Ever resolve to organize your closet or junk drawer, only to see your efforts devolve into a (slightly different) cluttered mess? Maybe it's because you tried a method that doesn't fit your personality.
It turns out, people have different approaches to organizing—how to do it, and what they want to get out of it. A new organization strategy, Pixie, caters to these different types. It's the brainchild of Kelly McMenamin, author of "Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality."
"How you organize is hardwired into your brain," she explains. "It’s why some keep tons and rarely declutter, and others squirrel everything away in filing cabinets and declutter regularly. The trick to getting and staying organized is to figure out your organizing style, and then build systems that work with your natural tendencies rather than fighting them."
Rather than dole out one-size-fits-all advice, McMenamin has her clients first take a Myers-Briggs-type questionnaire to determine which Pixie "type" they are: Classic, Fun, Organic, or Smart.
You'll no doubt recognize who you are in the descriptions below, then read some tips catered to your tendencies, which might help your resolution to stay organized this year stick. “If you’re not organized after almost a year stuck at home, it’s time to try a new approach,” McMenamin says.
The Classic organization personality
Classic organization personality: You’re a creature of habit, and one of those habits is making your bed every day.The Classic type makes up 46% of the population, and you're the most traditional organizers of the bunch. You finish what you start, and feel best when striving toward a goal within solid routine and structure.
"When it comes to home and life issues, you probably have the easiest time running a home," says McMenamin. "You were born with the skills needed to run a tight ship, no matter what the ship. You make your bed every morning, you set your coffee up the night before, you don’t like to let dishes sit in the sink, and you put away your clothes at the end of the day."
All that said, even Classic types need help staying organized. Here are some tips for specific areas of the home.
The Classic organization personality likes things orderly and hidden. It’s the underpinning for your serenity. Make sure your entryway reflects those needs.
Entryway: Piles happen, but you hate them. This year, try adding opaque bins with lids in your entryway so chaos isn’t what greets you upon your return or departure. Also, using a shallow mail tray on your entry table means there isn’t room for too much to pile up before you’re driven to sort and clear.
Bedroom: Order really matters to you, even when it’s hidden. For that reason, McMenamin suggests that you buy drawer separators for your lingerie and sock drawers and take the time to fold your underwear. You’ll appreciate this effort each time you open your drawer and feel a wave of calm wash over you.
Bathroom: You like schedules, so why not start a new annual tradition this year and always clean out your medicine cabinet at the beginning of January?
“Get rid of your just-in-case items that are past their useful lives,” says McMenamin. “Nobody needs hair gel from 2001.”
When you put everything back, try to keep out only the absolute basics on the countertop—i.e., hand soap and a towel. The less that is out and the more that is hidden, the happier you’ll be.
Kitchen: When organizing your refrigerator this year, consider adding see-through fridge containers.
"A fridge organized in clear, precise fridge bins will bring your organizational personality more joy than a 5-year-old feels on Christmas morning," says McMenamin. "You’ll also keep it that way, unlike other types."
Home office: "If your home office does double duty as a bedroom or living area, you need a way to visually close up shop at the end of the day," says McMenamin. "You'll never relax staring at your printer."
So if you don’t have a secretary desk (which would allow you to literally "cover up" your workspace when switching gears), McMenamin suggests the Classic types try to repurpose a closet or cabinet shelf or get an under-bed bin to serve as office storage so you can quickly tuck away this stressful office stuff at day’s end and actually unwind.
The Fun organization personality
The Fun organization personality is practical, so making your bed is just something you do because it keeps your sheets clean. You gravitate toward bolder colors and like to surround yourself with reminders of your adventures, like these pillows from Thailand.
The Fun organization type makes up just over a quarter of the population (27%). Easygoing and adventurous, you're also grounded in reality, which means bills get paid and work gets done even if you never use a to-do list.
McMenamin says the Fun types are flexible about the when and how. For example, you make your bed every day, but are not rigid about exactly when it happens, and this also applies to things like doing the dishes or putting away your clothes.
The Fun organization personality tends to make piles, so it helps to have open containers where you can toss things you tend to grab/ditch on the way in/out the door.
Entryway: There's a good chance you may decide to race out the door on a whim, and when that happens, the last thing you want to hamper your adventure is spending time searching for your keys or wallet because you put them down randomly in the house.Your best bet for getting out the door quickly (or on time) is to add some open bins to your entryway, with perhaps a large jar on the table where you make a habit of leaving things you need on a daily basis so you can find them in a jiffy.
Bedroom: You love color. McMenamin suggests using this propensity to your advantage by organizing your clothes and accessories by color instead of category—e.g., "red jewelry and yellow jewelry" versus "rings and bracelets."
"The reason for this approach is that color inspires you, and inspiration is what your type needs to get over the hump of doing any boring task like organizing your clothes and accessories," says McMenamin.
Bathroom: Store your bathroom cleaning supplies and rolls of paper towels under the sink.
"You’re adept at doing things in the moment when you’re motivated, but nothing will kill that impulse to clean a nasty bathroom faster than having to go off searching for your cleaning products," says McMenamin.
