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.


Braley Mama said...

I think I am a spatial thinker who longs for the organization of a linear thinker! Thanks for the insight.

The dB family said...

Lol! I think you explained it well! I'm mostly linear, but I do have some spatial thrown in. I can't stand piles of stuff everywhere, but at the same time, I canusually retrace visually where I've been and what I've done. I wonder if you can be half and half? That just seems wierd...hmm, I'll have to think more about this.


sara said...

The visual reminders thing makes so much sense as I think of certain people in my life.

I actually think I'm a little of both. For example, I have one section of my kitchen counters COMPLETELY clear - devoid of any object whatsoever. Another section has bowls of various sizes holding fruit - it is out on the counter as a strong visual reminder to eat healthy and to make it easy to do so. Of course, I'd probably be OK with a list or a note to remind me too - but it wouldn't be as convenient.

Pepper said...

Wow I love this, I am so a spatial thinker and I always wondered why I could never get things organized like other people.

I love clear boxes to organize everything. That way I can see what's in it with a glance. I tried labeling things but the only thing that didn't drive me batty was very small labels that I just now realized I never use! LOL

And my sons toy bins have labels but they are pretty sticker labels with sticker or pictures of what's in them!

Now I know I have a label for my kind of organization!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh my... I'm beginning to think we might've been separated at birth... LOL.

I'm VERY linear, and I'm sure my husband is spatial. Either that or he's just really messy, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

It really clicked when you said that spatial people can't find things they can't see (or something like that).

But if all that STUFF is just sitting out I can't think. Or relax.

A cluttered, chaotic house equals a cluttered chaotic mind TO ME. I need order in my world to function.

I need to mull over this more.


Ruby said...

Ah, this clears it all uup. Thanks.
I think I am linear. However, I am a little older than you and those cobwebs have started already. I find myself quite frustrated that I cannot find. remember things the way I used to. Perhaps I need to start with the visual clues. Of course, everyone else in the house is spatial and can't find a thing if I clean up!

annies home said...

I think i am a mixture of both linear and spatial while I love to be organized I do know where it is if I run out of time

Becky said...

Boy, you explained that extremely well. Of course the $10,000 question now is...which one am I. I probably lean more toward spatial since I can visualize things very easily, and regardless of the size of the pile of stuff, I can usually tell you exactly where somethings is in it, if I put it there. But, sometimes I really need my list and while I'm not a clean freak, I get anxious (crazy) when everything is messy.

Jena Webber said...

If anyone cares, I FOUND my gift cards!! Thanks for praying. I forgot that I had the big white van that day and they fell out of the bag I was carrying. So, today I had the big "beluga" as we call it, and I saw the cards!

And for each of you:

Summer: it's probably not worth it fighting with yourself. Just enjoy your space, color and all that!

Deborah: Obviously, it's a blessing to be both!

Sara: I love visual cues also, but they HAVE to be visually pleasing or it screws things up for me.

Pepper: definitely spatial!!

Julie: I think we've both agreed that we were separated at birth! Do you have curly hair, by chance?

Ruby: God made you the mom, so you have to be happy in your domain. Try the clutter and clutter-free zones.

Becky: spatial! If you can "visualize" something in a pile--DUH!

Kariboberi said...

Love your blog site and this post! I am a spatial thinker who does want to be more organized and think you did a good job of getting me to think about more visual ways to get organized. Perhaps, this will get me moving. Visting from AtWork,AtPlay,AtHome All Day to say thanks for becoming one of our newest readers. I am hopeful you will have more tips to share to help me balance it wall in the future if I do decide to become a mom.

Mrs. Parunak said...

That is so interesting! Can I possibly be a word nerd, who is also spatial? I really think that's what I am. And that spatial thing explains a part of my personality that has bothered me about myself. I don't like to accept help (like in my kitchen) if it means that my stuff will be put away "wrong." I know it isn't actually wrong, that there is no moral consequence if the forks face the opposite direction in my drawer, but IF something is organized, then it must remain EXACTLY the way I had it. There is nothing more disconcerting to me than to open a drawer or cupboard and be confronted with a scene that does not precisely match the scene in my mind (glasses MUST be in order of size, in specific rows, always in the same location).

Rachel said...

How interesting. I'm definitely a linear organizer too.

Unknown said...

Great post! As I started reading, I thought "this is me!" I use the births of my babies and our many moves to remember when/where things happened in our family, so I'm linear?
Nope. I'm heavy on the spatial. I have that out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. Creating zones is a wonderful remedy. Thanks for the encouragement, enjoying my time here on your blog!