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5 Reasons You Pile Things and How You Can Stop

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Excavating Piles

A while back I excavated one of my (many) piles to get a sense of exactly what ends up in my piles and why I was making piles. From a single pile that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for several months, there were approximately 70 (!) items:

  • sticky notes
  • magazines
  • paint chips for a project
  • mail
  • old math manipulatives
  • a spare button packet
  • receipts
  • recipes
  • file folders
  • notes
  • and (strangely) old lenses from my glasses

I actually listed out each item as I went through the pile followed by any action I took, such as “toss” and “put away.”

I have sorted through this same pile several times. Really, this is several older piles that have been combined over time, and I have at least 2 other piles in my room that are similar in nature.

Recently I “upgraded” my piles by putting them into a box. Seriously! I somehow thought this was an improvement! At least the piles don’t fall over when they are in a box.

So, what did I discover in the midst of my archeological dig?

Here are five reasons something ends up in a pile:

  1. It doesn’t actually have a home
  • reference materials that don’t have a file or notebook to live in
  • things that once had a purpose, but now it is unclear if it is still does
  • little doo-dads you find around the house (screws, unidentified pieces)
  • new things that have come into the house (mail, supplies)
  1. Something needs to be done, but not urgently
  • fix something (button to sew on)
  • finish a project (fill out a form)
  • enter information into a reference system (address/phone)
  • read it (magazines, books)
  • try it (recipe)
  1. I put it down instead of away
  • trash (argh!)
  • papers to file
  • office/craft supplies
  1. I’m undecided about it (honestly, this was a large percentage of my pile)
  • projects I think I want to do, but I’m not sure when
  • stuff I’m saving just in case (receipts)
  • things that are sentimental and tough to toss (cards, photos)
  • things I put down because I just didn’t want to make a decision right then (*ahem*)
  1. I was in a hurry to clean up or clear something off (who, me?)
  • cleaned stuff off the bed so I could go to sleep
  • tried to consolidate 2 (or more) piles
  • tidied up because someone was coming over
  • went on a cleanup spree, got overwhelmed, dumped everything in the pile

All that stuff just sits in The Pile of Indecision and Procrastination!

When I face a pile like this, I quickly become anxious and overwhelmed. Part of this is because there are so many things that just need to be done.

Most of them would take no more than two minutes to do, but the cumulative effect of having so many items to do makes me think it will take too long. Plus, there is no urgency to do these things.

The other part is facing numerous decisions. The hardest thing for me is making decisions about ambiguous things. And the fact that to-do items are mixed together with decision item makes them even more ambiguous and harder to figure out!

So, what do we do? Read on in How to Demolish the Pile

5 reasons you pile things

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