Before I started helping others organize their lives, I was super-judgy. I once organized a friend's cupboards because he had done it “wrong.” If it wasn't how I would do it, the person needed my help. I believed a properly-organized space looked neat and tidy. Boy was I wrong. Yes, order should factor into any organizing project but, as with most things in life, order is subjective and there's no one right way to organize.
In their book, How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesch describe five organizational personalities that influence how to organize your space.
The Five Organizational Personalities Explained
- Everything Out (The Visualist): they like things out where they can be seen.
- Nothing Out (The Minimalist): affected by clutter, they store things out of view.
- Right Angler (The Piler): they want neat piles.
- Pack Rat (The Pack Rat): they are hesitant to trash things.
- Total Slob (The Family Slob): they can look at a room and not see the clutter.
Organizational Personalities in Action
Schlenger and Roesch's book is about organizing physical spaces (your bedroom, kitchen, home office, etc.). But as I was reading the book, I knew these principles were also applicable to organizing digital spaces (on your computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.).
Let's look at how to apply these organizational personality approaches when organizing a digital and a physical space.
The Visualist fears forgetting things that are put away. “Out of sight, out of mind” is their motto. If this sounds like you, sort similar items together and keep the contents visible.
Digital Space: group apps that have a similar function onto the same Home Screen. In this case, Home Screen 1 contains multimedia apps (photos, videos, and audio), and Home Screen 2 contains social media & messaging apps. #RIPVine #RIPSunrise
Physical Space: In this pantry, spices, pasta, and bowls are placed on separate shelves, and everything is out and accessible for the home owner to see.
The Minimalist fears cramped quarters and clutter. “A clear desk = in control” is their motto. If this sounds like you, resist the temptation to shove items into drawers, closets, boxes, and folders with no organizational strategy, just so you don't see them anymore.
Digital Space: have one Home Screen and create folders to store similar apps (Home Screen 2). You may want to consider having a second Home Screen that is blank as the main/default screen on your phone. It will serve as a clutter-free default view whenever you unlock your device:
Physical Space: in this home office, everything is organized and stored inside the drawers of the desk and credenza:
The Piler fears not being able to find things the moment they are needed. If the desire to have neat piles is strong, use products or folders to make your piles purpose/content-based.
Digital Space: folders are a given for The Piler – “they're like virtual piles”- and, since maximum efficiency is key, organize apps into logical folders and place all folders onto a single Home Screen:
Physical Space: stackable desk trays keep things neat and within reach.
The Pack Rat fears wasting money or throwing away things for sentimental reasons. “Might come in handy someday” is their motto. If this sounds like you, choose new items/apps and the means you use for storing them carefully.
Digital Space: there’s no app they won’t install and they rarely uninstall apps if no longer using. The perfect solution would involve multiple Home Screens with each screen dedicated to a specific category or function of apps (similar to Everything Out/The Visualist). For those apps no longer used, put them inside a “junk” Home Screen or folder:
Physical Space: store things you won't trash or donate in an area of your home away from your functional living space (i.e., the garage or extra closet). Or find creative ways to make these items take up less space. Here's how I turned 20 old t-shirts into a blanket and freed up a lot of space in my dresser drawer (used Project Repat):
The Family Slob fears losing their “creative” label by being organized and seeks to avoid feeling controlled or oppressed by anything. Clutter and chaos is a sign of their rebellion and fight against oppression. Make getting organized as convenient and simple as possible, and be very logical in your systems.
Digital Space: organize apps on multiple screens based on how frequently or when they're used:
Physical Space: placing the clothes hamper near the spot where you normally undress is a great way to avoid throwing dirty clothes everywhere.
These are just a sampling of the many ways different personalities could organize their apps on their smartphone and their stuff in their physical space.
Before you begin organizing your home or digital space, figure out what your organizing style is. You may think one personality is better than the others, but that’s really not the point. The key is figuring out who you are and organizing your things in a system that makes sense to you. It’s really easy to look at someone else’s house or digital device and, because of how pretty it looks, think it’s going to work for you.
Practical > Pretty