Friday, August 28, 2009

How Your Style Shapes Your Space

Organization should come in custom-fit sizes. Any system works only as well as it works for the people using it. No matter how attractive, how inviting, those organizer systems look in the store, in ads, or on magazine pages, they won't make you happy if they don't fit who you are. Just as we have learned with home education, fitting the work to the temperament works wonders for us. Here's a quick overview of how organizing styles affect the way a space should be arranged.


Unstructured Types need flexibility
. The point is not the structure. It's the people. It's what the people are doing. For the unstructured person, organization should be like the punctuation in a sentence: quietly there in the right places, but not the focus.

Unstructured Spaces should be organized with open containers along the path of motion, so that organizing takes almost no added effort. If a container takes more than two motions to use, it will sit empty. The organizing system should leave ample room for expansion. Unstructured people need extra containers for the unexpected which spontaneously hold whatever appears on a particular day. They like to come up with ideas, and so there should be a space for thoughts, pictures, clippings, and articles in nearly every room. Unstructured types organize visually, so their happiest environment follows is a three-dimensional model of a whatyouseeiswhatyouget design. It works for them, and that's the key.

Unstructured pitfalls center mainly around an overuse of flexibility. Mature unstructured types know that everything isn't relative. They know that there are are some hard fast rules in organizing that apply to everyone. They do their best work when they set a few firm boundaries, pay attention to context, and apply some gentle accountability.


Structured Types feel a distinct need for certainty. They want all of their possessions to have definite places, so that they can find them at any minute. "A place for everything, and everything in its place" is their decorating theme. That's what they think of first when planning their space, and they would prefer that it does mean everything. This is important to them for feeling truly at home.

Structured Spaces take time. Everything does need a place for the structured soul, and that will take some doing, especially if there are children. Patient, careful work on one isolated area of the house at the time is the best way for a structured people to order their spaces. They do best when they set small, realistic goals and time limits on their work every day. As they work, they can see the transformation taking place and that will encourage them. They can benefit from sales on plastic bins, drawer dividers, stacking crates, and shelves. They will find a use for every one they buy.

Structured pitfalls arise out of passion. Their great strength, carried too far, can be a weakness. It's easy for structured types with high expectations about order to burn out. They can end up making the order a higher priority than caring for the people. It's easy for them to lose perspective while trying to create perfectly organized spaces. The structured person works best when remembering the need for flexibility and paying attention to context. The order they crave, as they envision it, is not always appropriate in every setting. But that doesn't mean they should give up. They just need to develop the fine art of negotiation and adjustment, and they need to stop to smell the roses every day.


Hybrid Organizers need the freedom to choose. These innovative individuals want to be able to shift the dial to more order or less order for each situation and each room in the house. The office area may be surgically clean and the kitchen neat as a pen, but the family room can look like whatever. Their most common phrase about organizing is, "It depends."

Hybrid Spaces should be highly practical. Hybrids are happiest when they can develop a system for each area of the house that is suited to the way they use it. They need mental tags for rooms that key them into they way they should think about order: "here is where I do ______ so it needs to be ____ and I should organize it by _____. The most important thing here is ______ ." Instead of organizing the entire house on the same system, they work best when they decide what they will be doing in each area of the house and make the organization system fit the activity. Organizing by doing is the surest way to satisfaction.

Hybrid pitfalls center around their strength: doing. They can get a lot done, and do it well. But they often don't feel this way about themselves, because they can always see more that could be done. They live better, not when they run harder and faster, but when they ask: what are the other people doing? Does everyone have space for what they long to do, too? Their focus on doing can become a sort of tunnel vision. Have they left places that are peaceful? Is there space in which to just chat, to day dream, to visit -- for every member of the family? What about the projects their children long to do? Is there room for those? What about joy? Does the house encourage joy and fellowship? In the focus on functionality, they can leave behind the abstract values of atmosphere, and then with a kind of anguish realize that they missed what they care about most.


As you read these, what do you think will help you most as you begin organizing your space? What are the important things for you to remember or to do?


  1. I need to be patient and to work on a small project each day. I need to set realistic boundaries and expectations. I need to be flexible. I need to take time for joy, and not work until my head hits the pillow at night. what about you?

  2. This is excellent. I think I'm definitely hybrid with a little unstructured thrown in. I'm definitely not structured. And I definitely need help!


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