Pros and cons of organising by colour

rainbow books on a windowsill

If you’re just starting a home organisation project, or even just starting to think about one, chances are you’ve imagined what the end result will look like. And maybe rainbows are a feature. 

Organising things by colour is all over instagram. It looks great, but is it the best way to organise your home and keep it organised? 

Keep reading to find out when it’s a good idea to organise by colour, and when it’s not.

Context is key! 

Organising your wardrobe by colour makes life so much easier. When you get dressed, you’re using colour as part of your decision making process. First you consider what you want to wear – is it a trouser day or a dress day? Then which one do you want to wear – do I want to wear the yellow dress, or the blue one? 

When you’re using colour to make decisions, organising things by colour is a natural way to categorise them to make finding the things you want quick and easy. Your eyes can follow the same step-by-step as your brain. 

When colour isn’t part of the decision making process however, you’re adding an extra layer of complexity to your systems which your brain then has to unpick to find the things you need. 

Rainbow bookshelves

Take books for example. Do you remember the colour of the book you bought, but haven’t read yet? If you don’t, it might take you an extra couple of minutes to find it if they’re organised by colour, over using another system. 

Organising books by theme, or by author/title, or whether they’re read or unread, or fiction or nonfiction (or whatever works for your brain!) parallels the way you think about books.  You know you want to read the new John Grisham you bought and you know that it’s fiction, or that Grisham begins with a G, or that it’s a new book, or that it’s a thriller…., but do you remember that it’s blue?!

Each time you have to think about a classification for more than an instant, you’re adding time to your process. That little bit of extra time soon adds up when you think about the gazillion things you pick up and put down over the course of your day. The more intuitive your organisation systems, the easier they are to follow and maintain.

What about kid’s books? 

Pre-readers definitely add a challenge to any organisational system. You can’t write labels for them and they can’t read book titles, so how are they supposed to find what they need? 

When stacked up against the many other challenges they pose, like not being able to reach anything, or being the most effective kinds of mess-makers on earth, a lack of reading skills doesn’t really hold them back. 

It’s much more likely that a kid will know what colour book they’re looking for when it comes to storytime than adults. They’re constantly relying on visuals as their guide because their other options are limited, so they’re used to thinking that way. 

However, there are a couple of things to consider before you worry about rainbowing their bookshelves. 

Firstly, limiting how many books they have access to is THE best way to keep things organised and to help them find what they need. Using a book rotation system is a brilliant way to keep things interesting for them without overloading them with choice. It’s easy to find the book you want when you only have a few in front of you. 

And secondly, will pre-readers be able to maintain the rainbow?? Teaching a little kid to put a book back on a bookshelf is one thing, teaching them to put things in colour order is quite another! 

Which leads us to…

Can you maintain the rainbow? 

A freshly organised pantry with tins lined up by colour looks amazing, and the kids’ colouring pencils lined up in rainbows are #playroomgoals, but they’re not the proof of an organised home. 

Kids use those pencils, and mess up the lego, and the books get taken out and read, and the spice jars get jumbled up. These are all signs of life in a home. 

If the cherry on top for you is everything looking absolutely perfect, and you have the time needed, then putting those things back in colour order is amazing. It’s proper domestic goddess stuff and can give you the sugar-rush of a dopamine hit every time you open the cupboard doors.

But don’t let it get you down if you don’t! 

An organised house is one where you can find what you need. Where the kids know what box the lego goes in when it’s tidy-up time, where they can always find a pencil and you can see when you’re running out of cumin and need to add it to your shopping list. That’s truly the gold standard of organisation, so if you can do that, you’ve nailed it!

So now what…?

Whilst rainbows are beautiful and can make lots of people very happy just to look at them, the key to an organised home and a happier life is function first. 

Take the pressure off yourself and forget about Instagram. If your home is functioning in a way that makes your life easier, you’ll be too busy having fun in the time you’ve just created for yourself to worry about it!

If you’d like some help to create an organised home, get in touch for a free consultation and we’ll be very happy to help. 

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