How to organize.

My daughter recently organized her library, not by any of the more common methods of organizing books—genre, audience, age, author last name, — but by color of the cover. I must say, this startled me. It upset my Dewey-decimal apple cart. But look how lovely it is!

I have always focused on organization, both as a lawyer and, now, as an author. It is so vital to figure out your system for how something is to be done. How to organize the information in the most compelling way. Generally, for instance, an appellate brief is organized chronologically, but often that isn’t the most persuasive way. Some testimony needs to be highlighted, some evidence footnoted. And so on. The organization of the brief is a hidden layer adding content. The same is true for stories, sometimes jumbling the timeline or telling things from multiple points of view adds layers and juxtapositions you simply couldn’t get in any other way.

Or, for that matter, consider organizing socks. As a little girl I tried out organizing my socks from white to black with all the colors in the middle in a lovely spectrum (she is my daughter!) but then realized that wasn’t as efficient as organizing them for their intended use—play, school, dress, etc. I’ve had similar questions in my closet. What goes with what? How should things be ordered? Currently my blouses and tops are organized from sleeveless to long-sleeved. But color would certainly be fun, or seasons, or play to formal. The possibilities are endless. But this brings me somewhat round about to my point.

Everything is organized, and we need to pay attention to how.

Consider a grocery store with the popular items at eye level and the tempting items at check out. Or the casino, windowless and clockless to encourage extended gambling. Or a library? What goes in fiction/non-fiction? Is that line ever blurry? Or the church: how would you organize a church? Where should the focus be? How, or do, you make it welcoming? Or a city? Is there a right and wrong side of the tracks? Why?

These kind of questions keep us sharp and open, more able to see when systems aren’t working or when the organization of a thing is manipulating us. And taking things and jumbling up the order, like sorting books by color rather than content, let’s us see with fresh eyes and catch new and interesting juxtapositions, and challenge the very systems we use for categorizing what’s in or out.

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