Everyone has a different personal organization style. Some of us wonder if we will ever find a way to stay organized. In this episode, I give you a breakdown of four personal organization styles and ways you can take ownership, test them out, and see which works best for you.

Personal Organization Styles Transcript

I spent a majority of my life just taking on the assumption that I would always be disorganized. That I was always going to be kind of a hot mess express. And I would be that 13 year old girl that could not walk into her walk-in closet, because that’s where I shoved all the things that I didn’t want to put away. 

I really thought that that was just gonna be the rest of my life, and I was going to have to fake it until somebody would marry me and live with me for the rest of my life. 

But what happened, I am proud to say, is that I have come a long way. I am still a work in progress in my organization, but one thing that truly made an impact was figuring out that it wasn’t me. It was the way I was trying to organize. Because there’s actually different personal organization styles. 

Depending on how your brain works, and how well you physically work, you have a different personal organization style that’s going to work for you. And once that little peice clicked into place, I could start transforming things into something that was actually going to be maintainable. Something that made me want to work towards putting things back where they belong, and not having any hidden doors, with junk, just stashed all behind it. 

Because it was such a big revelation in my life, I wanted to go ahead and share that today in case you have been trying to stay organized, but just feel like every organization system that you’re trying is not working. It’s all falling apart. 

I wanted to give you the breakdown of these four main organizing types and then different ways that you can really kind of take hold of that and take ownership, or test them out if you’re not really sure which one is yours, and see where you fall so that you can move forward in this happy, slightly more organized, still living with kids lifestyle that we have. 

Do You Like Things in View or Hidden?

The first thing that we’re going to talk about is whether you like things to be in view, or whether you like things to be hidden. And I feel like this is the trickiest one. 

Hidden Personal Organization Style

If you prefer things to be hidden, that is what I consider a Pinterest level organizer’s dream. Like you can put something behind a closed cabinet door, it’s organized back there, but the cabinet door covers it. 

You could take a picture of that room, and you could put it up on Pinterest and it looks gorgeous. Everything has a place behind a door or inside a beautiful wicker basket somewhere.

That is the hidden organizing style, and that is a beautiful thing…if it works for you. 

For me, I am an out of sight out of mind type of person. I tried putting things in beautiful baskets. Even now I’m looking at this wall in my office. and I have these four beautiful, whitewashed, woven baskets of some type of material. I can’t really tell you what is in each of those baskets, and because I can’t tell you what’s in each of them, I have probably purchased something to replace everything that’s in them. 

In fact, that’s why I moved away from dressers for a while. For me, if I didn’t open that dresser drawer every day, I literally wouldn’t think about what was in there. I would just go buy a replacement assuming that I had lost all of my shorts ever. That is one huge difference. 

Can you operate, or do you prefer to operate, where things feel a little bit more hidden and tucked away? Does that make your heart happy knowing that it’s all in a place, but that place is kind of a secret for everybody that comes over?

Visual Personal Organization Style

Or, do you like things to be a little bit more visible, a little bit more open? Do you love a clear container where you can line everything up inside of it and see from the outside what is there? 

Do you think that, maybe not as far as open shelving in a kitchen, but like glass front cabinets (where you can see what is inside) it is just going to help your brain work better? 

Now aesthetically, I think I like the hidden style. I think everything looks great, but I tried it. I tried dresser drawers. Dresser drawers and I don’t get along very well. 

I tried these beautiful baskets that are literally sitting three feet to my left, but it just doesn’t work for me. 

Instead now I’m moving everything towards open, clear containers. And that might feel a little overwhelming to you being able to see all of the things and not really having a hidden space. 

If that feels like you would be way too overwhelmed by it, you’re probably a hidden organizer. Totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. 

A really easy way to test this out, is to first get yourself a few bins. Start with your pantry because pantries, I think, are really great list litmus tests because we’re always going through them. We’re always refilling things, restocking things, looking for things. 

Go ahead and organize a few things in your pantry into some woven beautiful baskets, where you can’t see what’s in them at a quick glance, but you can put a nice label on it. 

