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Visual Examination

Organizing styles are like belly buttons; either you’re an innie or an outie. Innies either hide their clutter behind cupboard and closet doors or, if they’re organized, have things labeled and filed in those same cupboards and closets. Outies have a tougher time getting organized. They have bought into the myth of the “visual” person.

It’s possible to be an organized outie if you have your clutter cleared and your projects in neat piles, ideally labeled and on shelving so that you make use of vertical space. But most outie/visual types have piles of clutter and papers everywhere. Occasionally a highly productive person will live and work this way (artists and inventors come to mind) and there are plenty of examples of someone who can find what they need quickly in a seemingly overwhelming haystack of stuff. These unicorn outies are the heroes of all my clients who insist they are visual and so nothing can ever be put away for fear that—for them—it will cease to exist.

First, being able to find the proverbial needle in a stack of stuff means that the person needs to keep the location of every single item in their space also in their head. They need to hold all that information and, if someone moves something ever so slightly, their system will fail. So not only is the brain filled with information, it’s also threaded through with anxiety. It certainly doesn’t sound like a peace-of-mind scenario. I’ve heard that some personalities thrive on the drama and chaos this “crazy newsroom” style engenders, but imagine what they could do with all that brainpower by employing a simple A to Z filing system.

For most self-described visual types, it’s not only paper that has to be out on view. Projects in process, craft supplies, games, cleaning supplies, you name it—everything is out on counters, spread on the floor or covering the dining room table because, “if I put it away I won’t remember I have it.” This is a belief that needs to be examined.

Certainly, having too much stuff does tend to make us forget what we have, whether it is put away neatly or stashed on every available horizontal surface. A thorough purge is always a good place to start no matter your organizing style.

The key to helping a “visual” person (and, unless blind, vision is the predominate sense in humans, so we are all “visual”) to let go of having to see everything physically is to organize things into a very logical system. Items should be stored near where they are used. Containers and even the front of shelves in cupboards, such as the pantry, should be clearly labeled. Clear containers will help a visual person feel more secure about what they have than opaque containers. If things are organized logically and labeled, the brain can take a mini vacay and think about more creative things than, “Where are the extra sponges?” because the extra sponges are—duh—under the sink with the other cleaning supplies.