Labels: Helpful or Harmful?

Cindy JobsOrganization, Uncategorized

I recently read a great book called “The Organizing Sourcebook” by Kathy Waddill.  As an organizer, the entire book fascinated me, but Chapter #5 drilled home the point on how labeling can give us direction, but it can also hold us back.

Even before reading the book I was a big fan of labeling things.  My P-touch labeler is always close at hand and there are lots and lots of labeled containers in my home and office.  Labeling keeps things clear. Labeling provides order. Labeling creates a vision based on experiences.

But I never thought about the drawbacks of labeling until I processed the information in Kathy Waddill’s book.  How is assigning a label to something standing in our way, not only in the organizing process but life in general?

Paraphrased below are a couple of her examples:

Do you prefer to use the normally-unused dining room as your home office, but are handicapped because you can’t bring yourself to put a filing cabinet in it?  Well, change the label on that room to home office, position a visually-appealing file cabinet and move on.  You will still be able to use it during infrequent dinner parties, but you will use it every day as your convenient home office.

As an empty-nester, are you struggling to reclassify your children’s room into areas you would truly use, like craft room or home gym?  If so, change the label and start enjoying the rooms in support of your current lifestyle.   Invest in a comfortable sofa or wall bed for the occasional overnight visitor and start using the room in the way that supports your lifestyle today.

These examples got me thinking about how using labels can be detrimental to a happy and healthy life.  For example:

Because we have a “favorite restaurant,” does that hold us back from trying new cuisines?

Does our “favorite exercise class” keep us from trying the new Nia fitness trend?

If you think you have a “nosey neighbor,” would you view them differently if they were your Neighborhood Watch captain?

If you could change your mindset around an “anxious” emotion to embracing  “eager” instead, in what way would that change how you feel?

Labeling. Whether it’s helpful or harmful is entirely up to us.

Cindy Jobs, COC, ACC

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