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Ask Erin: Right Brain/Left Brain

By Katie Sloan
In AskErin
Oct 30th, 2017

What Does it Mean for  Your Organizing Habits?

by Erin Sharplin Love

Right or left?  Do you know which side of your brain is dominant?  Do you even realize that the answer to this question could have a profound effect on the way you organize your home?  As a professional organizer, I don’t approach all homes exactly the same way.  Instead, I try to personalize each project based on the needs, wants and style of my client. Like fingerprints, each person’s organizing style is unique.   Part of assessing these needs and wants entails discovering which side of a client’s brain is dominant.  For example, is he/she more creative (right-brain dominant) or more logical (left-brain dominant)?

To help you discover your dominant side, take a few minutes to review the list of characteristics:

Right Brainers:

•  Impulsive – They love spontaneity and love to “fly by the seat of their pants.”

•  Emotional – They often act before thinking.

•  Artistic – They often paint, write, and/or create music effortlessly.

•  Intuitive – They often rely on their gut reaction instead of looking for facts.

Right-brainers often run late and have no concept of time.  They rarely wear watches, and if they do, they don’t pay attention to the time.  A watch is merely a fashion statement.

Left Brainers:

•  Planners – They love to plan out their next move.

•  Rational – They don’t let feelings get in the way.

•  Logical – They are often good a math, accounting, etc.

•  Precise – They like to research and are often the ones who give good directions.

Left-brainers typically think in sequential order and are keenly aware of time.

If you are still unsure about which side of your brain dominates, this final test will help.  Check out your tube of toothpaste.  Is it neat, clean, and squeezed from the bottom up?  Or is it messy, crumpled, and squeezed from anywhere on the tube?  If it is the former you are predominately left-brained, and if it is the latter you are predominately right-brained!

Now, let’s move on to discover how you can develop an organizing system that works for you.  Given the fact that most left-brainers don’t have an issue with getting and staying organized, I will focus on the right-brainers.  (I bet you can guess which side of my brain is dominant!)

The first step to any organizing project is preparation.  While left-brainers will have no problem with this step, right-brainers rarely complete the organizing process, because they lack the urge to plan, or  they often lack the focus to plan.  They tend to have several things going on at once and often feel at their most productive when multi-tasking.   When I prepare for an organizing project, I take the time to envision the desired outcome.   In other words, I work from the finished product.  If you are a right-brainer, you might prefer to clip pictures and create a vision board for the space you want to organize.  This will satisfy your artistic tendencies, while still keeping you focused on the end.

Next, I create a plan of attack.  I literally craft a timeline of what task needs to be accomplished first, second, third and so on to get to my desired goal.  As a left-brainer this is no problem for me; however, a right-brainer might not be able to think in such a linear way.  Instead, one thought can lead to enumerable other thoughts that will then derail a right-brainer from the end goal.  If this sounds like you, may I suggest that you begin by writing down the steps you feel that you should take to reach your desired destination.  I think such a “mind-map” would be beneficial to you.  A mind map is more like a brainstorm session than a detailed and numbered list.  *Note:  To learn more about how to mind map, just Google it!

Set aside the time to work on the project. Notice I said “work on” and not “complete” the project.  All in all, however, I do suggest that you continue to set aside time to work on the project until it is, in fact, complete.  Finishing an organizing project in one session is not practical for most right-brainers, so my tip is to schedule a time – mark it in your calendar – and then adhere to the schedule.  No excuses.

Finally, create a daily maintenance schedule.  This step will please both right and left-brainers!  Daily maintenance simply means saving time to clear your desk or tidy up the kitchen after cooking the family meal.  A space is much easier to keep clean and organized than it is to get clean and organized, so once you have completed the latter, you definitely want to maintain it!

Tips for Right-Brainers:

•  Work in five minute increments.  Use a timer!  You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in what is seemingly such a short amount of time!  For instance, begin on one end of your desk and work yourself to the other, or start organizing a drawer that has been bugging you.  As someone who frequently gets side-tracked, you will find that the timer helps to keep you  disciplined.  The good news is that being focused can become a learned habit.  You will soon find yourself able to concentrate for a bit longer than five minutes at a time.  You will be able to set your limit when you feel yourself consistently staying off track.  Who knows, your focus time may end up being as much as thirty minutes to an hour!

•  Make sure you create some satisfying right-brain distractions into the organizing process.  For instance, turn some music on and move while clearing a drawer.  Incorporate a drawer liner that speaks to you and adds color and pop to the area.  Right brainers love artistic touches!

•  Right-brainers are more prone to emotional attachments than left-brainers.  Fortunately, simply knowing this will jump start your process of de-cluttering.  Truly feel whether or not you need to let an item go or not.  If you don’t have room for it, and it isn’t useful to you in the present moment, get rid of it.  As long as you have it, no one else will be able to benefit from it either.

•  Since you might easily get distracted, I suggest keeping a notebook and pen handy to jot down future tasks that need completing.  If you are organizing your office, for instance, but today’s task only entails sorting and filing paperwork, you may spot a stack of magazines that need sorting.  Jot that task down for a later date and don’t stop your current task.

•  Right-brainers tend to have a hard time making decisions, so I use a long-trusted technique to combat it – Flip a coin! If you are stumped and cannot decide whether to keep an item, flip a coin! It works!

The good news is that skills predominately used by the right or left brain can all be learned with practice.  In other words, if you are a right-brainer who longs for the use of her left brain’s systems and lists, work on incorporating them into your daily life.  Conversely, if you are a left-brainer (like me), you may feel the urge to break out of your perfectionist box by taking an art class or jamming to some classical music.  Rock your world by using BOTH sides of your brain daily!  Practice makes perfect.