Then take a few and put them in clear containers. 

I will tell you, the thing is, your kids, small kids need to have visuals. They will go for things in clear containers. In fact, that’s why my kids’ toys are pretty much never in fabric bins anymore, because they won’t play with it that way. 

But if I do need to hide a toy, it’s a great disguise because they will forget about it. And then I can mysteriously lose it overnight. But if it’s in a clear bin, they will see it, they’ll remember they enjoy it and they’ll go play with it.

So have a little variety in a high traffic, high frequented area. And after a few weeks, you’ll kind of realize which one you lean more towards. That’s going to help you narrow down where you’re gonna go from there.

Now, I can already tell you that one big problem a lot of people are going to have with the more visual open container method, the method where you can see all the things, is that you can see all of the things. And sometimes that’s a lot of things.

There’s potential for having too many things. So you probably either don’t have enough cabinets, or enough storage space if you need to hide it, and you probably don’t want to see all of it if it’s visible. So it’s really going to help you kind of hone in and eliminate the things that you don’t need in either case. 

How Detailed of a Person Are You?

Once you figure out if you prefer to hide things away, or you prefer to keep things out in the open, the next step is figuring out how detailed of a person do you like to be? Do you like to put things back exactly where they go every single time? 

I can rainbow organize my closet every three months. It’s so peaceful. I try to keep up with it, but every once in a while, after three to four laundry loads (which, who knows how long that’s gonna take me to do), it starts to kind of fall apart. 

Instead, I’m much better at just generically saying, “Okay, here’s my long sleeves, here’s my short sleeves, here’s my tank tops.” That organization style works better for me. 

Detailed Personal Organization Style

But if you are a person who is going to say – I will get these headphones, specifically out of this tiny little container that is the third back on the left hand row of this slightly larger container in this drawer, and I’m going to put them right back there, so I know exactly where they are. If you feel like you have 1. the time to do that, and 2. that makes you happy to think about how you know exactly where everything is, then you are a detailed organizer. 

You can be a detailed hidden, or detailed visual, but either way you have a detailed personal organization style. You really like to know exactly where things are, and you like to take the time to put things back in their exact spot. And that is how you will keep things clean if they have that spot that you created. And you know where it’s supposed to be. 

Broad Category Personal Organization Style

Or are you just a little bit more of a broad category organizer? You want to know where you can get it from, but you don’t have the care to put it back in a specifically exact spot in that drawer. Or maybe a specific organization order within your closet. 

If you really feel like you have to alphabetize your books A to Z, this one is not for you. This is more of a bin organizing system. Here’s the entire bin of Barbie dolls, but if you want specifically Rockstar Barbie, you’re gonna have to dig around for it, and you’re okay taking the time to do some digging.

You’re okay taking some time to peruse through all of the tank tops to find that one that you were looking for. It doesn’t have to be in a specific spot. So you’re fine taking the time to grab it, but when you put it back, you just want to put it back. You don’t want to be as detailed putting it back where it goes.

In the detailed personal organization style, you want to be able to know exactly where to grab it from, and you want to be able to put it back right where it goes. In broad organizing, you really don’t mind taking a little look for as long as you have a general idea of where it’s at. And you really don’t want to take the time to have to put it back in a specific spot, like close enough is close enough. 

So let’s go back to the pantry scenario. After you figured out if you are hidden or visual, we’re going to figure out now if you aren’t detailed or broad. I actually just want you to go ahead and organize bins the way you normally would. How are you going to put away groceries? And I feel like that’s gonna tell you a lot. 

Do you have a general snack container? A general snack bar container? 

Do you put the little bags of chips in the same container as the big bags of chips if they fit? 

Do you put all of the fruit packs together in one thing? Or do you line them up individually by type of fruit? 

Or do you like to have a separation between the chocolate chip granola bars and the fiber bars (which honestly is probably a safe choice anyway…you don’t want your kids accidentally grabbing a fiber bar if they don’t need it). 

