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An Analysis of 5 Methods of Organization

1. piles

Piles usually create a soft, round shape even if the objects being piled are sharp. Round shapes seem to make people happy and I think it is because breasts are round and most people are at least OK with breasts, if not really excited about them. The thing about piles is that they are never a long-term solution. They are just a small step towards figuring out what you will do with your items OR a tidy way to ignore the fact that these things actually need to go somewhere specific.

I feel like a pile almost all of the time unless someone reminds me of my legs or I put on a tight belt. All young people feel like piles sometimes and maybe some older people do too. To feel like a pile feels like you have a lot of excess and you’re not sure where it should go or if it even deserves to go somewhere at all.

If you go to the back of a big parking lot in the winter you will probably see a huge pile of snow. Parking lot snow piles are always the last parts of winter to melt away. They can sometimes stick around until the beginning of April, reminding people of the time when we had to move all our snow to this one spot in order to keep things running as they should.

Deciding where to make a pile is a really personal decision. It needs to be out of the way enough so that it can be periodically ignored, but accessible enough so as to be a constant reminder that you could be better. If you were to go to someone’s house and examine all the little piles they make on a day-to-day basis, you could probably learn a lot about how they navigate their space. It would also be quite a privilege to see someone else’s piles since we usually don’t get to see other people’s in-betweens or where they drop things that they don’t feel like carrying anymore.

Having too many piles is often a sign of laziness, whereas having one really big pile makes you look ambitious, or like you are about to be ambitious. It is the difference between a field with small hills that you could run on and one big mountain that you could only climb if you did some training.

I sometimes wonder what it would look like to put everything in my room or my kitchen in one big pile. Most places that humans have built were made with a specific order in mind and that order almost never includes piles, except maybe construction sites. In that sense, a pile is a small rebellion. Making piles is a rejection of methods of organizing that work towards communal order in favour of roundness, softness, and an acceptance of the chaotic in between.

2. colour coding

Colour is always hiding something. It never comes out and just says how it feels so you always have to try and figure it out for yourself. If you walk through the aisles in an office supply store looking for colours, you’ll notice that so many of the products come in rainbows. Anything that comes in a pack usually comes in some sort of fully saturated array that ranges from red or pink on one end to purple or blue on the other.

I think that in a capitalist society we should always be associating a rainbow colour scheme with the office. The sky is no longer the rainbow’s default home. Instead lets imagine a big grey-ish room with fifty cubicles, 3 windows, a faint coffee smell, the clicking of keyboard keys and little bursts of colour shining through the cracks in each upholstered cubicle wall. Brightly coloured folders and post-it notes are a sign of peace or salvation that indicate we can be very fun sometimes, within reason.

Colour is always hiding something, which consequently makes it a good hiding place. I’ve always used colours to hide because it is very easy to distract people with bright colours. Everyone who can see colour has an extensive list of memories or feelings associated with every hue or scheme and I think that takes a lot of pressure off the coloured object to function well. I’m not sure if we could ever really see a thing for what it is without first analyzing its colour. Colours are containers in a way, holding a thing in so it doesn’t spill everywhere and reveal what’s inside.

Colour coding is a way to hide information. When I was little, the best part about going to the doctor was getting to see the big wall of patient files behind the front desk. The files were all blue or off-white and the tabs had big black and white initials and three coloured squares outlined in black. It seemed that everyone’s file had different coloured squares. Anytime I go to a doctor I look for the big file wall to see what colours and symbols they use to stash away patient information, although nowadays they are hard to come by because everything has been put into a computer. The first time I ever used colour to hide was at the doctor when I became an off-white folder with orange, purple and light green squares.

3. vessels

If you look around a room and take note of how many vessels are in that room, it will probably be a pretty high number. As a species, we love to separate things and put them inside of other things, and then label those things with the names of the things inside. This is one of the most basic levels of organization and can be combined with all other types of organization such as colour coding, shelving and even piles if you consider the things inside the vessel to be a kind of contained pile.

A lot of vessels come pre-filled, which makes them time telling devices, although not very reliable ones. It seems that a tube of toothpaste is about four months, so if you told someone, “I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a whole toothpaste tube” you’d be giving them a real compliment. It would be less of a compliment to say, “I haven’t stopped thinking about you for an almond milk carton” because that would only be about a week. This is not a practical way to convey time nor does it feel very good to look at all your vessels as countdown clocks.

Sometimes when a vessel becomes empty you get a little nostalgic for the time when you first started to take stuff out of it. You realize just how long it’s been and how fast the time goes and you wonder about what happened between now and when you first peeled the protective plastic off this tub of paint.

