2.2. What Is Being Organized?

“What is difficult to identify is difficult to describe and therefore difficult to organize.”

Before we can begin to organize any resource we often need to identify it. It might seem straightforward to devise an organizing system around tangible resources, but we must be careful not to assume what a resource is. In different situations, the same “thing” can be treated as a unique item, one of many equivalent members of a broad category, or a component of an item rather than as an item on its own. For example, in a museum collection, a handmade, carved chess piece might be a separately identified item, identified as part of a set of carved chess pieces, or treated as one of the 33 unidentified components of an item identified as a chess set (including the board). When merchants assign a stock-keeping unit (SKU) to identify the things they sell, that SKU can be associated with a unique item, sets of items treated as equivalent for inventory or billing purposes, or intangible things like warranties.

You probably do not have explicit labels on the cabinets and drawers in your kitchen or clothes closet, but department stores and warehouses have signs in the aisles and on the shelves because of the larger number of things a store needs to organize. As a collection of resources grows, it often becomes necessary to identify each one explicitly; to create surrogates like bibliographic records or descriptions that distinguish one resource ...

Get The Discipline of Organizing: Professional Edition, 4th Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.