Life categories
February 27, 2005 1:04 PM   Subscribe

If you had to organize your life into categories and subcategories, what would they be? (I'm looking for the more general, applies-to-everyone sort of categories, like Transportation [-motorcycle -van] or Recreation [-music -canoeing], etc., not stuff like "Yamaha SR500" or "Captain Beefheart obsession.") I'm looking to get better organized, and I don't want to overlook anything.
posted by bricoleur to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total)
Getting organized to 'religion & philosophy?' This is one religion I can get behind. Some folks swear by Getting Things Done. I have been reading Merlin Mann's 43folders for inspiration. With that said, I think the simplest system is the best. Instead of having a folder that says 'car insurance' and another that says 'car repair' they just all go in the 'car' folder. Simple A - Z fling. Manilla folders in hanging files works for me. They are all neatly labelled with a lablemaker, no more hand scrawled labels. David Allen, who is the GTD guy, says that you filing cabinet drawer should never be more than 3/4 full. If it is too full you will subconsciously resist filing more stuff in there. Kind of cosmic, but it really works.
posted by fixedgear at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2005

Whether it belongs in religion & philosophy is just another category question, isn't it? I think of category questions as philosophical, and it didn't seem to fit in any of the other categories, so...

I've been browsing 43Folders, and I'll take a closer look at Getting Things Done. Thanks for the pointers.
posted by bricoleur at 1:59 PM on February 27, 2005

What would be the goal of this categorization? I can't imagine needing to organize or categorize my hobbies, reading material, eating habits, etc, as part of a master "get-organized" plan, but they're all a part of my life.
posted by adamrice at 2:10 PM on February 27, 2005

I used to work for a guy who designed his filing system loosely around the Dewey decimal system, he created new numbers as needed, up to 3 digits right of the decimal.
Disclaimer: He was bipolar and went off his meds a lot, but the system worked for him, and we all had no trouble following it, so might have some functionality for your application.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2005

hobbies, reading material, eating habits, etc....

I'm not looking for that kind of detail—I just want to lay out the big categories and the obvious subcategories. I guess the problem I'm really chewing on is something like the one fixedgear refers to: E.g., does car insurance go under "transportation" or under "insurance"?

One approach is fat categories and few, as GTD apparently advocates. I'm not comfortable with that answer; I need more pigeonholes. And I'm looking for categories like Family and Spirituality as well.

I ask partly because I don't want to set up a scheme and then slap my forehead a week later, but more because I'm interested in what sort of schemes have worked for people—maybe some categories that I might not think of, that have stood the test of time for others.
posted by bricoleur at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2005

5 filing cabinets:

1. Sensitive -under lock.
- birth, death, marriage certificates
- social security, passports, ID info
- original and copies of diplomas
- job contracts
- kids' details
- other

2. Banking and taxes

3. Medical Details and Insurance

4. Household
- Utilities
- Car
- Recent big expenses and their warranties
- etc, etc..

5. Personal
- Family
- Friends
- Orgs
- Personal Writing
- Spirituality

Car insurance goes under "household", life insurance goes under "Sensitive", medical insurance has a cabinet all to itself.
posted by ruelle at 3:09 PM on February 27, 2005

You might have some luck googling what other people have done along rthese lines, good keyword phrase is "personal taxonomy" For me, it's all about how I use it. Do I need to file it to fit in with other things [bookshelves] or to find it later [CDs that have been MP3-ized but which I may need] or to be near things like it [clothes, bathroom gear] or to be with other things in its same category [bills, receipts, technical manuals]? The thing that IMHO stops people from being better organized is thinking that a system will make them organized. It's only as useful as the person using it. So, in my own life organizing system, there's a built in process of evaluation where I ask myself some questions like "is there crap i can never find?" "is some stuff that I need often buried so I never use it?" "do I put off tasks because I can't find what I need?" and then try to re-evaluate after the fact and try to move things around to suit how they're actually used. Some examples from my often-evaluated world of storage:

flat files: mail, fridge [when I move I put everything that was hanging off the fridge into one folder], car, health, investments, paid bills, bank statements & crap, receipts, manuals, things I wrote, house, IMPORTANT [birth certificate, deed to house &c] and to do. Big big categories, and I archive the stuff every year or so, so it's like a year or two of working paper. I have one drawer and a box or two of storage-paper.

