It’s Not About the Piles


Every walk into a room where every surface is clear and think “Wow, he/she sure is organized”?  You might be wrong.

Many people think that being organized means having a tidy space, where there is no visible clutter as far as the eye can see. The reality is, how things look frequently has nothing to do with the actual state of affairs. The true definition of “organized” is being able to find what you need, when you need it.  How you set establish this system is a matter of personal choice.

Generally speaking, there are two types of people: everything “in” people and everything “out” people.

Everything “in” people prefer a clean, tidy space. Their counters are usually empty, their desks have only the bare bones supplies, and their décor is typically minimal.

Everything “out” people like having their stuff out where they can see it.  Their offices have piles on the floor and surfaces, their homes are filled with decorations, and their surfaces are frequently covered.

Many assume that everything “in” people are organized and everything “out” people are not, but this is simply not true. For example, open a drawer in the office of an everything “in” person and you might find a mess of crammed items. It isn’t visible, so the clutter isn’t bothersome. In contrast, a close look at the piles of an everything “out” person may reveal an orderly, up to date system of paperwork.

The reality is that both personality types can be totally organized or in total chaos.  You probably have a natural personality inclination, and it is perfectly fine to be either way. The key is to make sure that regardless of which environment you prefer, you strive to keep it organized.

If you are an everything “in” person:

  • Resist the urge to shove items into a drawer or closet just to get them out of sight.
  • Establish order in your internal spaces (drawer organizers, hooks, filing)
  • Periodically empty internal spaces, review contents, and restore order

If you are an everything “out” person:

  • Resist the urge to put items down randomly
  • Establish a “home”, even if it is out, for all your belongings
  • Consider making better use of internal spaces for items you don’t access daily

While we may have different preferences for where and how we work, we all need a system that maximizes our efficiency. Knowing your own proclivities will help you develop a strategy that is sustainable and comfortable.

Which type are you?

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16 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Piles”

  1. Knowing your own proclivities – an organizing mantra, right? It’s so useful how you gave the tips by ‘in/out” to follow our ways without necessarily needing to change habits we have.

  2. I often talk about the in/out concept when I give presentations, almost likening it to in-y and out-y belly buttons. One is not right or better than the other, it just is how we’ve developed. Thanks for sharing, Seana!

    1. Love that analogy! And variety is the spice of life – we learn from people who have a different life approach, and then adapt to fit who we inherently are!

  3. What resonates with me most is the idea that how things look have little to do with how we feel about our spaces or how organized or disorganized we feel. Early on I remember going to a client’s house for the first time who described her home as being so cluttered that she couldn’t even think. When I arrived, the clutter wasn’t visible to me. As we worked together,I learned that this client was challenged by decision-making. For example, having a desk with a few pieces of paper on the surface overwhelmed her.

    Around the same time, I started working with another client who said that she had so much clutter in her home that she could barely open the door. In that case, the client described her living situation more accurately.

    As a result of those two early experiences, it made me realize that we see clutter in very different ways. Our job as organizers is to understand our clients’ experience and help them where they are without judgment or pre-conceived notions. Taking into account their strengths, preferences, challenges and working with them to help them make the changes they desire.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How To Choose A Professional Organizer That’s Right For YouMy Profile

    1. Exactly… and finding a solution where THEY feel content and peaceful. You nailed it – it just isn’t about how it looks. We each want to like how we feel in our space.

  4. I am definitely an everything “in” person! I am constantly following behind my husband and son to put things away that they pulled out and didn’t return to their home! I have to keep those homes organized though- my BIGGEST pet-peeve is not being able to find something!

    1. We could be roommates, Nicole. I have the same urges in my house. We’ve taken to dividing the house into zones so everybody has a little piece they can relax in:)

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