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Thread: Marla Dee S.T.A.C.K.S. Organizing-Decluttering Method

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    Marla Dee S.T.A.C.K.S. Organizing-Decluttering Method

    Over the years I've read about a lot of organizing and decluttering methods and used several of them. The best method I've found for organizing and decluttering your physical possessions is the "Clear And Simple" method by Marla Dee, and in particular her S.T.A.C.K.S method.

    Text: https://clearsimple.com/stacks/
    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfBF5n5kTQA

    STACKS stands for:
    • SORT -- Just quickly sort into categories. DO NOT make any keep/toss decisions during this step except for obvious garbage.
    • TOSS -- Go through each category one at a time and make keep/toss decisions. This is usually the hardest and most emotional part of the process, so doing it as a separate category-by-category process lets you concentrate on the specific type of items you're looking at and switch to a different category or take a long break if you're getting bogged down because of decision overload or emotion.
    • ASSIGN A HOME -- After each category or sub-category has been weeded out to just what you're going to keep, decide where in your house you should keep it. Don't try to make this decision during the SORT or TOSS steps. Making keep/toss decisions is emotional enough without adding extra complexity to them by trying to decide where to store something or who to give it to at the same time.
    • CONTAINERIZE -- Now, and only now, it is time to think about what containers, baskets, dividers, etc your have or could buy, because you can't really make an intelligent decision about what containers you need until you know for certain what objects you're going to keep and what cabinets, drawers, or shelves you're going to store them in.
    • KEEP IT UP -- After your house is completely organized and decluttered, keep it that way by doing a mini-STACKS process on a regular schedule to put everything back in it's place and deal with any newly acquired possessions.
    • SIMPLIFY -- With your stacks process firmly established, continue keeping an eye out for ways you could simplify or improve your life.

    Some of my specific notes:

    Like Marie Kondo, Marla deals with one category of stuff at a time, but instead of rummaging through everything in your house looking for things in that category, Marla sets up a bunch of boxes, puts a category label on each one, and then just goes through a specific area or room sorting each thing she picks up into it's category as she goes, then she moves on to another area. To me that makes a lot more sense than hunting through your whole house looking items in a specific category.

    Second, I've often read that you should look at each item once, make a decision, put it where it belongs, and move on. IOW never touch anything more than once. But the fallacy of that is you won't really know how many mugs or dishes or whatever you have until you get them all together in one box, and you likewise won't know which ones you like best until you see them all side by side. So if you think you have too much of some particular thing, there's really no way you can make an informed choice about how many to get rid of or which ones to get rid of until you see them all together side by side. Therefore making keep/toss decisions as you go isn't practical. That's why both Marie Kondo and Marla Dee advocate gathering everything into categories and even sub categories before you start making keep/toss decisions. And Marla Dee's box method is better than Marie Kondo's toss it all on the bed method imo for several reasons.

    Marla likes to use banker boxes because they can be set up without tape (which makes it easy to re-flatten them for storage) and they have separate lids (which means you don't have to reach over the upright flaps to put stuff in them). I prefer sturdy moving boxes of banker box size because they are usually sturdier and sometimes cheaper. Moving boxes also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, which makes a difference if you're sorting bulky stuff. And taping boxes to use them, then cutting to tape to flatten them for storage doesn't bother me at all.

    One of the reasons Marla likes to use boxes instead of sorting things into piles is that you can neatly stack the boxes against a wall and come back to your STACKS project hours or even days later confident that everything will still be right where you left it and the labeled boxes will keep you from forgetting what category is in each box. There's a lot of truth in that. One of the problems I've run into repeatedly while deluttering is taking a break for a couple of days and when I come back I've forgotten where I left off and what the difference was between similar piles of sorted stuff.

    Another advantage of sorting into boxes instead of piles is you can easily pick up the box and move it to wherever that category belongs. It's hard to do that with a loose pile of stuff.

    Any comments, corrections, or questions about this subject are welcome. For the next 100 days I'll be applying this process to my entire (cluttered, overloaded) house in preparation for moving to a smaller house 1400 miles away.

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    Senior Member beckyliz's Avatar
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    Well, shoot - just had a nice reply typed out and deleted it by mistake. 2nd try:

    This method sounds similar to the one I used with my clients when I had a side-hustle as a professional organizer. I like Julie Morgenstern's Organizing From the Inside Out book. She used SPACE acronym: Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize and Equalize (continued maintenance).

    I agree that the "touch it once" theory isn't very doable. I try to move things along to their final destination every time I touch it, though. For example, when my husband brings the mail in, he brings it upstairs to our kitchen island. I sort it there - toss the junk onto the kitchen counter where we corral recyclables (DH will take them down to the recycling container in the garage about once or twice a day). The bills and stuff to be shredded goes into a basket at the top of the stairs. I'll take them down to my office area. Bills go in the bill-pay bag and shred goes onto a large tote bag. When its full, I'll take to work with me and shred it in the mega shredder we have there.

    The best system is the one that works for you. Sounds like you've found one that makes sense and is doable. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
    "Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart is also." Jesus

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    Quote Originally Posted by beckyliz View Post
    This method sounds similar to the one I used with my clients when I had a side-hustle as a professional organizer. I like Julie Morgenstern's Organizing From the Inside Out book. She used SPACE acronym: Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize and Equalize (continued maintenance).
    Like most subjects, organizing and decluttering involve certain things that need to be done as part of the process. Every expert puts their own spin on how to arrange and perform those actions and disagrees in various ways with the other experts. But really there are probably just three or four ways of organizing and decluttering, and everything written about the subject is just a variation, combination, or interpretation of those archetypal methods.

