I always know where anything is in my house because I keep it all in one heap. The “Heap Method,” as I call it, is quite sophisticated yet simple enough so that anyone can learn it.
With the Heap Method, you always know that what you are looking for is in the Heap, the question is how far down from the top. The heap is arranged chronologically, so if you are looking for, say, your glasses, you need only ask yourself, “When was the last time I could see?” and then measure down from the top of the heap the appropriate time period, and badda-bing, badda-bang, baddo-boom, there they are.
One obvious advantage of the Heap method is that the bottom of the pile is composed of things you haven’t even thought about for decades–stuff you don’t even recognize, like mystery phone numbers on slips of paper with no indication whose they are–so you are free to toss all this clutter out with no feelings of guilt or anxiety. That, anyway, is the theory. In practice, there is the danger of imagining that any one of those items–long overdue bills, undeposited checks, IRS warnings, lost pets, and mates to socks which now have holes in them, which was paired with another sock resembling it years back–are still important, and perhaps now should be transferred to the urgent heap.
Did I mention there is more than one heap? No? Well, there are. From the floor to the ceiling is a finite amount of space, so heaps can go only so high when kept in a single pile. Therefore, a second heap must be started. The new heap does not necessarily, or even logically, need to be placed adjacent to the first heap. There may be some other object occupying that part of the floor, such as a lamp, a telephone, your current pet (or spouse or child). One of the many beauties of the Heap Method is the heap can be continued anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be in the same room. It could be in another building, though I’ve discovered that the homes of friends and relatives make poor places to keep your heap, since they often move the piles making finding anything that much more difficult.
If you are just starting a heap of your own, start small. Find a surface near the entrance to your home–for me the washer/dryer is right inside my door–and start your heap there. Once you reach the ceiling, you can move onto the floor, or some other flat surface to become your newest dumping station. Heaping in this way has the added advantage for me of never having to do any laundry, since the lid of the washer is pinned down by a healthy stack of unopened mail, various keys, nonperishable groceries, and I suspect a pair of glasses. The time saving convenience of the Heap Method would be worthless if I had to move the heap to do a wash, and so I save even more time by taking my laundry to the wash and fold. Here’s a helpful hint: take laundry to the wash and fold, but never pick it back up. Wait until you run out of clothes. then you can go to the laundry and get everything at once, and it will be nicely folded, and you can start a clothing heap.
Yes, heaps can be done by category. It’s an advanced technique, but one I use frequently. I like to heap things pretty much wherever the mood strikes me. One great surface is the top of the refrigerator, though I’ve found it’s best for long storage. You really don’t see up there much, so the stuff you put there is safe for a good long time. Then, every few years, or, more likely, once a millennium, whenever you do your dusting, you’ll clear off the top of your refrigerator and you’ll feel like a pirate finally locating his or her buried treasure. “There’s my wallet and license,” I’ll say, “now I can go for a drive! Hmmmm, now when was the last time I drove the car?”
If there is any flaw with the Heap Method, and I’m not saying there is, it is that eventually your entire dwelling becomes crammed full of the crap that sifts into your life. At that point the heap becomes so unmanageable that just making breakfast takes two weeks, and so you must always eat out (see, that’s not such a bad thing). But eventually you will want to use your own bathroom, and then you’ll know it’s time to move to the next phase of the Heap Method: shopping for a new home.