Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Started with STYLE

It's Wednesday again! If you haven't taken the personal and organizational styles quiz I posted last week, now might be a good time to check it out.

If you have taken it, I'm sure you were quite impressed by my very scientific, technical terminology. When I came up with these names, I was working with elementary school students, and so the names needed to be non-threatening and kid-friendly. As I began to transfer the information to adults, I found that they appreciated the silliness of the names, perhaps because they made an overwhelming task seem less daunting. And so the names stuck.

These silly names -- I love stuff, I love to be busy, I need to see it, drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere -- will continue to pop up every time we discuss styles. The first three (bolded in black) are what I call the personal styles while the second three (bolded in orange) are the organizational styles. Hmmm....color-coding...any guess which personal style is mine?

Personal styles are the way we naturally function -- a part of our personality. Organizational styles are the methods we naturally use -- unchecked, however, they're more likely to lead to chaos than organizational successes. The key to organizational progress lies at the intersection of our personal styles and our organizational styles.

For example, I am an I need to see it/drop and run person. Left to my own devices, I inhabit a world of piles, stacks and visible cues (and yes, I am quite often left to my own devices, much to the chagrin of my I know I put it somewhere husband). But with the right tools, progress is not only possible, it's easy.

As we embark on this process, there will be some things we cannot control: the size of our living space, the amount of available storage space and the number of hours we have in a day. Sure, we can move, build on and pull all-nighters...but do we really want to?

What we can do is impact those things -- and even maximize them  -- by using our styles to our advantage. I don't know about you, but I'm sure I can expand my available storage space just by getting rid of stuff I don't need. (Please don't cringe, I love stuff friends -- I'm not talking about brutal purges).

So let's get started. Your first step is simply to take stock -- what's neat and what's not? Don't judge -- just observe. For example, as I sit here in my living room typing this, I see no less than ten items sitting out that can easily be put away (where they belong, not stashed somewhere just to make the room look better). I also see a bin that needs sorting (we won't discuss how long that's been there) and the dust that I don't need to see, despite my default personal style.

Step two: Before you start beating yourself up about what you see, view it all through the lenses of your personal and organizational styles. Does it make sense? My messy bin is a perfect example of the intersection of I need to see it and drop and run. It has potential, but its current condition needs...tweaking. For now, I'm simply making note of that because it won't fit into step three....

Give it five. I can't tackle that bin in five minutes, but I can put away all the wayward items and make progress in just five minutes. If I still have time left after I've put away my wayward items, I'm certain I can find another spot to tackle in the time that remains. If the timer goes off and I'm still motivated, I can keep going until I've reached a logical stopping point. (For all of you overachieving organizers out there, that's before you've torn apart a drawer, a piece of furniture, or, heaven forbid, an entire room). If you feel yourself getting frustrated, stop. The goal here is see progress because progress is a motivator. Exhaustion is not.

Getting organized is a process...and so is staying organized. Both take time and conscientious, consistent effort.

Next week, we'll talk more about the details of the styles, but for now, I'd love to know where you landed. I hope you'll share your styles and successes in the comments section as we take this journey together.

And stop by tomorrow for a short bonus post -- a few ideas for what you can tackle in five to fifteen minutes.

(All of the photos of organizers in today's post are from thecontainerstore,com)


  1. You know what's weird? I need to see it but I also cram and jam. Which, of course, makes me forget about things. It's a bad combo.

  2. The trick will be finding tools that work for both styles...which is actually easier than it sounds!

  3. The trick is also in distinguishing things I need to SEE (so I will remember what I need to) from what I need to STORE (so I will have things I need when I need them). And then there's all the stuff that fits into neither category, which I'll need to learn to let go of. Baby steps...
    Thank you for starting this conversation. It's really helpful!

  4. Barb, I always enjoy our conversations! And trust me, I understand! This is my style and it drives my husband crazy! Partner it with drop and run and you can see where I've been for the past week! I took a picture of one of my D & R piles this morning that I suspect will make it into a future post!

    Here's a hint, though: whenever possible, look for storage that lets you see what's inside -- clear bins, clear drawer units, clear file folders. When that's not possible, try color-coding or labeling, or open containers (like the pencil basket you provided for your student). Open containers can be magnetic for cram and jammers, though, so be careful you don't make them too big.

  5. I took a big step this week in "I Need to See It" land. Behind my (very small) desk in the living room I had 2 rocking chairs--horizontal surfaces that became extensions of my desk, where I would dump stuff into this rocking-chair tickler file. It looked awful. I removed it all (it almost covered a very large sofa once I removed it) and MOVED THE CHAIRS. I put an easy chair in their place because I won't dump stuff on the upholstered chair.

  6. Woo hoo!!! Good for you! I cringed when I read this because I do the same thing - no horizontal surface is safe unless I make it so. Good for you, Barb!!