Saturday, March 21, 2015

Understanding Your Organizing Style and Barriers

When I was in high school I used to pass the time in class by taking a piece of graph paper (do kids still use graph paper?) and coloring the first line with red and orange boxes.  On the second line I rotated orange and yellow boxes.  The third, yellow and green.  And so on until the entire piece of paper was a rainbow of structured color.  (Yes, the image below is one of these sheets from high school that I saved. Cough. Cough. Pack rat!)  I also used to draw cartoon characters and fill in the color by drawing tiny spirals over and over and over again.  It wasn't until recently that I realized that all the quirky habits I had growing up could be useful outside of funky art projects. 

Some people are lucky enough to be born with the natural ability to organize and de-clutter.  The rest of us struggle with one, if not both.  One of my favorite organizing blogs is what I aspire to but will never actually be able to accomplish.  For me, living in a completely minimalistic and picture perfect house (or as I like to call it the Better Homes and Gardens approach) isn't realistic but it sure is fun to dream!  Over time, I have slowly learned to work within my strengths and barriers.

I found this interesting article the other day on Real Simple.  The article helps you determine the side of your brain you use to organize through a short quiz.  Left-Brainers like to sort, keep things out of site, categorize by date and have a specific location for everything.  Right-Brainers don't follow the rules.  They are more creative and emotional and likely to hang on to items for sentimental reasons.  I'm a mix of both sides but mostly left brained when it comes to organizing.  Whether you are left-brained or right-brained, you still need to figure out what organizing tricks work best for you.  Something that often gets in my left-brained/right-brained way is that I want everything to be perfect.  Instead of coming up with a completely adequate solution, I would fixate on finding the absolute best way to execute a project and it would never get done.  Something I'm still working on improving.  Here are a few of the tricks I've learned to help you work within your boundaries:

Be realistic.  Improving and learning new skills for getting your life/house in order isn't the same as forcing fitting a process that you will never use.  If you know you are a sentimental right-brainer, don't assume that you can purge your closet once and the clutter will never come back again.  Try to find tips and tricks that let you be you but still improve on your current process.

Don't Get Overwhelmed.  Once you start looking for ideas on how to improve your organizing skills, it can be completely and totally overwhelming.  There are endless blogs and articles and even entire books dedicated to the subject.  And once you start thinking about ways to make improvements, you will see new projects at every turn.  Deep breaths...relax.  There is no reason that you need to go from chaos to clutter-free overnight.

Be open.  Let's face it, once you've been doing something the same way for most of your life, it is hard to even comprehend doing something another way.  Not every trick is for everyone but be open to the idea of trying something new.  A lot of the time it is only the set up of a new process that is hard.  The upkeep can easily be incorporated into your routine.

Ask for help.  Trying to get your life or house in order can be stressful.  I have a few friends who are over-the-top stressed because they feel like they need to do it all alone.  It is okay to admit you need help!  Easier said than done but you'd be surprised how many great tips and tricks your friends have up their sleeves.  Plus, you'd be surprised how easy it is to convince a friend that organizing your closet is a super fun idea, when wine is involved.

Stay Accountable.  I noticed that I am more likely to finish a project if something or someone is expecting the project to be complete.  The idea isn't to make the project more stressful but just to keep it on your radar.  For example, when we started working on our playroom for the girls it was all my daughter talked about so I felt motivated to get it done.

Be proud.  Even if the changes you are making are very small and seem insignificant, they're not.  It may be hard but you are making improvements!  Even just seeking out information is a step towards growth.  As Frederick Douglas said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Whatever your organizing style, it is key to find what works for you.  And the best way to figure out what works best for you?  Trial and organizing error.


  1. I am a right brainer who needs help! I love to clean, but I have to keep backing into the room to see if it looks neat. I can't organize at all! All my drawers look exactly the same. Yikes! Now I see I need help!

    1. Doesn't the saying go, the first step to becoming a better organizer is admitting you have a problem? ;) I love that you love to clean! I'll trade you cleaning skills for organizing tips any day.