Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Bother Getting Organized Again

by Elizabeth Symington

I spend more time getting organized than staying that way. Authors Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping C.S.W. of Organizing for the Creative agree that it takes less time to stay organized than to get organized. Saving time and being less stressed are my motivation for getting my possessions in order. Being disorganized has also mentally held me back from running my own art-related venture. I know papers will exponentially grow when the doors open for business, so I feel that if I don’t get it under control now, how will I operate a professional business? (Don’t fret, this book goes into specifics on how to succeed at the catch-up game to get things into order and then how to stay ahead.)

According to this book, right brain dominant people (RBs), like artists, actually think differently in terms of organizing than from analytical, left brain dominant people (LBs). Since most organizing containers are tailored to LB’s way of thinking, it is a no wonder that RBs are often messy. So what kinds of organizing systems are a natural fit for us creative people?

Even though Organizing for the Creative is a paperback, it took me a while to get through. I’d be snuggled up on the couch reading when I’d come across a nugget. Being all excited, I’d immediately get up and implement what I just read. Compulsively I sketched out better suited organizing containers, by using the preferences that us creative people love that are listed in this book. It was like a game thinking of what areas I let be cluttered; analyze what gets left there and visualize in my mind the best kind of home for those specific items. Then I’d create or find these organizing containers and keep tabs on it to asses if anything needed to be altered. I love games!

Which is Your Dominate Brain Hemisphere?

Your toothpaste tube has the answer. The authors of Organizing for the Creative Person talk about how left brain people carefully roll up the tube as they go. Right brain folks squeeze it from wherever. The cap could even be missing! Who needs it anyways!?! Basically LBs are analytical and RBs are intuitive. This disparity of thought process makes is necessary to have different organizing systems.

Right and left brain traits can be learned to make you more balanced. In this book, it analyzes behaviors of LBs that RBs can learn to alter to fit their natural organizing style. There are lots of specifics on how to organize the home and office with an emphasis on problem areas like photos, recipes and papers. The book is also great for LBs to further understand how us RBs think, so there is less conflict.

Left Brain Preferences to Organizing:

  • Vertical (filing cabinets)
  • Hidden (drawers or closets with doors)
  • Complex systems
  • Linear (bullet points for brainstorming)
  • Formal (expensive looking furniture, like wooden bookshelves)

Natural Fits for Creative People

Right brain dominate people prefer horizontal organizing.
We also like things to be informal, like using 2x4s to hang up tools.

Creative people also like their things exposed,
so they don't forget about them (fear of out of sight, out of mind).

Plus we prefer to simplify things by having easy access.

This means no drawers or cupboard doors.

Creative People Prefer:

  • Horizontal (storing papers flat in open cubbies)
  • Exposed but also quickly covered up to eliminate visual clutter (secretaries desk)
  • Simple
  • Circular (mind mapping technique for brainstorming)
  • Fun
  • colorful

Nothing is Wrong with Me

Organizing habits come from your thoughts, so Organizing for the Creative Person talks about common thought patterns for right brain dominate people. This was by far the most helpful part of the book! By analyzing why I think certain thoughts, I’m more in control of keeping my possessions in order. It also made me feel less alone in my struggle to stay neat and tidy, since other creative people deal with the same issues.

While reading, the biggest Aha! moment happened when I realized I think globally. Let’s say my art studio is trashed. I’d weigh how long it would take to clean the whole room. If there’s not enough time to start and finish in one session, I wouldn’t start cleaning. An LB looks at tasks in parts. They would see each section of the room as a separate task, like the desk, the floor, the tool bench… They would naturally attack one area, instead of doing the whole room at once.

Knowing the disadvantages and advantages of thinking globally has helped me to treat myself (and other artists) better. I have lightened up on giving myself a hard time about taking on too much, like cleaning the entire studio in one go, getting burnt out and not cleaning for a long time. I also have cut back on trash talking to myself for not cleaning the room at all, because I thought the task as a whole was too intimidating to even start. By seeing projects in sections, it feels more doable. I’m now less likely to put off a big project, since I started cutting it up into smaller tasks.

We are Creative in More Than Just Art

The great thing about right brain dominate people, is that we are naturally creative. Since creativity is not limited to the arts, you can use it in any aspect: running a business, financial, organizing… You don’t need to feel like you can’t be organized because you haven’t been or stayed that way. By reading Organizing for the Creative Person by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping you’ll get more tools on getting and staying organized.

Imagine how wonderful you’ll feel having a natural system for organizing. You’ll be less stressed and more in control. Now think about how much time you daily spend looking for things. Would it take more time to hunt for missing items than to daily clean-up for 20 minutes? Consider giving organizing another try.


  1. Reading about organin=zing I have no idea if I a right brained or left brained... At least organizationally. I think I sometimes build things to organize atuff just because I like to build not because I like to organize. You would think I would have figured this out after such a long time on earth.

  2. I hear yah on not knowing which brain I am- so I call myself a left brained artist.

    You made me laugh when u wrote that you've been on earth for such a long time. Pleeeaassee. I am not much younger then you. We're still youngsters. :-)