If there is one truth I have learned in my short time in this world, is that there are filers and there are pilers. Most people are very squarely one or the other.

For instance, I am a filer. I like to keep things in nice sensibly organized containers. I like to take disparate objects and group them into a semblance of order. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Few things make me more content than creating order where formerly chaos ruled. Ask me where anything is and I can likely point you to it easily (“User guide for the TV? Look in the green file cabinet in the blue folder marked Manuals. Oh, it will be towards the back of that folder because the items in there are alphabetical”). When I work, I love to have what I am working on on the desk and nothing else. It allows me to focus and not be distracted by other things.

My wife is the exact opposite of me. She loves piles. Especially, when she is working on a project she likes to have all of her work strewn about. To see it all at once gives her comfort and purpose. I am sure that if I asked her right this moment if there was any order to these piles she would hem and haw and claim that there was, yet I would be able to find in mere seconds a half dozen examples proving otherwise. The only order is the picture she keeps of each pile in her head. Ask her where something is and she can likely find it for you fairly quickly even if she can’t point you directly to it (see, you lack the mental picture and she lacks the patience to paint it for you).

You see, people who are pilers by nature think spatially. When I see a cluttered space or computer desktop, I don’t assume someone who is crazily disorganized and living in chaos. I think, here is a person who could be a piler and is able to find things amongst the clutter because they remember where it is from a spacial perspective on the desktop. They remember in relation to other files, the quadrant of the screen, even what part of the desktop picture it is covering. Piling is not only how they work, it is who they are.

There is a sub group of people I have not yet mentioned. That is the person who is a filer by natural desire but a piler in practice. These folks would love nothing more than to get things organized and “under control” (in quotes because I want to further stress that most natural pilers have things perfectly under control). Things are not that way for them because they don’t even know where to begin. Things are so far disorganized that they are quickly overwhelmed by it.

I got some feedback following the day one post that it seemed like moving the items from the Desktop and into your Documents folder was just a whole lot of “sweeping the problems under the rug”. Could be. It all depends on who you are.

To a filer, that may be true. To them, the problem is not solved until everything is organized to the nth degree. To a piler, if they dared to follow my instructions from day one, well, they would be lost. They would not be able to function working out of anything with inflexible structure or hierarchy. For the sub group, those who long to know where to start, that was it Ð a starting point. For them the exercise elicited a sigh of relief that may have been just the step they needed. From there, should they so choose, they can now get organized in a way that makes sense to them.

There are countless ways to further break this stuff down. Some may choose to group documents and files alphabetically. Some, by date. Some, by topic or project or area of life (Personal, Business, Family, etc.). If it makes things easier for you, quicker to locate, faster to quantify, then you should do it. Some may choose to dump everything into a single folder and let Spotlight, Quicksilver, Launchbar or some other tool do the finding.

But these are all second steps. These are all optional steps. The first step is simply admitting you have lost control and are now assuming the power to snatch it back again.