If you’re a fan of Casey Neistat, you’ve probably heard of Tom Sachs (Neistat was an intern for the artist between 2001 and 2004). Sachs has a video on YouTube that employees of the studio must watch, titled 10 Bullets. By Tom Sachs. It’s brilliant; you should go watch it. I’ll wait.

To be honest, I hadn’t really heard of Tom Sachs (even though I have been a wild fan of Neistat) until I came across Laura Kampf’s video Always Be Knolling (I’m a newly minted fan of Laura and the things she creates; I want to be her in 2017). Knolling is the process of organizing stuff into related groupings aligned in parallel—or at 90 degree angles—with your space or room. So, your keyboard is parallel with your desk edge. Or your notebook and pen, next to each other, is aligned at a right angle with your mobile phone. Wikipedia does a better job explaining than I can.

When I first saw the 10 Bullets video, I thought it was a joke at first. Especially about knolling. I’ve never been one to be maniacally organized. I know where I put things. If you ask me where something is, I can tell you without any real issue. Keys? Oh, they’re hanging on the hook on the bookshelf. Tape measure? In the tool bag out on the workbench. Last year’s journal? Second shelf from the floor under the stereo. I didn’t need to “always be knolling” to keep my sanity.

But then, for some weird reason, I started knolling. At work, of all places. I placed my notebook in parallel with my desk, my pen and marker parallel with my notebook, my coffee mug on the opposite side right next to my mouse pad. The chaoticness of my desk, even one as sparse and minimal as mine, melted away to an order that seemed to make my breath come easier. Yes, the fact that I know where my things are hadn’t changed but the aesthetic and beauty of seeing things in order made such a huge difference. It has become a simple act: always be knolling1.

Knolling is deliberate action. It is an act of respect for my workspace and my things. At the end of my workday or moving from one task to another, knolling is a ritual to mark the end of one thing—and perhaps the beginning of another. It also makes it easier to get started next time; I don’t have much hidden storage so having my tools out in the open, in an orderly, organized manner, makes jumping in a breeze.

This act of deliberation is a physical manifestation into what I hope will be a more deliberate internal methodology for the coming year. I have often been ruled by emotions and follow them like a ship navigates rogue waves (in that the ship gets swallowed by them!). Being deliberate, as evidenced in the 10 Bullets video, doesn’t hinder creativity or exploration. In fact, it seems to enhance them. Deliberate action without emotion in order to accomplish and finish projects is my end goal.

Whether or not knolling will aid in this, I have yet to see. Being deliberate with my tools and space has set an intention to be deliberate with my focus though and, so far, that has only proven beneficial.

  1. Rereading this two and a half years later (it’s mid-May of 2019 as I write this footnote), I realize how strange this practice is. I no longer keep things organized in parallel. I don’t respect my workspace any less. My desk is a mess of paper and books right now. ↩︎