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One Best Place

One Best Place

An organizing and decluttering philosophy

My guess is that the term originated in the retail world. As stores went from small brick and mortar shops to larger big box outlets, new systems of organization and inventory management were needed. No longer could a store owner unload each box, consider each purchase, and track each individual sale.

By the time I got to the big box bookstore environment of the early 2000s, the One Best Place idea was becoming a full blown movement. It may have its roots in lean manufacturing or in warehousing, but I know One Best Place as a book-finding philosophy that I have adapted into an organizational methodology. It can be broadly applied, from the office to the workplace to the home. And it’s simple, once you’ve put in a little groundwork.

Every book that came through the shipping and receiving door of the store had a predetermined location. When the box was scanned, paperwork was printed, and the store’s inventory was automatically updated. But then the human element comes into play. With nearly 1,000 stores in unique buildings with unique floor layouts and shelving space, the best the company could do was to give a category and perhaps a promotional table or display where the book should appear.

Don’t worry. We’re almost done with these background details. Now, if every bookseller and shelver had their own system for how to manage how many copies go on the shelf, how may appear on a display, and how many get stocked in the limited space in the back, you end up with an absolute mess on your hands. You turn valuable inventory into unsearchable junk. Worst of all, when a customer comes looking, the bookseller has no idea where to find the book.  

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Unless, of course, they are following the One Best Place model.

No matter what the item is or what the environment requires, following this simple methodology makes organizing a breeze. Why? Because when we take the time to establish a system that works in almost all situations, we no longer have to think over each individual decision. There is an answer for how and where each item should be stored and placed, so you no longer have to consider or internally debate its placement. This allows you to create a sense of flow, and working in a flow state is the most pleasant way to pass the time and check-off accomplishments along the way. Flow begets stressless productivity.

One Best Place is just what it sounds like. Everything in your home has One Best Place, and that is the only place in which that item should be stored. Some of this we do intuitively. Not many folks move their coffee maker out to the living room to brew a pot while they watch Netflix. There are, however, dozens of everyday items that we carry from room to room, misplacing and forgetting along the way. This leads to clutter, lost stuff, and inefficiency. It also leads to frustration, which over time will make you feel more apathetic toward the cluttered mess you face. Apathy exacerbates the mess.

It may not seem important. It’s just a home after all, not a store, where you are relying on sales. You do not have to pass-off your work to another shift manager who will need to know how to proceed. So why do you need a home system? Because we can all do with less stress and misery and a bit more productivity.

I like to ask just one question to help me establish each item’s One Best Place. It’s always the same questions, and it yields steady, reliable answers.

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Where would a stranger look for this?

Have you ever had a guest over to your home and watched them look for a drinking glass? It happened to me the other day. My father-in-law was visiting and as I watched he looked in three completely logical cabinets for a beer glass. I told him where it was and suddenly felt silly for having placed them in such an odd spot.

Put your items in the most common-sense location. It is the same with storage. Do not put kitchen items into a box and then store them in a bedroom closet. You need a designated, decipherable Best Place for absolutely everything.

When you do misplace something or forget whether or not you still own it, go back to that question. If I were a stranger, where would I look for this? If you did your work upfront and asked yourself in advance, the answer should be the same. You can find anything in its One Best Place.

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