OHIONot the state. I’ve only been to Ohio once, and I have met some very nice people who live there.

OHIO is an acronym for Only Handle It Once. It was first touted as an effective way to manage email but has made its way into mainstream organising wisdom. It sits comfortably next to popular (and equally scary) idioms such as “One In, One Out” and “If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it!”.

The idea behind OHIO is efficiency. Surely if you only handle something once you will save time. Let’s examine this.

Imagine your dining table has become a bit of a dumping ground. There’s a bag of pamphlets and samples you collected at the home show, clothing to be repaired, a dish that belongs to the neighbour, gift wrap, assorted flyers, notices and magazines, laundry to be folded and streamers and a goody bag from a recent birthday party.

You are determined to deal with each item at the first pass so you start with the dish that belongs to your neighbour. You brush your hair and head next door. She likes a chat but you are on a mission so you head home and pick up the next item. It’s a form that needs to be completed, scanned and emailed to the school. Well, no time like the present. Ten minutes later, with that task completed you are back at the dining table (the form only took five minutes but you checked your email while you were at the computer). Good grief, there is a bill that is overdue. Back to the computer to do some internet banking. Dirty jumper. Easy. Straight to the laundry. May as well start another load while you’re there. Wrapping paper goes upstairs and you’ll need the step ladder to put it on the highest shelf. The magazines can go on the coffee table to be read. You make another trip upstairs with the folded laundry, and then another with a piece of memorabilia for the memory box…. Time is ticking away and you haven’t even got to the bag from the home show, or the mending yet!

When dealing with a table covered in random stuff, handling each item only once can waste a lot of time. And, that’s assuming you were even able to get started!  For many of us, following such a stringent rule can cause us to procrastinate – there is no point starting until there is time to do it properly! Right?!

It can also lead to analysis paralysis. When I’m working with a client, I like to sort the belongings we are dealing with into categories. The contents of that dining table could be sorted into piles of paper to be actioned, reading material, laundry to be put away, and so on. We would then deal with one pile at a time. Most people would agree that this is preferable to dealing with a bill, followed by a sock, followed by a takeaway menu, followed by a baseball cap.

In short, I don’t like OHIO because in my experience anything that is too stringent and perfectionistic can cause people to become paralysed. If you want an organising rule to live by, why not liberate yourself from the clutter with something like “Divide and Conquer!” or “Done is Better than Perfect” rather than getting bogged down in OHIO.

Written by Wendy Hanes




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