But how specifically do you like to put things away? Because grabbing it out, it’s going to be the same amount of ease in both directions. But putting it away? Depends on if you would rather be more detail oriented in the beginning, or just kind of lackadaisical about it because you know you’re still going to find what you need in the end. That’s going to help you narrow that down. 

So narrowing down on whether you’re hidden or visual, or detailed or broad, you can make some combination of those things. 

Hidden & Detailed Personal Organization Style

If you have a hidden personal organization style, but are a detailed organizer, you’re gonna want compartments within compartments. The way The Home Edit would do this is having baby bins. If you think that you might be a hidden and detailed organizer, just start watching some Home Edit videos on Netflix and they will show you about their baby bins. You’ll probably feel right at home. 

Hidden & Broad Personal Organization Style

If you have a hidden and broad personal organization style, you are more of a – it goes in this drawer, and as long as I can close the drawer, I’m fine. That’s still organized. It still has a spot that you can pull it from and that you can put it back to…and if it fits in that spot, you are doing good. 

Visual & Detailed Personal Organization Style

If you have a visual and detailed personal organization style, you are probably going to have lots of labels. You’re still going to have baby bins, but they’re going to be clear and open. You might be the type of person that really appreciates open shelving because everything is right there and it all has a spot. 

Visual & Broad Personal Organization Style

If you have an open, but broad, personal organization style, then you like having clear containers that are just larger so they can house more things, but they all have a very clear theme. 

So I don’t need to label the fact that this bin is four chips, because I can see that it’s chips, and I’m fine with that. And I put big bags and little bags all in there and we’re good. I am a visual, broad organizer. And that has changed so many things through me. 

Finding Your Personal Organization Style

Figuring out your personal organization style, as the person that probably is doing the most organizing in the house, and the most maintenance on the house, you are able to then take the things that are bothering you and start shifting one section at a time. 

I’m not telling you to go ahead and fully overhaul your home because you might have thought one way, and then as soon as you start implementing and testing it out, it actually turns out to be another way. And that’s fine. 

It’s a little bit of a science experiment, and we all know I’m here for a good science experiment. 

Personal Organization Style for School

But the secondary experiment that I really think you would get a kick out of is taking this to school, and seeing if maybe you need a different type of personal organization styles at school. 

For me being a visual and broad organizer, at school that does not work.

I have too many lab supplies, too much equipment, and I also have too many students who like to rummage through supplies on my desk and take them for themselves. So I actually need to be a hidden and detailed organizer at school. 

I have labels on all of my cabinets with exactly where every single lab supply can be found. I also have to put everything off of my desk and clear it away if I don’t want students touching it. So instead I hide it away. 

It’s a very different lifestyle set for me though because at home I have a certain amount of energy that I can put towards things, and at school I am in a different gear. 

Don’t be afraid if you’re not sure if it’s going to span everywhere for you, but knowing the individual style that you need to have in each of these scenarios, is extremely helpful. 

Test Out Your Personal Organization Style

So this week is the start of a new experiment. Test out what type of style you think you already have. If you are narrowing in, and you’re like this one, this one is definitely me, then go ahead and prove it. And I’m not doing that as a challenge per se, as much as I want you to make sure that that is exactly what is working for you. 

Not just because we think that’s what we see online, and that’s how we should be because I don’t want to go back to pigeonholing myself as a disorganized person. Now that I know that there is something that works for me, it’s just different than what I thought before. 

I’m going to create a highlight on the Engineer Does Education Instagram and over at the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast Instagram, showing you some different ways to look at the different organizing styles. Just little snapshots around my house and in my classroom, and labeling them with if they are visual or hidden, and broad or detailed, and showing you the combinations that they might be so you can compare them to your own home. 

We’re going to take this, and we’ll kind of work through it a little bit more throughout the year, especially as spring cleaning starts to sweep into our lives here in a couple of months. But for now, we’re just trying to take the simple step and identifying what that might be for us. Until next time.


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Keywords: hidden, containers, organizing, bins, organizer, detailed, organize, broad, baskets, disorganized, visual