Although some vessels never get filled, most vessels have a life cycle that, in its most basic iteration, looks like this:

Empty → Full → Less Full → Empty Forever
(dish soap)

A more complex iteration could look like this:

Empty → Full → Less Full → Empty → Full → Less Full → Empty Forever
(A glass jar of store bought tomato sauce that is reused once.)

or like this:

Empty→ full → empty → full → empty → full → empty→ full and so on forever
(a vase for flowers or a bathtub)

Most complex:

Empty→ Full → Less Full → Less Full → Less Full → Forever only a little bit full
(A well-made coffin.)

4. shelves

Shelves are the one form of organization traditionally not used for hiding. Shelves are for displaying things, for emphasizing objects, even if the shelves are behind closed doors.

Shelves are highly contradictory. On the one hand, we put things on shelves when we want to access them easily. On the other hand, shelves can be used to make things seem inaccessible if they are only used to show the importance of a thing and not what it can do in your hands. In both instances, shelves create emphasis and that means all shelves are small art installations and should be arranged with an appropriate level of consideration and care.

They serve a very pragmatic and easy to understand purpose while being a cost effective solution to many organizational problems. As such, shelves can also be a sight of neglect if we only see them for their simplicity.

It is in my nature to want to complicate simple things so I sometimes find myself considering what it would be like to put something very complicated on a shelf. I hypothesize that it would simplify the complicated thing and complicate the shelf.

For example, if you are feeling particularly disappointed in yourself, you could imagine that your disappointment looks like a big hairball. Take that hairball and put a bow on it so it looks presentable and then put it on a shelf.

The shelf then becomes a home for your hairball, which makes it an integral part of displaying your feelings. This allows the shelf to transcend its original function since shelves weren’t made to house your self-loathing.

Once your disappointment is bundled up and put on a shelf it becomes decorative. You can walk by it and say, “hey! I am feeling very bad about myself!” and then keep walking. The result is that the simplicity of the shelf and the complexity of your feelings neutralize one another. They become a single object, a maudlin representation if how you really feel.

This is not a productive use for shelves or a productive way to deal with feelings, however I like the way things look on shelves. It is also a good way to acknowledge that you have feelings about a certain thing without really thinking about those feelings at all.

Shelves are good for showing without telling.

5. lists

1. All lists are poems because they look like poems and poetry is nothing if not the keeping up of appearances.
2. If someone ever tells you that they don’t like poetry you should tell them they are wrong because they surely like lists.
3. If someone ever tells you that they don’t like lists, they are lying because lists are the most universally likable things in the world.
4. Lists are a way to compose thoughts in an orderly manner. They are easy to follow and have an obvious progression.
5. They are very similar to shelves in that way, because you can complicate a list with your feelings and simplify your feelings with the rational structure of a list.
6. Lists also have a certain authority. They are often written in an imperative mood and generally have a no nonsense attitude.
7. This leads me to my favourite way to use lists- to “organize” nonsense.
8. Lists are a great vehicle for absurdity.
9. There is a parasite that eats a fish’s tongue and then becomes its tongue. This might be a type of entropy but I am always forgetting the definition of entropy so maybe it is something else.
10. Lists are great way to avoid entering into an entropic state because they keep things separated.
11. The other cool thing about lists is that not only are they poetry, they are also collections.
12. Collections of things to do, of stuff to get, of stuff to get rid of, of emails to send etc.
13. Everyone who makes a list is a poet and a collector and both of those undertakings are very noble wastes of time.

If something does not make the list then it doesn’t matter.



I had been thinking about how art is organizing for months before I realized it is mostly just naming. Naming is a way to separate things so they each have there own little identity.
I don’t mean to be actively diminutive when I say little but if you’re going to name something then you are asserting power over that thing and so it is smaller than you, in some way.

I remember learning binary nomenclature in science class and thinking that it is much too musical a word to be a unit in science class. Binary nomenclature. This might be the most beautiful combination of words in the world. I love the idea of two things coming together to make something new when it doesn’t have to do with human love and babies. It is so amazing that two things coming together to create something new can even exist outside of human love and babies because of how all encompassing those two things can be. But binary nomenclature exists and it just means to name something in two parts. It makes me wish I didn’t have a middle name or I had a pet that I could give two names.

I learned what binary nomenclature was in tenth grade, which is the last time I ever took a science class. I would later come to learn that all the fanciest words are science words and if I ever want to relish in the feeling of them on my tongue or see what they look like coming out of my mouth I better keep learning science.

I will probably never teach a high school science class but if I did, I would start by saying, “some of you might hate science and that is ok but if you like words and you like the taste of how things sound then pay attention because all the best sounding stuff is about to happen in this class. Say ribosome a bunch of times and see how you feel. It’s a good feeling, at least for me.”

Naming things also means you understand the thing enough to make it simple and concise except when you’re naming a baby. When you name a baby you make it more complicated because you’ve added to its identity as a future autonomous being. You’ve made it a little more separate from you. When you name things that aren’t your baby you bring them closer to you and secure their futures as never again being something that is separate from you. This is an act of simplification.