As I peeled layer upon layer of paperwork off my desktop, I began to flush out items buried deep within the rubble; items that I had long ago given up for lost. Receptacles became my best friends. I filed everything that needed filing, catalogued everything that needed cataloguing, sorted everything that needed sorting, and arranged everything that needed arranging.

By the time I was done, I looked around and admired my new surroundings with a feeling of utter satisfaction and a deep sense of accomplishment. My new office and my new organized self were now realities. But very soon thereafter the realization hit me that I was now a week behind in everything I was supposed to have been doing. I had become so consumed with my organizing crusade that I had not spoken to anyone in over a week. My list of calls to return was very neat, very organized, and also very long! My projects were all neatly stacked in their own bins and folders but I had not been working on any of them. People who stopped by and complimented me on my nice clean desk also complemented me on being all caught up with my work. I gave them a weak smile and didn’t dare tell them how wrong they were. I wound up spending that weekend, plus a few days thereafter, working long dogged hours, trying to make up for time lost while I was on my organizing binge.

After I finally got caught up, I began to sense a new problem. My new desk was beginning to take on the characteristics of a shrine. I dared not do anything that might alter the pristine image that had made such a profound impression on me once I had finally cleaned it. My obsession with keeping it immaculate soon became an additional task added to my already long list of tasks. Except unlike the other ones, this project didn’t have a neat shelf life to it. I could never say that it was finished or completed, or that it was time to move on to the next one. Instead, it became the 800-pound gorilla in the room; always there, lurking in the background, even when I tried to ignore it.

I started thinking: is there such a thing as being too organized? Is it possible that maybe a tiny bit of chaos, mixed in with all the neatness and efficiency, might actually be a good thing? So I made a decision to politely usher the gorilla out of the room and get back to being my old productive self. I didn’t let it bother me at all if my desk became something other than sterile. I even let it get to the point where it could accurately be described as slightly (but no longer overly!) messy. Don’t get me wrong, I am no longer the slob I once was. I recognize the value of structure and embrace the concept of a streamlined approach yielding benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency. I also realized that striking the right balance is the key! Now I am organized but no longer obsessed with it. I allow a little chaos into my environment but I try to maintain it.

In case you are wondering if you have hit the point where your organization is offering diminishing marginal returns, here are a few indicators to keep watch for!


  1. When you buy so many storage bins to store and compartmentalize your items that you no longer have enough space for the bins in your office.
  2. When most of the folders in your file cabinet have only one sheet of paper in them.
  3. When you spend 45 minutes trying to decide whether to file an article about Madden 2010 in the sports folder or the software folder.
  4. When you start spending an inordinate amount of time neatly sorting and filing your junk mail.
  5. When you spend so much time and energy mapping out the next leg of your vacation that you completely miss out on what is going on around you during the current part of it.
  6. When you ask your friends to wait a few minutes before going out to eat because you just noticed that some of the books on your bookshelf are out of alphabetical order.
  7. When you file everything logically and neatly—-and then find you are no longer able to locate anything you need.
  8. When you spend more time making lists of what to do than doing what is on them.

Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a Texas self storage locator. He travels a lot for business related to centers from Texas to the Illinois self storage site. As a result, Art has a strong interest in productivity, organization, working on the road, balancing work and home life, and reducing stress.

Prev: Book Review: Leadershift
Next: 10 Blog Etiquette Tips for Blog Owners