    Quote Originally Posted by beckyliz View Post
    I agree that the "touch it once" theory isn't very doable. I try to move things along to their final destination every time I touch it, though. For example, when my husband brings the mail in, he brings it upstairs to our kitchen island....
    I'm a fan of S.T.A.C.K.S. for physical organizing, but my workflow organizing system is Getting Things Done by David Allen. I use it for all my incoming mail, everything I do online and on my computer, and all of my To-Do List stuff. Different horses for different courses.

    Like your system, GTD sends everything through a flowchart with the aim of moving each thing one step closer to its final destination every time you touch it. In a sense S.T.A.C.K.S. does that too, but I see GTD as being about efficiently processing all the stuff in your life on a realtime basis as it arrives, whereas S.T.A.C.K.S is more for looking at the mess you've already created and straightening it out in the most efficient way. (Of course both authors would probably disagree with what I just said.)

    Lifehacker article by someone who's been doing GTD for ten years:https://lifehacker.com/getting-thing...-in-1795707084

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeParker View Post
    Marla likes to use banker boxes because they can be set up without tape (which makes it easy to re-flatten them for storage) and they have separate lids (which means you don't have to reach over the upright flaps to put stuff in them). I prefer sturdy moving boxes of banker box size because they are usually sturdier and sometimes cheaper. Moving boxes also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, which makes a difference if you're sorting bulky stuff. And taping boxes to use them, then cutting to tape to flatten them for storage doesn't bother me at all.

    One of the reasons Marla likes to use boxes instead of sorting things into piles is that you can neatly stack the boxes against a wall and come back to your STACKS project hours or even days later confident that everything will still be right where you left it and the labeled boxes will keep you from forgetting what category is in each box. There's a lot of truth in that. One of the problems I've run into repeatedly while deluttering is taking a break for a couple of days and when I come back I've forgotten where I left off and what the difference was between similar piles of sorted stuff.

    Another advantage of sorting into boxes instead of piles is you can easily pick up the box and move it to wherever that category belongs. It's hard to do that with a loose pile of stuff.

    Any comments, corrections, or questions about this subject are welcome. For the next 100 days I'll be applying this process to my entire (cluttered, overloaded) house in preparation for moving to a smaller house 1400 miles away.
    I LOVE banker's boxes, for the reason she states, but also because they're a great size, and you can label them and the lid allows you to access the inside easily. And I do like the stackability. And they're not plastic. I used quite a few in my Purge.

    As far as GTD, I read the article you posted and I understand how some really find it useful, and as I mentioned, I read it and tried it. But I truly think I don't have the mental faculties for it. I overanalyze something fierce, so if I have to scan a list of 100 things to do to decide what one thing I should do at that moment my head would explode. I use a bullet journal, and I schedule work/time blocks and in the "to do" section of my page, I list no more than 3 things to accomplish that day. If I don't finish the 3 things on one day, I carry over to the next day unto it's done and and I add new items the next day to sum to 3 items per day.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    As far as GTD...
    Different systems work for different people. That's why there are so many people who swear their favorite system is the best, and so many other people who swear that particular system is terrible.

    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    I overanalyze something fierce, so if I have to scan a list of 100 things to do to decide what one thing I should do at that moment my head would explode.
    I've never understood why so many people think a GTD Next Action list would have 100 things on it. Nor do I understand the common complaint that GTD is too complicated because you have to keep track of too many lists. I read those two things all the time, and both baffle me.

    The whole point of GTD is to make a list of all the things you need or want to do, listing only the very next physical action you need to take to move each thing forward, and divide that huge list into smaller lists based on where the next action has to happen or what the limiting factor is. It's the same principle as keeping a shopping list on your refrigerator door.

    For example, things you need to talk to George about can only be done while you're talking to George, and phone calls you need to make can only be done when you have a phone and enough time to make some calls, and running errands can only be done while you're running errands. It just makes good sense to group things that are similar together on a separate list that will let you see at a glance all of the phone calls (or whatever) you need to make. A proper GTD Next Action list should never have more 20-30 things on it, and usually less than 15. If a list is longer than that it needs to be broken down into smaller lists, like making a Grocery List and an Other Errands list.

    There's also the idea of looking at each Next Action list once a day and putting a red dot next to the things you most want to get done soon. That way when you look at a list of 25 phone calls, you'll see instantly which 3 or 4 are most important to you, but you'll also have the other calls handy if you've got time to make them.

    But what works for me doesn't work for everyone. Before I retired, the nature of my job was simply doing what needed to be done ASAP as it turned up, and my to-do list of things I needed to do whenever time was available had 10 things on it at most. So at work GTD was totally useless, but it was very helpful in my personal life. My mother OTOH was perfectly fine with just a running Stuff To Do list of 20 or so items that included both work and personal items.

    BTW: What you're doing is probably similar to this simplified GTD system: https://lifehacker.com/practicing-simplified-gtd-335269 Which works splendidly for a lot of people, and which I've used myself sometimes.

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