Stop creating a halfway home for wayward items.
Doom piles (or doom boxes or bags) may be trending on TikTok right now, but the concept has been around forever. It's when you gather together a bunch of random stuff that's cluttering your space, and neaten it up into a single spot, whether it's a pile on your desk or a box in your closet. Creating a doom pile helps reduce the visual clutter, but doesn't completely solve the problem—because now you have a huge pile of junk you still have to sift through at some point.
If you're a dedicated doom piler, take heart. There are benefits to actually using this not-so-organized organizing strategy. and there are tactics you can use to kick your doom box or bag to the curb for good.
What Is a Doom Pile?
While you might think "doom" as in "a sense of impending doom," the "doom" in doom pile is actually an acronym for "Didn't Organize, Only Moved." Doom piling has been associated with people in the ADD/ADHD community, as it's a common cleaning tactic to help reduce the visual clutter that can impact their productivity and mental health. "People with ADHD are more prone to creating doom piles, and will usually create more of these when trying to clean up," says Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly.
Doom piles may have their time and place, like when you're too overwhelmed with stuff and don't have the time or energy to deal with it, or when you're simply trying to quickly clear off your coffee table or other clutter-collecting spot before a party.
But in the long run, they're definitely not a sustainable solution. "Organizationally they are not healthy," Hord says. "You can quickly 'clean up' by swiping everything off your desk into a pile, but this can end up causing more anxiety or stress knowing that you have a bag full of random items that you don't know what to do with. That bag then turns into a bag full of lost items as it doesn't have any rhyme or reason to what's in it."
Tips to Manage Your Doom Pile
Keep your doom piles from growing or multiplying by addressing them as soon as possible after you create them. Use these organizer-approved tactics to help conquer your clutter.
Put limits on your doom pile
The trick to a doom pile is not to let it turn into a doom corner—or worse yet, a whole doom room. Using a specific basket or bin to hold random clutter until you're ready to deal with it—or until the bin becomes full—can help you keep things under control.
Take stock of what's in it
Analyze what's actually in your doom bag or box. If you're seeing a lot of similar items—such as a lot of unopened mail, or a bunch of random pieces from your kids' toys, you may be able to diagnose the problem. "These piles can help you determine what solutions you lack for specific categories," says Ashley Murphy, co-founder and CEO of NEAT Method. "Evaluate whether the items could easily be relocated, or if you need to create space for that category."
Look for ways to whittle it down
While the goal is always to get everything in the doom pile into its proper place, you don't necessarily have to do it all at once. Commit to taking 15 minutes at a time to push through a portion of it, and have a set of tools at hand to make it as easy as possible to deal with the items. "Have a trash bag for trash, a bag for donates, and then sort any keep items by the areas those items should live," Hord says. "Once you're finished, you can move anything that belongs in a different spot to the corresponding area. For example, tape, writing utensils, and notebooks can go in one pile to live in the office."
Give everything a home
When you have a lot of stuff and no good place to put it, it's easy for it to drift into a doom pile. So as you're sorting, find ways to designate a space for everything in your pile. "Focus on one item at a time to determine where that item should live," Hord says. "If it doesn't have a proper home or if you don't know where that item should live, create one! Decide right there and then where that item can live for good so that you always have a spot to put it away. Labels can help put a stamp on that spot and make it foolproof for you to remember where it goes."
Create systems to keep to-dos from creating clutter
Let's face it: Paying bills or running errands aren't anyone's idea of fun—and so the mail and the platter you've been meaning to return end up in the doom pile. Find ways to make it as easy as possible to complete your to-dos, so you don't procrastinate.
"Piles can accumulate because we’re avoiding a larger task," says Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder and COO of NEAT Method. "A good example of this is mail and other paperwork that often requires an action item. Sort things into easier to manage groups like 'to shred,' 'to file,' and 'needs attention.' Add labels to keep track of your system. Then, make an effort to tackle each group as soon as that section is full."
Prevent another doom pile from happening
Once you've emptied the doom box, work on developing new habits that'll help keep the clutter from happening in the first place. "The sooner you can address stray items, the better," Hagmeyer says. "Put something away as soon as you’re done using it, with the idea that relocating one item now is much easier than dealing with a pile later on, or reset your home by relocating any clutter at the end of each day."
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