Are You Left-Brain or Right-Brain Dominant? : Clearly Written
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Are You Left-Brain or Right-Brain Dominant?

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 08/02/18

How do you help someone organize when they think so differently from you? Within the first couple of years of my career as a professional organizer, I started working with a client who needed help organizing his one-bedroom apartment. He was very bright and had an excellent grasp of spatial relationships. He would fit things into spaces like a Jenga puzzle.
In my newly expert opinion, when I looked in the kitchen cupboards they were a jumbled mess. The canned goods were lumped in with books, knick knacks, snack foods, tea, and cleaning products. It was chaos I tell you! His explanation was that he could fit more in his cabinets that way because space was limited in his apartment.

Knowing that difficulty making decisions and putting items into like categories are two of the usually culprits for disorganization, I set out to teach him how to organize by putting like things together. I placed all canned goods on one shelf, all condiments together, all the dishes in one cabinet, and we put all the cleaning products under the sink; as most people would. I explained the organizing principles as we worked together. I asked for his input as to where he wanted certain things placed for convenience. He seemed happy with the results.

When I came back for our next appointment, about 2-3 weeks later, I checked to see if he was able to keep the kitchen cupboards organized. He was not.  At least, not to my understanding of organized. It was natural for him to put things where they fit. Was he not willing or not able to change? Should I try again? Those were not the right questions to ask. The right question to ask was, “Why am I trying to get him to think the way that I think? At least he is not leaving the groceries in the hallway in bags anymore. Now he was putting them in the kitchen. That was progress. He was changing a habit.

I decided to try to understand how he processed information. I remembered from my college “Introduction to Psych” class that information made available by the environment is processed by a series of processing systems (e.g. attention, perception, short-term memory, experience). I am “attention” to detail, whereas he is “perception”. Once I understood this difference in our thinking, I could work with his perception to come up with creative solutions to his organizing dilemmas. As long as he remembers where things are, does it matter if they are in categories or not? As long as they are stored where he uses them, it’s better than groceries laying in bags on the floor, or stacked on a bookshelf in the hallway.

In their book, Organizing for the Creative Person, Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping separate organizing styles into just two categories; Left-brain dominant and Right-brain dominant. Left-brain or LBs tend to be tidy, methodical, and punctual. Right-brain or RBs (or Arbies) are characteristically creative, but their traits are the opposite of those of LBs. “Understanding different styles can help explain human behavior, which affects success and personal contentment and in turn directly affects our self-esteem and relationships with others.”

Everyone uses both hemispheres of their brain, but some people have developed one side more than the other side. I am more LB whereas my client was more RB. Why should I try to turn him into an LB? He had the freedom to do things his way. He was able to change many habits after working with me for a length of time, but some things he refuses to change and that is okay. I do not judge. I have learned from him and have adapted to his style.

Tags: learning styles, getting organized, kitchen organization, home improvement, left-brain, right-brain, changing habits.

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