The one essential organising tool

We’ve all fallen into the trap of buying a new storage item, and then finding out it doesn’t solve the problem. The junk is now cleverly contained, or gorgeously concealed, but it’s still there, and it’s still out of control. You’ve just shut your eyes and jammed the problem into a box (or a desk organiser, or a filing cabinet, or a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk).

Shopping is not the answer. It’s usually how you got into this mess in the first place. However, there’s an exception to every rule, and the exception to the “don’t try to shop your way out of clutter” rule is a label maker. Seriously, if you don’t have one, go out and buy one. Right now.

Old school embossed labels. Photo credit:

Old school embossed labels.
Photo credit:

It doesn’t much matter what type or brand you get, as long as it’s portable, so you can grab it and use it wherever you’re working. I think the old-school Dymo embossing label makers are cool, but in real life I use a battery-powered unit that prints in just one inoffensive font on 12mm tape. It replaces my awful scrawly handwriting with soothingly neat and readable text. While its thermal labels are not wildly stylish, they are durable, easy to apply, and quick to create.

It’s obvious how labelling things helps organisation. Well-labelled storage lets you keep things out of sight but easy to find, and enables you to store a lot of similar things together without confusion. I love being able to pick up my label maker and quickly tap out a series of neat labels for whatever I’m sorting out.

I’ve already written about removing labels I don’t want to see; too much text everywhere becomes an assault on the eyes. However, some things really do need to be labelled. Using a label maker for the job reduces visual clutter. Making all my labels the same means I have a simple, consistent identification system that conveys information without yelling it at me. I’ve even switched from white tape to clear tape, to reduce the impact even further. For labels that are out in the open, like the ones on my desktop file folders, I use a fancier desktop label maker that lets me choose the font. It’s all about letting functional details like storage fade into a calm, soothing backdrop that lets beautiful items shine.

I put labels on everything, from kitchen food containers, to file folders, to storage boxes. A favourite trick is to label both power cords and adapters for each gadget. No more trial and error when you need to unplug one device amongst many, and no more friends walking off with my chargers or cables by mistake.