Organizing for Your Personality

By Kris Wetherbee

Are you constantly juggling appointments or managing the family schedule? Do mounds of messes or endless streams of paperwork have your mind in a frenzy? Here's a thought-provoking piece of advice: You shouldn't even start thinking about getting organized without first considering what makes your brain tick.

Understanding your personality type can help you conquer clutter and bring order back into your life. The rigid rule that says you must put away an item as soon as you're done with it doesn't cut it with everyone. For instance, some brain types work more efficiently by setting aside a small area to accumulate odds and ends, and then returning items to their respective places once that space becomes filled. Here's how to bring efficiency back into your environment with organizing tips customized for your personality.

The Administrator

Systematic in approach and evaluative by nature, you thrive on teamwork and are always eager to lend a hand. Delegating, planning and supervising are your forte.

Organizing Strategy
• "Schedule the last 15 minutes of the day for putting your desk or work space in order," advises professional organizer and speaker Elisa Adams (how2organize.net). Keeping the clutter clear provides a sense of stability, which helps you thrive.
• Maximize your productivity by scheduling and prioritizing your projects. A master plan, day planner and family calendar are important tools for you.
• You tend to juggle many projects at once. Exercise your option to occasionally say no when asked to do things that are of low priority to you.

Creative

You are a free spirit who thrives on variety, embraces imagination and delights in spontaneity. Cater to your need for stimulation to be most effective.

Organizing Strategy
• Forget the standard to-do lists. Creative personalities are motivated by things that stimulate their senses. A decorative chalkboard, corkboard or colorful calendar is much more visually appealing than an ordinary day planner or notebook, and will encourage you to write things down.
• Sort closets by arranging clothes and accessories by color. Continue with the color theme by color-coding your boxes and files.
• Creative types are more in tune with processing the big picture. That's why open storage systems work best for you. Create a system of colored bins or boxes in a bookcase or baskets on simple shelves.
• Keep a small notebook and pen in your car, purse and a convenient spot in your home so you can jot down and capture ideas, appointments, errands or other things as you think about them.

Impulsive

Fun, playful and full of energy, you become restless with things that are too time-consuming, invasive or binding. Professional organizer and time management expert Roxanne Lange (theprofessionalorganizer/rlange.htm) shares organizing tips that will help simplify your life.

Organizing Strategy
• Write down all the activities you invest in (i.e., work, spouse, children, friends, hobbies, exercise, etc.) then budget your time based on what you're willing to spend on each activity. Impulsives have a yen for doing things on a whim and work best when they have guidelines that they control.
• Lists are imperative-just remember to add FUN to the list (really!). It's also a good idea to add something that you could easily subtract in case something you really want to do comes up.
• Replace a daily to-do list with a weekly one and accomplish the tasks as you feel like it.
• Lists for meal planning and shopping are BIG money-savers for impulsives-utilize them!

Independent

Dynamic, responsible and innovative, your proficiency at running the show is best tempered with tolerance and concern for others. Organizing and time-management expert and speaker Julie Morgenstern (juliemorgenstern.com) offers the following tips to keep you on track.

Organizing Strategy
• Avoid frustration by collaborating with other household members when devising an organizational system. Strategize household spaces by zone, making sure to give a home for each person's essential items. (For example, you may find that your bedroom has four zones: sleeping, reading, dressing and work.) That way you will create a system that everyone can maintain.
• Organize the space to fit the needs of the person using that space. For instance, organize the kitchen for the cook in the house, the work station for the one who pays bills, etc. Independent personalities living with others in a household will constantly be frustrated when they set up organizing systems for themselves that no one else understands or buys into. You may think spices in the kitchen should be alphabetized, but the cook may think they should be divided into sweet versus savory. Organizing for the people you live with creates a harmonious system that works.
• Labeling works wonders and helps to ensure that everyone is following the same system. For example, label the front edges of kitchen shelves so everyone knows where to put things. Then create a one-page file index that shows where to find everything, and display it in an easy-to-access spot for everyone in the household.

Insightful

Often driven by your mood, you are easily bored with detail, precision and repetition. Variety is essential for you as is adventure and trying new things.

