Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How does your brain work: organizing

From all the great comments I got from the organizing post yesterday, I thought I would elaborate on the question I asked my organizing client:

How does your brain work?

I'm actually really impressed when a person knows themselves well enough to answer this succinctly. It's tough.

For the longest time, I dated everything by births of my children and moves. In other words, I thought: chronologically. I have definite markings in my brain about "historical time periods". Granted, I'm only 40, so the cobwebs will start to clutter over things as I get older.

I guess you could say I'm a LINEAR organizer, as opposed to a SPATIAL organizer. Am I getting too "high brow" on you yet?

Ask yourself this: If it's not right out in front of me, do I forget about it?

If you answered YES, you are probably a spatial organizer.

Linear people can use WORDS, NUMBERS, or to SEQUENCES to stimulate the memory.

The highly spatial person needs a visual cue: a color, a picture, a signpost to point to the items. Generally clutter does not oppress them the way it does a linear person. That's probably why linears are thought to be more organized than spatials.

It really isn't true. For example, today I realized that I "lost" $150.00 worth of grocery gift cards. I could not retrack my sequence of what I was doing when I lost them, so I am feeling disorganized about it. A spatial (visual) person would remember what they looked like sitting in the wallet. I do not visualize things in the wallet, I just remember the sequence of putting them in there. And WHY they are not there right now is still unsolvable.

Anyway, aside from that drama, I can tell you that the little boxes in my "dungeon" do not have the word "Brown" or "orange" on them. I love color, don't get me wrong. But I love words more. I'm a word nerd. And you see how I don't care that word is spelled ord and nerd is spelled erd. I like the sound of words, not the visual representation of the words.

So, for me, a WORD on each box and a number helps me more than some big picture. In Box 22, resides the vacuum parts and spare bags. It says "Vacuum parts" on the box. It's good enough for me.

A more visual person would have a color like: grey for all household cleaning objects. There would be a grey square on the outside of the box and a picture of the vacuum on the outside or a pictoral of some object that represented "household objects" and there would be very few words. Many words would seem like clutter to this person. So that is why we picked: Brown 1 for my friend.

It also explains why it is so hard to get visual/spatial people organized. They feel like they've lost control when they can't "see everything". They panic and think they'll forget about everything. Apparently, lists do not work for these kind of people either.

So, the best we can hope for is a smaller version of having everything out, and designing some sort of visual cues to help them remember how to get to their things. I will often get frustrated with visual people who live in my home, since I can't think with all of that stuff out. Well, they can't think with it all in and put away! So, we have clutter zones and non-clutter zones in the house.

My zones, obviously, are the non-clutter zones. And if I were honest, I could not say I'm any more organized than those who dwell peacefully in the clutter zones.

So, what's the point of all this? If you claim to not get any more done or be any more organized than those who live in a clutter pile, why are we doing this anyway?

Not sure. Obsessive compulsive disorder or something like that...

And.. you asked the question.


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