Defining ‘what and why’ might be thought of in the general sense of identifying broadly what you want to do, for example, sorting out your photos. However, in the context of an OFC project, it specifically refers to being clear about what particular objects you are going to work on and why you are interested in this material. The following first paragraph of the two-pager on ‘Practical approaches to Order from Chaos’ provides a good description of what is entailed by the ‘why’ part of this activity:
“I guess the very first thing to ask when faced with a stack of stuff is ‘what’s it for’ – ‘why do you want it’. Take someone’s large collection of books, for example, does the owner collect certain types of books? Are some of more interest to her than others? Given a moment to reflect, would she decide that one part of her collection is of more interest to her than another? Perhaps, she’s been thinking for some time about focusing on just a subset of types of books or authors or topics, and this is an opportunity to make that change of direction. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a prompt which encourages one to review what one’s doing. Take another example – a large pile of boxes – the same applies. Do you really want this material? What are you going to do with it? Stuff sitting unused in boxes is just a waste of space. If it IS of use to you, you could start thinking of how you can use it – how you can bring it life! That in turn may help you towards a greater understanding of why you want to keep it. Of course, there may be several different categories of material, for each of which the answer may be different. Understanding what those different categories are is also an essential part of figuring out why you want to keep things. Writing down what those categories are and why you are keeping items in each category will probably be helpful.”
In trying to understand the ‘why’ part of ‘Define what & why’, it may also be helpful to re-read the section on ‘Why do we keep things?’.
Once you have a clear idea of why you are going to work on a collection of objects, it is important to be very specific about which objects are going to be sorted. This can be done by specifying the objects in a particular location or area; or by date; or who they belong to; or even by saying all instances anywhere in the house. The key is to know where you are looking for the items so that they can all be assembled together, either physically or notionally, and sorted from one single group.