Exploring the Way We Organize by STYLE: I Love Stuff and I Know I Put it Somewhere


Learn to put your organizing and personal style to work for you in your classroom and your home.

By Lisa Lawmaster Hess

This month, I’m focusing on the I love stuff personal style and the I know I put it somewhere organizational style. These styles may or may not travel together; when it comes to personal and organizational styles, many combinations are possible, which keeps organizing interesting.

In January, I shared a few of the basics of Organizing by STYLE. Last month, I began focusing on the three personal styles and the three organizational styles.

Personal styles describe the way we approach not just organizing, but life — they’re the things we do naturally that influence the way we organize. Organizational styles, on the other hand, are our organizing “default” — how we organize when we’re not thinking about organizing. As we go through each of the styles, you may see yourself in just one, or find that you possess a little bit of all of them. Though most people eventually narrow their descriptions to one personal style and one organizational style, which labels fit is less important than which strategies work for you.

Last month, I talked about the I need to see it personal style and the drop and run organizational style. This month, I’m focusing on the I love stuff personal style and the I know I put it somewhere organizational style. These styles may or may not travel together; when it comes to personal and organizational styles, many combinations are possible, which keeps organizing interesting.

Personal style: I love stuff.

What it is: I love stuff folks are collectors who find beauty in the ordinary and become attached to their things. Getting rid of things isn’t just difficult — it’s downright painful. That sports-drink bottle cap? It’s from the day she won her first soccer game. That slightly crumpled piece of paper she just retrieved from behind her math book at the very back of her desk? The program from the class play — the one where she had her first speaking part. Pens, pencils, notebooks, collectibles — the I love stuff person loves them all equally and wants to keep them all. This love of stuff isn’t materialism, but rather an attachment to the memories their belongings evoke.

How it manifests: With ever-burgeoning collections. Depending upon the specific items and the organizational style of the I love stuff person, the collections may be out in plain sight or tucked away, perhaps neatly or perhaps haphazardly. But make no mistake: once someone with an I love stuff personal style claims something, it’s his for the duration. Though the passage of time can make downsizing easier, those with the I love stuff personal style are more likely to find their things a new home than to throw them away.

How we can press it into service: By embracing the creativity inherent in this style and incorporating it into organizational systems. Because those with the I love stuff personal style have a “thing” for things, it’s easy to make the selection of storage a treasure hunt in and of itself. Those with this personal style are likely to embrace unusual organizers or containers that are particularly well-suited for showcasing their most treasured items. In addition, these folks may also be perfectly happy with the mundane (when it comes to containers) as long as they provide good homes for their treasures.

Tools that probably won’t work with this style: When it comes to organizing, those with the I love stuff personal style are guided more by their organizational style than their love of possessions and collections. Because those with this personal style are collectors by nature, however, room to grow is a key feature when it comes to containers. The biggest organizational issues with this style will be finding enough space to store all of those important things.

Tools that often work well with this style: Unique and eye-catching containers can double as collectibles and organizers, while clear containers can keep treasures in sight. Containers meant to house specific items of importance (such as clear plastic sleeves for cards and paper collectibles) or those that allow for display of significant items can also work well for those with the I love stuff personal style.

Organizational style: I know I put it somewhere.

What it is: Much like last month’s styles, this one is exactly what it sounds like. Unlike their I need to see it counterparts, those with an I know I put it somewhere organizational style live to put things away … somewhere. The problem arises when it’s time to locate the items that have been safely put away.

How it manifests: In the short run, those who use the I know I put it somewhere organizational strategy make everything look neat and tidy. In the long run, however, problems arise when it’s time to retrieve what they need. Everything may look good on the surface, but those with an I know I put it somewhere organizational style usually lack a system. Consequently, when it comes time to locate the items that were safely tucked away, I know I put it somewhere organizers often struggle to retrieve what they need because they can’t remember which safe place they tucked it into.

How we can press it into service: The I know I put it somewhere organizer has an important organizational concept already in place: putting things away. Pairing this key idea with the concept of logical homes for things, and perhaps a “miscellaneous” drawer for wayward homeless items can take those who organize this way from stressed-out searches for important items to seamless retrieval of what they need when they need it.

Tools that probably won’t work with this style: As for those with the I need to see it personal style, out of sight is out of mind for the I know I put it somewhere organizer. Storage that hides items in deep recesses, or even unlabeled containers whose contents remain a mystery will be stumbling blocks for those with this organizational style.

Tools that work with this style: Clear and/or labeled drawers, bins and other storage will provide the memory assist the I know I put it somewhere organizer needs to find things in a timely fashion. One “miscellaneous” drawer for wayward items can be helpful. More than one is likely to be a hindrance.

Traveling companions? As I said at the outset, these two styles might travel together, but they won’t always. Each personal and organizational style is an entity unto itself and many pairings, both complementary and catastrophic, are possible. Though opposite in approach, the combination of the I need to see it personal style with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style, for example, can be a good one because there is so much overlap in the types of containers and storage that work for these two styles.

Still haven’t found your fit? Next month, I’ll finish up with the final styles: I love to be busy (personal style) and cram and jam (organizational style).

See you then.

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary school counselor.

Exploring the Way We Organize by STYLE: I Love Stuff and I Know I Put it Somewhere
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