Dear Slob, maybe you’re just a “Visual Organizer”

By June 4, 2014 June 20th, 2019 7 Comments

It was one of those days when every room looked like this:


I prefer to think that my fairly laissez-faire “whatever” personality works well with motherhood. I prefer “flexible” to “messy.” I imagine Type A personalities have to sing, “Let it Go” far more often than I do. Because I like clean, but my standards are…minimal. But even I have my limits.

Yeah, I know I’m supposed to enjoy all the cobwebs and crumbs, and I know, someday I’ll wish for hurricanes and tornadoes to sweep through my house daily, but I often dream of a minimalistic house where everyone has one toy. Where floors sparkle and each dresser drawer is perfectly organized.

We have Mommy crack downs often:

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Boogers are scrubbed off walls (I mean, come on!). Drawers are cleaned out. This is where I find all of my hair clips: they are swaddling babies. Floor are vacuumed. Base boards are scrubbed. A certain daughter says, “what’s the point? No one looks at our baseboards!” And then I feel I must do my duty and repeat my mother: “Because we do not live like pigs.”

The problem? It’s so exhausting. I mean, were we born to do nothing but clean?

After such bursts of clean, life feels better. Until the movie starts all over again. The same mess every day.  After day, after day.

After one marathon session, I collapse into bed and say: I need to get organized (this is me being vulnerable)

And he says: Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re kindof like “so and so” who has stuff here and here and there.

Me not being vulnerable anymore: I am NOT at ALL like that!

He says: I’m not criticizing…

I say: Like I’m some sort of SLOB? (oh, this game in on…!)

He then points to the bedside table where there are large stacks of books, lotion, pens, pencils, and a hairball. I would never admit that on a blog post.

He says: You have to see everything. You think that if you can’t see them, they’ll disappear

And I think, but do not say out loud: Oh my gosh, you’re totally right

He says: You’re a visual organizer

And then I say out loud: Oh my gosh, you’re totally right. Because I can be called a “visual organizer,” just not a “slob.”

Then we are both happy because he’s right (just this once) and I sing, “And At Last I See the Light” from Tangled.

He was so right and I’m still in awe of how right he was. I am a visual organizer.

For example:

Never once will you catch me reading a manual on anything. I tried it once and I didn’t get it. This could also mean I’m lazy. But that’s off-topic for today.

I love lists. I like to handwrite them.

Show me where to go and I’m with you. Tell me five directions on how to get to your house and I’ll end up in Kentucky.

I write notes on everything. I have hundreds of little tidbits on receipts, church programs, sticky notes, and napkins.

If I’m going to a birthday party, I put the present by the door so I can see it. Like for two days.

I keep shopping lists in plain sight

I like notebooks and big posters on the wall so I can see the big picture

Even though I know this is the way I learn, I have to believe that I can get a little bit closer to Nancy Neatfreak. I’m a big believer in job charts and mom not being the martyr. But I also want to work on myself and the way I organize life. It’s all about inner peace, dude!

I remember Nina once wrote she had to have a clear bedside table. And I was jealous b/c I wanted that too, but even when I clear it off, I always end up with the stack: the light reading book, the memoir, the running magazine, the running book, the notebook, the scriptures, the lotion. None of which I’m reading or using at the same time. The hairball is not a recurring theme.

It becomes the broken glass theory. My messy bedside table invites more mess. More broken windows.

Here’s what I did: I very slowly moved the very large stacks of books from my bedside table and very slowly put them five feet away, out of sight, and into my closet (which isn’t ideal either) but until we remodel (never) they’ll stay there and out of sight.

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That act of moving the books out of sight was incredibly empowering!

There, he says, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Hush now, darling.

It was liberating. My personal feelings of peace skyrocketed.

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Lotions went INSIDE the dresser drawer. I even tossed old ones. Woah.

I went through my fifty million magazines (like speeding reading x 10), and only kept the ones I HAD to read.

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I marked the story in each magazine I wanted to read, then filed them, underneath my desk. I went to bed that night with a clean bedside table and desk. It was glorious.

Funny, how wonderful it feels to not be surrounded by stuff.


The next day I donated the fifty million magazines to the library. A win-win for all!

Now the maintenance bit? I’m working on it.

I can’t tell you any great tricks to keep the house clean, I just know that I’m much happier seeing clear surfaces. I know I need to be careful about what I bring into the house. I’m trying to be better about surface serving as dumping grounds.

I might be a “visual learner” but that doesn’t mean I have to be a slob, right?

It’s baby steps everyday. Very deliberate and conscious baby steps.

I still take notes everywhere I go, but I have adopted a brilliant system that’s working:

1. Ryan Holiday’s note card system taught to him by the brilliant Robert Greene. This is perfect for me. I haven’t mastered it yet, but I now always have notecards in my purse so that when I hear something I like, I write it on the notecard and file it when I get home.

What else?

2. This article, “Your Life is Not Tetris – Stop Trying to Fit More In It,” by Dan Blank has REALLY helped me. You’ve got to read this.

Are you like me? There is no shame. Repeat after me: “I am not a slob. I am a visual organizer.”

We could have a support group or something. And if you have advice? Spill, please.






  • Carrie Rubin says:

    Out of sight, out of mind, right? But now that you mention it, cleaning the baseboards has been on my to-do list for months. And months. Must really try to get to it…

  • Dana says:

    First, you have boogers on the wall too? Whew. I thought it was just in my house. Second, I am a neat freak who has modified her definition of neat after living with three no-so-neat freaks. But I still love clean surfaces; they make me calmer and happier. I don’t keep the cleanest house, but I try to keep clutter to a minimum. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m a visual organizer too. Everything just has to be visually NEAT.

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    I also like clean surfaces- but that doesn’t mean I always have clean surfaces. My nightstand is also cluttered with books, lotion, and the Bible- although usually in my post 9pm stupor I manage to throw the lotion in the drawer. I’m NOT good about the big cleaning jobs- windows, baseboards, closets. Too much of that and I get grumbly. So rest easy my friend; you are not alone. 😉

  • 4amwriter says:

    Doe this mean I will have to tell my mom now that she is a visual organizer, and not a slob? Everything you describe is my mother. If it is out of sight, she forgets about it or can never find it.

    I am of the mantra “a place for everything, and everything in its place” — but it is so hard to do that in a family situation where others aren’t of the same mindset.

    I will admit though, that when Life is super busy, my house takes a beating. I don’t have time to put things away properly, and when I’m battling others to put things away, that takes more time!

    I like how you took control once you recognized that you’re a V.O. I think that takes a lot of guts. 🙂

  • I clean in much the same way as you. Also, this:

    If I’m going to a birthday party, I put the present by the door so I can see it. Like for two days.

    That is SO me.

    Ugh, the clutter just creeps up, doesn’t it?

  • Nina says:

    I love that expression mommy crack downs! We have those too! Or . . . “mommy has lost it.”

  • Andrea McDonald says:

    I actually love the big projects — the closets, the baseboards, the refrigerator. I hate the daily tidying. A project gets completed, but the messes just keep coming! My house can be a wreck, but I always have the kids’ clothes organized by size, and rotated by seasons. Not sure this is a virtue!

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