Organizing Strategy
• Designate 15 minutes of every day to organize a drawer, closet or cupboard. Insightful people like to go with the flow, and short-term organizing sessions allow flexibility within the day as it unfolds so you are more likely to organize.
• Turn on music while you organize and clean. Insightfuls work best in an environment that sets the tone for expressiveness and reflects who they are. Music is an expressive and highly motivating universal language. Can you imagine the lady in the Swiffer commercial engaging in a cleaning frenzy without the music in the background? Music makes any task much more doable and fun.
• Write down 10 things you enjoy doing that take 15 minutes or less, such as gardening, listening to your favorite CD, or lying on the floor and coloring with your kids. Whenever you spend time organizing, sorting or decluttering, follow up with one of your favorite fun things from your top-10 list.

Perfectionist

Achievement-oriented and focused on details, you can see potential for improvement in any situation but tend to be overly critical of self and others. You like control and orderliness, but may expend useless energy in achieving that goal.

Organizing Strategy
• An "all or nothing" approach can interfere with your ability to get things done. Instead, define expectations and confine your perfectionism to a few important areas.
• Each time you complete a task or organize an area to perfection, pick two tasks that you can and will do quickly but not perfectly.
• Use subject-related piles and toss what you don't need, suggests Lanna Cairns, organizing consultant and founder of Organized World (organizedworld.com). When sorting clothes, for example, the piles might be casual wear, day wear, work wear and evening wear. "Chances are you will purge a lot and keep very little," she says.
• Cairns suggests creating a structured place for documents that require your daily attention, like calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists, etc. Having a designated place that's in plain sight will help perfectionists stay focused on daily details.

Procrastinators

Are you a master at putting things off rather than taking the plunge and doing a dreaded task? The secret is to learn how to procrastinate more productively.

Organizing Strategy
• Create accountability for tasks by creating related deadlines. If your house is overdue for a cleaning, then invite friends over for dinner in a week or two to help ensure you'll get it done.
• Don't feel like doing the task at hand? Do something else. Instead of doing laundry or tackling the bills, you might organize your work area or do dishes; this is a great way to deal with mundane chores. Plus, doing something puts you into a "deal with it" mode and a better frame of mind to complete the initial task at hand.

Result-Oriented

Highly ambitious, assertive and very industrious, you reach your goals through more direct and obvious routes. Professional organizer Roxanne Lange offers these tips for better efficiency.

Organizing Strategy
• Productivity is where you thrive. Track your time for a week, taking mental notes on productivity and how the time you are spending applies to your current goal. Is your time being productively used toward achieving a particular goal? Or is it being wasted on irrelevant matters? Analyze, then reprioritize as needed.
• PDAs and mobile phones are handy, but are distractions that can interrupt valuable, productive time. Make a promise not to answer every call, then use your downtime waiting in line, etc., to check and return calls and e-mails.

Social

Helpful, friendly and trustworthy (though easily distracted), you are tuned in to sensitivity and nonverbal communication. For you, it's all about comfort and function. International organizing consultant Lanna Cairns, author of Organizing for Your Brain Type (St. Martin's Press, 2005) provides these target tips.

Organizing Strategy
• Attractive organizing containers work best for always-on-the-go social butterflies, especially when placed in a strategic area near the door.
• Use different drawers for different items, organized by color and category. Social people are easily distracted, and this organizing system will keep you better focused.
• Put a colorful label or picture on storage boxes for easy identification.
• Set boundaries on how long things should be kept before purging. Then enlist the help of an organizing buddy to help you deal with the clutter.

Undisciplined

Creative, flexible and ever on the move, you are bored by routine and nitty-gritty details. Socializing and fun activities motivate you best, and accountability makes you more effective. Organizing expert Julie Morgenstern, New York Times bestselling author of Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out, gives tips for clearing the clutter.

Organizing Strategy
• Rethink organizing as something that's not confining but liberating. Switch your mindset so that you no longer think about clearing up as putting things away, but instead as setting things up for future use so they're ready for your next creative or spontaneous moment.
• Identify a room's functions, then arrange the room in three to five activity zones. For example, the family room zone might be divided into distinct reading, television, crafts and games areas. This will help speed up the cleaning process exponentially.
• Sort by categories. Clothing might be organized by season, or perhaps by occasion or garment type (skirts, shirts, pants, etc.). The key is to sort for the unique way in which you think. That way you can easily see what is excessive, what is outdated, what is duplicated and what is unnecessary.

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