The business of being organized has become a thriving industry, with the home organization product market alone expected to increase 3.6 percent annually to $8.6 billion in 2015, according to international business research company The Freedonia Group. Add to that a steady stream of books, magazines, television shows and consultants dedicated to helping people get it together, and the sky’s the limit.
But what are we really striving for when we clean out our closets or label the shelves in our pantries? For expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, the answer is pretty simple. “People crave a feeling of control in their lives,” she explains. “When people don’t feel their space is organized, there can be a certain anxiety. They don’t feel ready. I think, ultimately, being organized makes you feel like you are ready for anything.”
It’s getting to that “organized” state that can prove challenging. Some people effortlessly go through life with a clean car and clutter-free counters and desks while others are surrounded by a big mess wherever they set foot. So, is being organized inherent or learned?
“It’s both,” asserts Louise Kurzeka, member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of Everything’s Together. “Some of us are born natural organizers. [We] see space relationships, structure and sequence easily, making organization a simpler process. Others lack those natural abilities but can improve their skills by learning how to create and use good organizational systems.”
Furthermore, people have an individual sense of what constitutes order, and some are just more comfortable with the chaos than others. “I think people have different tolerances for [disorganization], says Morgenstern.
Given how widely personalities can vary, it’s no surprise that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method of organizing for everyone. “You have to find something that works for you,” says Morgenstern.
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Some experts such as Lanna Nakone, owner of Organized World and author of Organizing for Your Brain Type, believe that your organizing style corresponds to your general style of thinking. Her model includes four styles: maintaining, harmonizing, innovating and prioritizing.
Those with the maintaining style thrive in order and predictability, where there’s a place for everything and everything has a place. “Organization for them is very structured and rigid,” she says. On the job, these are the people you can depend on for anything.
In contrast, people who fall into the category she refers to as a harmonizing style are social and sentimental. “Their purpose is to achieve harmony in all aspects of life,” says Nakone, “and their surroundings need to be very personal and comfortable.” These are the co-workers who adorn their cubicles with photos of their children and pets and plan the monthly potluck lunches.
People with Nakone’s innovating style are the visionaries, and they like to store everything out in the open because if they don’t, they might forget about it. At work, they’re “always on to 10 different things, and they tend to be sporadic organizers,” she says.
Those with the prioritizing style are the power players and decision makers. “These are the workaholics,” Nakone says.” They’re too busy to tend to the details, so they’re inclined to outsource their organizing, along with just about everything else.
Whatever your organizing style, in the end there’s only one way to tell if you’ve got it together, whether you’re operating as an individual or part of a greater team. “My test is, if you can find what you need when you need it in order to achieve your goals, you are organized,” sums up Morgenstern.
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