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One Size Does Not Fit All

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Judith Kolberg’s Keynote Address
to the Japanese Association of Life Organizers (JALO), 2013 Annual Conference

In 1970, a manufacturer of panty hose decided to lower production costs. They made panty hose “One Size Fits All.” They determined what they thought was “the average” size of women’s legs. Women who were larger sizes were assured the nylon would stretch to fit and women who were smaller were told it would shrink to fit them. What do you think happened? Women abandoned “One Size Fits All” in droves and the manufacturers returned to offering panty hose is various sizes.

Categorizing Is Not “One Size Fits All”

Even our most fundamental organizing principles are not “One Size Fits All.” We assume, for instance, that all people categorize the same. Categories make it possible for us to put like-things together, a building block for sorting things, knowing where they are and retrieving them, and for organizing just about everything.

Parents teach children at an early age that their toys go here and their clothes go there and it is not a good idea to mix your toothbrush in with the soap dish. When they get older the categories get more precise. Legos go here, stuffed animals go there, and dolls go over here. In grade school an exercise called What Does Not Belong shows a picture of a bird, a shoe, a dog, and a cat. Most children realize the category is “animals” and they circle the shoe because it is the only non-animal and does not belong.

But one size does not fit all.

Click here to download the complete speech.

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