Exploring the Way We Organize by STYLE: I Love to Be Busy and Cram and Jam

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

By Lisa Lawmaster Hess

Since January, I’ve been sharing one of the foundations of Organizing by STYLE: the personal and organizational styles. So far, I’ve talked about two personal styles (I need to see it and I love stuff) and two organizational styles (drop and run and I know I put it somewhere). This month, I’ll finish discussing the styles, sharing the I love to be busy personal style and the cram and jam organizational style.

If you’ve been reading along since January, you might have seen yourself in one (or more) of the styles. If you haven’t found your fit or if you’ve seen yourself in multiple styles, that’s okay, too. Which labels fit is less important than which strategies work for you.

If you love to be busy (or find yourself in the midst of busyness on a regular basis) or if pretty much everything you’re looking for is jammed into one spot, read on. This final installment might be the one you’ve been waiting for.

Personal style: I love to be busy.

 What it is: I love to be busy folks are bright, creative, social, and/or some combination of all three. And they’re involved in everything. Their volunteerism is commendable but, from an organizational perspective, it can get them into trouble because they often end up with a shortage of an ingredient that’s key to staying organized: time.

How it manifests: I love to be busy folks juggle multiple activities, committees and/or hobbies. If they manage to schedule things just right, they can fit everything in and still manage to take care of themselves, their jobs, and their families, but it’s a tall order. Even one re-scheduled activity can throw the whole carefully constructed plan off-balance.

How we can press it into service: With so many things going on, staying organized is essential. Pre-packing or using the same container for both storing and transporting necessary items is one way I love to be busy people can make it work. One way to do this is to have a dedicated bag or portable container for each activity, making it easy for to simply grab and go. Another approach is to use one planner or bag to keep track of everything. Provided everything in that bag has its own home, whether a folder, a pocket or a pouch, this system can work as well. The better stocked the container of choice, the less likely it is that necessary items will be lost or forgotten.

Tools that probably won’t work with this style: Those with the I love to be busy personal style are pretty flexible when it comes to containers, guided more by what works for their organizational styles than by their busyness. Overly complicated storage systems may slow them down, but otherwise, the I love to be busy personal style doesn’t greatly impact organizational choices.

Tools that often work well with this style: A planner or master calendar, whether paper or electronic, is indispensable for those with this personal style. As with containers of choice, this key tool is usually selected to match the I love to be busy person’s organizational style. Folders, pouches and other space dividing tools also come in handy for keeping the I love to be busy person’s tote/travel/work bags organized so that necessary materials are accessible.

A side note: Maybe you don’t love to be busy, but you just are. If this is the case, you may find the tips above a helpful complement to your primary personal and organizational styles, especially when commitments exceed your typical level of busyness.

Organizational style: Cram and jam

 What it is: As with both the organizational styles mentioned so far (drop and run and I know I put it somewhere), the cram and jam organizational style is exactly what it sounds like. Cram and jammers often know just where to look for their stuff; unfortunately, it may take some digging to find it. And, once it’s been unearthed, the item in question may be rumpled, crumpled or torn. As with the other styles, there’s something good at work with this style; it just needs a little tweaking.

How it manifests: Just the way it sounds. Cram and jammers are stuffers who struggle with the concept of “full” when it comes to storage. More concerned with getting things into a container and out of sight than actually organizing them, those with the cram and jam style put things away, but not so neatly. As with their I know I put it somewhere counterparts, everything may look good on the surface, but opening a drawer, backpack or closet belonging to a cram and jammer usually reveals a lack of any kind of system, which can make retrieval of necessary items a challenge. Given enough time, cram and jam organizers can usually find what they need, but the item is usually a little worse for wear. This style may or may not travel with the I love to be busy personal style, but it sometimes emerges temporarily when someone with the I love to be busy personal style is overwhelmed.

How we can press it into service: The cram and jam organizer has an important organizational concept already in place: every item has a home, even if the “home” is the same place for everything. Helping those with this organizational style to come up with a system for that home or to consider where things belong (instead of just what’s convenient) will take his or her organizing to the next level.

Tools that probably won’t work with this style: Anything small, sectioned or confining can be problematic for the cram and jammer. Small containers fill too fast, sections serve no useful purpose and small spaces work only until they becomes overstuffed, at which time anything that goes into that container does so at its own peril.

Tools that work with this style: Flexible containers (e.g. fabric bins) and one-step storage that allow the cram and jam organizer to indulge his or her natural tendency to stuff will make things easier while also protecting the things that go inside. In general, the fewer steps involved, the more likely the cram and jammer will use the tool. Pocket folders? Unlikely. File folder? Better. Hangers in the closet? Good luck. Open shelving and bins? More likely.

Traveling companions? These two styles do sometimes travel together, particularly when the busyness becomes overwhelming and time to keep things organized is short. As I love to be busy folks run from one activity to the next, cramming and jamming becomes a distinct possibility. In this case, keeping storage separate but roomy (e.g. a separate bag for each activity) may be the key to keeping everything where it belongs in an uncrushed, uncrunched, unwrinkled fashion.

So there you have it! Six styles for those of us who organize differently. Whether we love stuff, need to see things, cram them and jam them, love to be busy, put things in safe places, or leave a telltale trail, each of these styles contains a glimmer of an organizational concept. All we have to do is choose the right tools and press those concepts into service. Easy peasy?

Sigh. It’s a process.

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