spice drawer: things in bags, things in jars, things in tins, odd-shaped things

desk drawers: letter-writing tools, pens, music, software, tech gadgetry, spare paper, junk

It's like the categories vs. tags issue. Trying to choose all the categories for your blog right when you build it ultimately is [generally] less effective than tagging as you go, if you can make the technology work for you that way. So, in short, I'm with odinsdream and I'd say build flexibility into your system. For example, having cubbyholes at a fine granularity is fine if you know you want that, but don't mark them all with indelible ink just yet. Read what Peter has to say about paths at UC Berkeley for a different way of looking at a similar problem.
posted by jessamyn at 3:15 PM on February 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

Another vote here for a flat heirarchy and don't worry about categorizing. No matter how long you think about it, something will come up a week later to make you slap yourself.

I'm working on GTD and have decided to make a computer-based index of my reference files just in case I can't find something. The basic theory is, when filing something random, use the first term that pops into your mind since that's probably what you'll think of when looking for it later. But just in case, I also add the label into a spreadsheet so i can search it easily later.

I do seperate out all bills/insurance/house stuff into a seperate drawer. So I guess I have 2 categories:

1) Bills, etc.
2) General reference

And here's another thread where I described what I do with my random crap that doesn't fit into file folders.

And I agree with what jessamyn has to say about tags vs. categories...having an index of your files searchable on your computer makes everything easy to file and easy to find later.
posted by jacobsee at 3:52 PM on February 27, 2005

I roughly organize according to present/future/past, by which I mean: Things to do now, things to do later, and things done.

Each of these has sub-sections:
- the 'to-do's divide into Work, Financial, Household, Art, Friends/Family and Personal;

- the 'done' section divides into Records (financial, household, work), Archive (art) and Memorabilia (friends/family/personal). Records and Memorabilia are contained by year, and Art according to the medium.

Then there's one firesafe box with important records like passports and birth certificates.

I do sometimes get hung up on how to classify things, because the line between art and memorabilia is not always clear to me. But I'm selective enough about saving stuff that there isn't too much to search through even if I've forgotten how I may have filed something.
posted by xo at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2005

good keyword phrase is "personal taxonomy"

Thanks, that's going in the direction I had in mind. On the other hand, I'm appreciating all the comments so far, so I'd hate to narrow down the question to what I had in mind when I asked it.

This page does suggest a way to turn this into an exercise:

"[The personal taxonomy] will be different for each person ... Start with the organization of their filing cabinets, or their My Documents folder."

I'm really curious: What folders are in your My Documents folder (at home), or filing cabinet, or blog tags...?

Retracing my thoughts on this, I find that I've landed in this meta-project due to my recent exposure (via MeFi) to the term "yak shaving." I find that the term is actually used in two distinct ways: trivial tasks that are irrelevant to the goal at hand, and trivial tasks that are seemingly irrelevant to the goal at hand, but actually vital to it, albeit at several causal removes. I'm wanting to sharpen my ability to distinguish between those two species of yaks; hence, (at several removes) the taxonomical imperative.
posted by bricoleur at 5:15 PM on February 27, 2005

Adding my thumbs up to Getting Things Done. It's an extremely complete organizational method.
posted by sirion at 8:33 PM on February 27, 2005

There was a website (linked on metafilter a long time ago) that was basically a guy's map of his house in hyperlinks. It showed how all his drawers were organized and listed their contents, and it was really interesting. I can't remember what the URL was, but if anybody else remembers it and can point you in that direction, I bet you'd find it germane.

You might like to download a 30-day trial of ListPro to see how one group has categorized lots of things. I recommend ListPro very highly for helping to get organized.
posted by acridrabbit at 8:38 PM on February 27, 2005

i tried searching for "social ontology" and "personal ontology", but didn't come up with much of use - don't know if you can do better. more interestingly (to me) is this discussion of the difference between taxonomy, ontology and classification.

oh, and don't forget "activites [-displacement]" ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:51 AM on February 28, 2005

Well, I have a category for my life entitled "WTFWIT" [What The #*$# Was I Thinking]. Number one on my list is going in the Army. What was I thinking, indeed?
posted by berek at 2:25 PM on February 28, 2005

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