Savvy Basics: Three Keys for The Cram and Jam Organizational Style


Savvy.FINo one ever accused the cram and jam organizer of wasting space. This organizational style probably fits more stuff into less space than anyone else. In addition, these folks don’t usually have to worry about remembering where they put something, because pretty much everything is stuffed into the same place. Cram and jam organizers:

  • cram things into any available open space, and jam things into spaces even when they are already overcrowded;
  • lack an understanding of the concept of “full;”
  • rarely have an organizational system, unless it’s for things that are extremely important to them.
  • may look organized when they have a lot of storage space – until you open up the closets and look inside the drawers.

Wrinkles and crinkles aside, you’ve got to give the cram and jammer credit for putting things away. For this organizational style, storage and retrieval are the key issues.

Oh, that’s all? you say. Just storage and retrieval?

Yes. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it’s really just a matter of a few tweaks.

  • Stick to one-step, one-stop storage. One-stop storage means one-stop retrieval, so go ahead and give in to the urge to put everything in one good-sized place. When it comes to containers, think Goldilocks — a space that’s not too small to fit things into, not so large that things accumulate, but just right for no more than a week’s worth of whatever you’re storing.
    Whenever possible, use storage that has a little wiggle room (fabric containers work well because of their flexibility), but is compatible to the items going into it (try a legal-sized folder for letter-sized paper, for example). Avoid storing things in small, dark places that tempt cramming and threaten retrieval.

  • Sort regularly. Sort papers and other easily crumpled items daily, if possible, and everything else as the container approaches maximum capacity. The closer the collection gets to the top of the container, the more likely the cram and jam tendency will take over and the integrity of the items will be compromised. It’s easiest to avoid cramming and jamming if you don’t allow the space to become too full.
  • Skip the pockets. Cram and jammers don’t use the pockets in folders or the rings in binders, so don’t even waste your time or your money. Stick to one-step solutions: replace the pocket folder with a file folder and the three-ring binder with a spring-clip binder (for the kid who loves gadgets) or just an accordion envelope with a big opening and room for plenty of papers. Some cram and jammers do well with accordion folders, but for others, the openings are too small and papers get crumpled within minutes. Again, size is key.

If you’re a cram and jam organizer, what are the key ideas you swear by? Share in the comments below!

 For printable information sheets about containers and the styles, click here.

About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and is a blogger at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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