The Power of Labels

What if I told you there is one simple thing you can do that would change everything? Would you do it?

How many times have you pulled open the same drawer, looked into the same bin, searched through the same folders over and over because you didn’t know what was in there?

Don’t be misled by the apparent ease of labeling something.  Yes, it’s easy to print out or write out a label, but the decisions and intentions behind a label are huge!  Believe it or not, labels are one of the things my clients consistently rave about.  Being able to instantly tell where something is lifts a weight off somehow.

Labels provide a home

By labeling something, you are essentially deciding this thing is important enough to keep in your world and provide a place for it. Sometimes clients are reluctant to label a file folder for just one piece of paper.  Instead they end up with a file called ‘Misc.’ or ‘Other’.  This is just a pile in a folder. If you don’t think a paper is ‘worthy’ of its own folder, then it probably should be tossed out.

Labels provide boundaries

By assigning a label to a certain location, you have decided how much space it is worth to you (e.g. a shelf, a folder, a bin, a basket’s worth). Seeing an assigned space that is empty or overflowing also helps you assess how much space this thing is really taking up in your life. Then you can make a conscious decision about getting rid of it or expanding its boundary. For example, labeling your tool containers helps you keep tabs on what you have. Then, if you buy a new tool, you can easily see if it fits into one of the current tool categories or if you need to find a separate home for it.  Do you have room for it? If not, what goes and what stays?  Deciding to re-label is really re-assessing the importance of things in your life. But it’s worth it because there is nothing more satisfying than looking at a workbench full of labeled tool drawers!

Labels allow for multiple users

Labeling says to your world, “here is where we expect to find this item. Please put it, and only it, back here”. The fact that you thought this item was important enough to take the time to make a label (i.e. assign a home and boundary) for it says I value this item and want to use it and I expect you to respect that. Who knew a label could convey so much!

Labels can be anything and anywhere

A label doesn’t have to be a word. It can be a color, a symbol, a picture (great for kid’s toys), or whatever is appealing and clear to you (and whomever else is also using it). A label also doesn’t have to be visible. It can be on the inside of a drawer or cupboard or shelf.  For instance, when you open a drawer, the inside side can have the label on it.

Have you ever stared at a pile of unlabeled files, boxes, or bins? It’s a daunting task to imagine opening each one and looking through them to find the one item you are looking for.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your sharpie and tape and get to work!