I spend a lot of time tidying and cleaning, but there’s stuff that seems to constantly get left out on the counter. Cleaning experts call these places “hot zones.” Like the pile of books next to my bed that belong in the bookcase once I’ve finished reading them, but only get put away when I feel thus inclined. (Code for: “I can no longer get into bed for the stack of books, even cats are falling over the books, and/or company is coming tomorrow.”)
My mother is a grand organizer extraordinaire whose systems would make you weep. I did not inherit that gene and it does not work for me. It’s easier to cram papers into a drawer to deal with never than organize them in a file cabinet. I have tried a dozen times to “get more organized,” and never kept up with the system for more than a week. It’s frustrating.
Then my mother handed me The Clutter Connection, in which the author suggests there are four kinds of people in the world, who relate to their material possessions in different ways, and each person needs a unique system to help them keep their living space to their taste and avoid “piles of stuff.”
I breezed through it in a night and found out something – my mother is the hyper-organized Cricket, and I am the “I love minimalism and not seeing my junk” Ladybug… who shoves what she doesn’t know what to do with into drawers, closets, and hideaway rooms. All I need to do to solve my problem is forget being super organized in hidden spaces (that’s where Crickets excel) and purchase pretty, colorful storage containers to minimize my visual impact and which I can just “toss” stuff into. Whew, problem solved! I am now in the process of doing it in my house, and I love it. I’ve also taken out any furniture I’m not using and uncluttered my shelves. I don’t like too much stuff, it makes me feel hemmed in, and now I understand why.
You can Google “Clutterbug” to find her website (where you can take a quiz, if you like) and YouTube Channel and book links, but I’ll outline the different “Bugs” as she explains them. I’d be interested to hear which one you are and if you’ve struggled with traditional organizing methods like so many of her clients.
These people are defined by the desire and need to “see” their stuff at all times. They operate out of a subconscious fear they will forget about their stuff if it isn’t in view. They can become cluttered and disorganized, since they would rather pile things and/or leave them scattered around the house than put them away in drawers. If they wish to organize, they need ‘broad’ categories and clear plastic containers and/or jars to store their stuff in; that way they can see what they have but also know where to put it when they are done with it. (Broad categories can be: “Shoes” or “Misc items” or “Electronics.”) But it’s important for them to keep visual abundance; not enough stuff drains their energy and creativity.
If you are a Butterfly, if your cabinets have doors on them, your stuff winds up outside the cabinet. You might love the open shelves in his kitchen; as a Ladybug, I hate them because what’s stacked in them looks disorganized to my eyes. But at a glance, you can tell what you own and where to find it. Some basic general containers (no lids, so you can just toss stuff in there) might serve you well.
Much like the Butterfly, Bees love to be able to see all their possessions… but they also want things organized. These are the people would prefer their craft room to have all clear containers so they can see the beautiful things inside, but they might “sort” via color coding or object. They like to see what’s in their closet (no doors) and will put things away if they remove the doors and/or curtains so they can reach in and put things on a hook or a shelf. Clear containers divided into sub categories work for them in the bathroom and bedroom and craft spaces, although the Bees prefer less “general” and more “specific.” It’s also important for them to have bins where they can store whatever their current project is (and they usually have lots of things they dabble in) and get it off the table, but still have it in plain sight. It’s important for them to keep visual abundance; not enough stuff drains their energy and creativity.
The thing Bees must remember when starting in on organization is that their focus on wanting things “just so” means they may not know where to start or how to make progress and feel overwhelmed with their mountain of stuff, so they procrastinate about “beginning.” They, along with Crickets, need to sort into general piles first, then proceed to smaller containers and collections from there. The Bee likely has a super organized media collection and doesn’t mind the cluttered effect of book spines or movie cover spines.
Note: The title photo I used for this post came from here, a Bee for sure!
Ladybugs do not like visual clutter and feel anxious surrounded by too many visible things. They like clean surfaces. The more they add to a room, the less they enjoy it. They are fussy about having a clean house and tidy often, but their ‘dark secret’ is their closets, drawers, and filing systems are a mess, because they just toss things they aren’t sure what to do with “out of sight.” They are somewhat disorganized, like Butterflies, so they need colorful solid containers they can put things in, sorted in general categories that do not clutter the eye. They hate lifting lids all the time, so these containers should be lidless. It’s important for them to avoid visual abundance; too much stuff in sight drains their energy and creativity.
Even before I found out I was a Ladybug, I decided my bathroom was making me claustrophobic, so I wanted to remove the storage tower. I went through all the drawers, threw out a bunch of unused stuff, and put my hairpins and hair ties in plastic sandwich bags and tossed them into an open box with my makeup and brushes. Bliss.
Like the Bee, the Cricket wants everything in detailed order. You would cry to see my mother’s tool shed. Everything has a place on the wall, she has sorted and labeled screws according to color and size, she has labeled all the drawers so people know where to find various tools, and has an itemized laminated list hanging behind the door in case you still can’t find it. But the Cricket also likes limited visual clutter, like the Ladybug. They want stuff organized, but out of sight – organized drawers, file cabinets, and systems. They can be paralyzed with “where to start.” Their solution is to sort according to broad generalizations, then move into categorizing until everything has its place. They need to learn simplicity is best. You can label a box “light bulbs” and put all kinds in it. Too much sorting, too much emphasis on perfection, and too many bins take up too much space, and will prevent you from putting things away. It’s important for them to avoid visual abundance; too much stuff in sight drains their energy and creativity.
Cass has more tips in her book if you are interested in her stories about various clients, figuring out her system, and on how to compromise and live with a different “Bug.” (Can you imagine a Cricket married to a Butterfly? The organizational demands of the Cricket drives the Butterfly nuts; the messiness and visual clutter of the Butterfly bothers the Cricket!)
So, which Clutter Bug are you?