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Different Organizing Styles


“Clean up your area!” “Quit moving my stuff!” “Why are you such a slob?” “I think you’re just plain lazy!” “Are you obsessed?”


Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, you may be living or working with someone with a different organizing style.


Your personal organizing styles may be as different as night and day, but those with conflicting “visual” and “camouflage” styles can have successful relationships. The first step is to take the time to understand and accept each other’s differences.


Let’s explore those differences:


Visuals are those of us who need to see what they are looking for; that is, everything they might be looking for. These are the people whose homes and offices resemble background shots for the movie, “Twister.” Their stuff is literally everywhere and destined to stay there. To those who do not appreciate this particular style of organizing, life with a visual can be pretty frustrating or even frightening.


Camouflagers, on the other hand, want everything to be out of sight. Each and every item in their lives has an assigned spot and, for extreme camouflagers, it must be in that assigned spot for them to feel right with their world. Visuals come upon this Spartan-like scene and their first comment is something like: “Come on, how can anybody live like this?” It’s a question camouflagers could ask of visuals.


When you are in the midst of dealing with someone of the opposite organizing style, it may be difficult to believe that these two distinctly different organizing types can live in peace and harmony (in the same house or office).


The steps to achieve that harmony are:


1. Understand that although your style is different, it is the appropriate style for you. Just the fact that you can admit to having different styles is healthy for your relationship. Now that you understand each of your styles, we can start to work.


2. Accept each other’s organizing style and don’t try to change the other person. Just because it isn’t your style does not mean it is wrong or that it should be fixed. Remember the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Truer words were never spoken about organizing styles.

3. Discuss each other’s organizing differences. Brutal honesty is the ticket here. This is not the time to hold back feelings about how much the other person’s style is making you crazy. Get everything out in the open where you can deal with it.


4. Focus on the things you have in common. Surely there are some things you agree on. You may have to search deeply for them but you need to identify them now.


5. Compromise as a team. If both of you are willing to give and take, neither of you will feel like the only one who is making sacrifices.


6. Allow for separate space when compromise doesn’t work. There’s nothing wrong with each of you having a separate room or spot to call your own. This may be one of the healthiest ways to keep the relationship intact.


7. Camouflagers can suggest the tools necessary to enhance, yet not infringe, on a visual’s style. For visuals, putting things on bookcases still allows them to see everything, while satisfying the camouflagerss need to have things off the floor or away from eye level. Visuals can make use of see-thru file cabinets and stacking trays, also acceptable to camouflages. Camouflagers usually have no need for new tools; most already have what they need.


8. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Keeping the lines of communication open forces issues to be resolved before irrevocable lines are drawn in the sand -- lines neither of you may be able to cross.


9. Recognize when your organizing style isn’t the real issue. Using these admitted differences as a way to cover up more serious problems in the relationship will not work long term.


10. Always remember to accept your differences and to keep the communication lines open at all times. If you can accomplish this, your relationship will move forward on a much smoother path.


Relationships help us learn and grow. Admittedly, living (or working) with someone of the opposite organizing style is a challenge. But if you can use the above strategies and make this work, think how easy all your other relationships will seem.


By Sylvia Kirks McClintick



Sylvia Kirks McClintick is a professional organizer and owner of Organized Chaos. She offers coaching via telephone and e-mail throughout the country. Organized Chaos offers a free needs assessment to get you started. Check out Organized Chaos at www.TameTheChaos.com. Sylvia may be contacted at 336-548-4646 or 1-888-TO-CHAOS. Organized chaos has been in business since 1992.


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