Like many red-blooded American women – I have too many clothes. My closet is full of items that I wear every week and plenty more are out of style, or unfortunately, no longer fit. If I don’t wear them, then why are they in my closet? That is a good question, without a good answer.
Since my closet is full, I resort to storing clothes in other parts of my home. I have some in the attic, my kids’ closets and even a few things hidden in the back of my husband’s closet. When I need to find something, it is never easy since I have to look in so many places.
I attended a wedding recently and the bride requested that her guests wear pink (you know how brides can be). Could I find my one and only pink dress? No. I started looking in my closet and then rummaged through all of my various storage spots. After calling the dry cleaners to see if I had forgotten any items, I gave up. Where was that dress? After looking for a few hours, I spent even more time and money buying another one.
After that experience, I was going to turn over a new leaf and get organized. I vowed to clean out my closet and devise a plan. I would start by getting rid of what I no longer needed and store my off-season clothes in one place. Then, I would organize what remained by type and color so that I could find what I needed quickly and efficiently.
But like many good ideas, I never got around to it. Then a trigger event happened – the pole in my closet broke. As I opened the door to get dressed for work, I was faced with a puddle of clothes on the floor. All of my dresses and suits were a wrinkled mess. I had to take everything out to repair the pole and was facing hours of work. Why didn’t I clean out that closet weeks ago!!!!
Then it hit me, this is a lot like what Federal Records Managers face every day. Records management is a challenge for any industry and government faces a tsunami of information captured in both paper and digital formats. Along with multiple document formats, many federal agencies store their records in multiple locations. Federal records are stored in agency offices or basements, with the National Archives and Records Administration and one or more commercial facilities. So when Federal Records Managers are faced with a trigger event, such as litigation, or even a simple FOIA request, how to they find what they need? Not easily.
After my trigger event, I took the steps to get organized. Lessons learned from my closet:
1) Purge by sorting into categories:
- Give away
- Throw away
2) Classify what’s left:
- Type: pants; skirts; blouses; sweaters; jeans; etc.
3) Assign a home by frequency of use:
- Every day: front section of closet
- Infrequent use: back section of closet
- Off-season: attic
You can never avoid trigger events but you can get organized so that when one happens, the impact is minimal. Now that my closet it organized, I can find what I need, when I need it. The clothes that I use every day are easily at hand and what I use infrequently is securely stored. No longer am I hunting for my pink dress since I know where it is and can find it fast. And if this closet pole breaks, I will certainly not be happy, but it will take me a lot less time to put things back together.
Your records management program can be as efficient as my new closet. Start by securely destroying records that you no longer need, index and classify what is left and then decide the best storage location, based on how frequently you need access. A proactive plan for managing your information will enable you to find what you need, when you need it and make trigger events a little less painful.