The Importance of Sorting

The first thing that happens to Harry Potter and his fellow first-year students when they arrive at Hogwarts is getting sorted into one of four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. It is with some difficulty that the Sorting Hat decided to put Harry in Gryffindor because he also had many traits belonging to those in Slytherin house. We later find out that Hermione, too, gave the Sorting Hat a challenge. She could have just as easily belonged in Ravenclaw as she did in Gryffindor. But the Sorting Hat's job was to weigh the contents of their heads and decide the best fit, so that's what it did. (You can read more about the Sorting Hat at and its many sorting dilemmas at the Harry Potter Wiki.)

In a dystopian future, where Chicago is all that's left of America, the Divergent series also begins with a very important sorting. In this case, turning 16 years old means it is time to take an aptitude test to determine which of the 5 factions you belong in: brave Dauntless, honest Candor, intelligent Erudite, peaceful Amity and selfless Abnegation. Right off the bat we learn that our heroine, Beatrice (Tris) Prior fits into multiple factions. She must choose which one to make her home in spite of this fact, especially because showing characteristics of multiple factions is dangerous in this society.

Meanwhile in a different version of future America, children are selected at random in an annual reaping to fight in The Hunger Games. Each of the districts has its own unique characteristics and are kept separated from each other in order to serve the citizens of The Capital. Keeping the citizens of each district in their place is important to President Snow in order to keep control over the people.

Of course we learn in these stories that sorting, segragating, and categorizing people in such a way is full of challenges and horrible consequences. Since they are people it is ultimately not the best idea to create divisions and classify them in such restrictive ways. Working together and taking the good with the bad are lessons that our characters learn are valuable to an actual functioning society.

Even so, we can take a few notes from the sorting that happens in these fictional stories and apply them to getting our belongings organized in such a way that we can function smoothly.

Broad Categories

One thing we can take away is that we don't want to try to put things into too many categories. If you whittle everything down into super-specific groupings, you almost defeat the purpose of sorting altogether. Your categories should be broad enough that there are a number of items that fall into each of them. If you get too specific, you'll only have one or two things per category, and that makes deciding how to store them more difficult. In Harry Potter and Divergent, you can see how it becomes easier for the different houses and factions to work together than it is in The Hunger Games because there are fewer of them, and they are not so spread out.

Picking the Best Category

Another lesson we learn from these stories is that people, and in this case our things, could very easily belong in multiple categories. Harry could have been in Slytherin or Gryffindor, and Tris could have fit in one of several factions. But when it comes time to sort, ultimately there are characteristics that will be predominant or a more fitting way to group your belongings. For example, your scissors could belong to either the office supplies OR your craft supplies categories. You'll need to weigh whether or not you use those things more for crafts or for the office. If one category clearly stands out, you will probably want to store those items accordingly. Of course, sometimes you may use those things in equal measure and decide to keep multiple pairs of scissors so you can use them in each place where you need them.

Things Don't Have to Live Together to Work Together

Just because you are sorting everything into separate groupings to store them, it doesn't mean that you won't still use them together. The students at Hogwarts live in separate parts of the castle with the fellow members of their houses who share similar qualities. However, the kids come together to take classes, and they are still within the larger context of the wizarding school. Your things may be in the same boat! It probably wouldn't make sense to store your whisks and mixing spoons in the same spot as your mixing bowls and pots. They are all going to be stored in the kitchen, though, so they are in close enough proximity to be easily pulled together when it's time to cook with them.

Sorting is Important

Sorting is an important first step in storing your belongings so you can give like items a home together. Just like Hogwarts students start by being sorted into houses, and the teenagers in Divergent select a faction, your first step in an organizing project is going to be sorting your belongings. Decide which things go together so you can decide where they are going to live.

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I just have to say I found your article really interesting. I liked how you tied the movie/book examples into it making it very relatable. I'm obsessed with sorting my clothes but am always trying to decide which way I like them sorted best, whether by season, color, occasion (work, rec, etc.). I think the point of keeping in mind that things don't have to live together to work together is especially true of the way I sort my clothes, I just hadn't thought of it that way!

I'm glad you liked it! I change my mind a lot about how I like my clothes sorted, too. I think it's kind of fun to just change it up from time to time and see what works best.

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