Hurricane organization: Lessons for creating other organizing systems

Back in August 1995, hurricane Erin hit Florida. Erin may sound familiar to you because although she wasn’t an extremely powerful hurricane (at its strongest in the Gulf, it was only a Category 2), she had a lot of media attention for being the first hurricane to land in the U.S. after Andrew.

Since hurricane Erin and I shared a name, I watched weather reports about the storm with great interest. I learned a lot about tropical cyclones and hurricanes from that news cycle, and have continued to learn more about these types of storms in the following years. With Isaac currently hitting US shores, I’ve become quite interested in learning about how hurricanes form — specifically, with learning how hurricanes organize.

When talking about organizing physical possessions, you probably think about creating unified systems for storing items and making quick work of retrieving items from the system. Surprisingly, hurricanes also go through an organizing process when developing strength. Before becoming a hurricane, these weather systems are actually numerous thunderstorms coming off the African continent. When they group together and start swirling around each other, they become a tropical cyclone. And, finally, when they fully consolidate and organize is when they turn into a hurricane. The more organized the hurricane, the more powerful it is. Conversely, the less organized the storms within the hurricane, the less powerful it is.

Obviously, hurricane formation is significantly more complicated than what I am explaining (air temperature, pressure, and other factors contribute to a hurricane’s strength), but this is the general idea. It’s as if numerous thunderstorms come together around a maypole, each taking a ribbon. If the storms move together as a unit at similar speeds around the maypole with equal distance from the maypole and maintain an orderly fashion, they will gain speed and strength and create a very powerful hurricane. If the individual thunderstorms move at different speeds and vary their distance from the maypole and bump into each other, they will be chaotic and lack speed and strength. One will look like a well-coordinated and vicious dance, while the other will look like a bunch of kids rough-housing on a playground. Neither scenario is safe, but the well-organized scenario is much more powerful and deadly because the strengths of all the thunderstorms are coordinating together.

For instance, look at these images of hurricane Katrina and hurricane Isaac — Katrina, on the left, was obviously the more powerful and more organized hurricane in comparison to Isaac, on the right. These images are from the NOAA and the side-by-side comparison is from

When creating organizing systems in your home and/or office, consider this concept of hurricane consolidation. A system that works in a coordinated effort and best meets your needs is going to be much more powerful and successful for you than a system with stray and wayward pieces that is haphazard and chaotic. Or, as we often say here on Unclutterer, when there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, you’ll have a simple time using and maintaining your organizing system.

To learn more about hurricanes, check out the video series by NASA that they created for middle- and high-school science classrooms: Atlantic Hurricanes with Dr. Jeff Halverson

If you’re in the path of hurricane Isaac, check out the following resources to be sure you’re prepared:

3 Comments for “Hurricane organization: Lessons for creating other organizing systems”

  1. posted by Shalin on

    Great set of information, Erin – thank you!

  2. posted by anon on

    That’s the problem we’re having with paperwork…we have tons of little “systems” but none of them work together. I’ll pay GOOD MONEY to anyone with real experience in complex paperwork to come help us create a “hurricane” out of the “tornadoes” we have!

    It’s far more complex than most people understand…*sigh* Its destroying my family.

  3. posted by cindi f on

    Wow, that’s a very powerful comparision. Now I have a very strong mental picture of how constructive (instad of destructive) I can be, when I get organized. And I like what I see.

    Great analogy, great motivation. Thanks!

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