According to the Bible, and even farther back in the myths of
ancient Egypt, in the beginning was the word, which birthed the
universe. The power of language and specifically of naming things
has been recognized since humans have been able to think and speak.
When Adam, in the Biblical story, was given the honor of naming all
Earth’s creatures, it set him apart from them and gave him
dominion over them. In our home and business organizing process,
it’s paramount to remember the power of giving something a
When I work with a client, as we go through his or her things I
often hold up an item and ask, “What is this?” It can be something
obvious, like a shirt, or something unrecognizable to me, like a
part to a fancy espresso machine. When they name it, they are that
much closer to making a decision about where it belongs or what to
do with it.
Here’s a sample conversation:
Me: What is this?
Them: A shirt.
Me: What would you like to do with this?
Them: Well, it’s been on the floor. I guess I should wash it.
Maybe it‘s dry clean only. We need to check the label. But I’m not
even sure that I want it.
And from there we have a conversation about whether to keep the
shirt. If yes, we check the label and handle the cleaning; if no,
they decide whether to toss, donate or sell it. Here’s another
Me: What is this?
Them: Let me see that. Oh yeah! This is a part to the espresso
machine we bought in Florence.
Me: What would you like to do with this? Do you still have the
rest of the machine?
Them: Yes — we love it, but it needs to be repaired. I need to
call the Roasting Company and see if they can give me a lead on a
repair guy for it.
Me: OK, so let’s add that call to your action list. Meanwhile,
let’s put this piece back in the kitchen with the rest of the
machine rather than here in your underwear drawer.
Do you see how naming the thing leads you to an answer about
where it belongs and what to do with it? If you’re confronted with
a pile of stuff, go through it piece by piece, name it and deal
with it. You’ll regain power over your domain as stress and
disorganization make an exodus.