Kitchen: Your “I might use this” nature means you hold on to excess useless items more than other types. Make it your mission to clean out your pantry and cupboards, throwing out expired foods and spices or donating unwanted but still "good" doubles to food drives. Then put everything back, storing like with like, except the items you use all the time to cook; keep those out on a Lazy Susan or in a cupboard right by the stove so they're handy.
"Your practical nature will love this newfound efficiency, even if sea salt stored next to olive oil defies the like-with-like dictum," says McMenamin.
Home office: To solve your home office organizational woes, McMenamin suggests this type try getting colorful desktop file boxes for filing.
"You like to go on adventures, and filing isn’t an adventure," says McMenamin. "Greige Soviet-era-looking filing cabinets will kill any mojo you muster to tidy your office."
The Organic organization type
The Organic organization type appreciates order and often creates it, but life happens, and so do unmade beds. You’re always able to see the bigger picture and let go a little more than average. But messy organization isn’t an oxymoron.
The Organic organization personality makes up about 15% of the population, and this type includes the idealists of the world, placing personal growth and relationships above all else. You let order develop naturally. Your homes are usually described as homey; you tend to surround yourself with lots of photos of loved ones and enjoy having decor that tells stories.Of all the organizing types, the Organic probably has the hardest time letting go of sentimental stuff.
Organic organization type: Piling is in your blood, so go with that natural tendency when setting up an entranceway system, but also make it cozy.
Entryway: Add a small bowl to your entryway to easily store keys, but make sure it's not big enough to dump in a million doodads, because you will (piling is your natural M.O.). Try to separate your stuff into "piles with a purpose," stashed in multiple bins.
"You get things done eventually, but in the interim, give your piles proper homes," says McMenamin.
Bedroom: Step 1 to organizing an Organic bedroom? Replace your mismatched hangers with huggable hangers and hang all of your clothes—except underwear and socks—instead of folding them in drawers.
"You forget things you can’t see, and when something is on the bottom of a pile of clothes, you forget it exists," says McMenamin. "The matching hangers keep everything on the same visual plane. You’ll rediscover half of your wardrobe this way."
Bathroom: Your memory is best described as "out of sight, out of mind," so your best bet for your bathroom is to store only large items (e.g., toilet paper, hair dryer) under your sink.
"You’ll forget about smaller stuff under there, and will only rediscover it when the first astronaut lands on Mars," says McMenamin. "Pull out all of the small stuff from under the sink, and put it out on shelves or in drawers where you can more easily see it."
Kitchen: While you abhor looking at messes, that's what's lurking in your cupboards. But at the same time, if you can't see what you own, you forget you have it. Fortunately, this can be remedied with additional cabinet shelves to stash the maximum amount of dishes behind closed doors, so you keep things organized enough to remember what you have, but you don't have to keep it out.
Home office: "An Organic's visual memory benefits enormously from the tactile and visual habit of writing things on paper," says McMenamin. "One of the best supports for you in scheduling and remembering events and appointments is to have a physical paper wall calendar—the bigger and more attractive the better."
If you see your schedule plainly on the wall, those appointments will be impossible to forget.
The Smart organization personality
Smart organization types like structure and order and appreciate a freshly made bed, but details—like perfectly displayed pillows—are not where you’re going to expend energy.
The Smart organization personality makes up only 10% of the population, and yet most CEOs, presidents, and people in charge are this type. You are adept problem solvers, are driven, and set a high standard for everyone, including yourself. Your home reflects your passions, whether that’s tons of books—many of you are bibliophiles—or awards or photos showcasing your career. Despite being a piler and a collector, you don’t enjoy things being helter-skelter.
Smart organization type: You have the habit of creating clutter and piles, but ironically seeing this clutter stresses you out. Corral it with boxes with lids tucked underneath, so you can hide the visual mess when you want.
Entryway: Get structured bins to store magazines and newspapers or use as household inboxes, with lids tucked underneath. That way, you won’t pile stuff on top of the boxes, but have the option to cover up the mess when it starts to bother you (and it will).
Bedroom: Since you'd prefer to drape your clothes over the back of a chair rather than put them away at the end of the day, mount a bunch of double hooks inside your closet, and remove the lid from your hamper (so you have no excuse to not put your dirty clothes actually in the hamper).
"This eliminates the need for annoying tasks and helps you rediscover that you can actually sit in your bedroom chair, or use your exercise equipment as more than an expensive hanger," says McMenamin.
Bathroom: "Keep everyday basics out on open shelves and visible in see-through acrylic containers with the lids removed," says McMenamin.
A little visual clutter doesn't bug your type, and this stuff will end up sitting out half the time anyway, so you might as well make it look nicer.
Kitchen: You typically toss extraneous things in a pile somewhere, but eventually this visual clutter annoys you. This year, try cleaning out one drawer in your kitchen and turn it into a designated junk drawer.
"The junk drawer is your unsung organizational hero for all things that defy categories in your life," says McMenamin. "Have at least one junk drawer in your kitchen with some drawer organizers, as you have more doodads than there are proper homes for."
Home office: You are a natural piler of all things, but especially paper. Instead of forcing yourself to put things in a filing cabinet (which you naturally hate), McMenamin suggests this year you create a "piling system" where you have a separate pile for every paper category in your life (sometimes it’s 10-plus).
Get clear bins, and label them. Store them in a console, a bookcase, or even a kitchen cabinet.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann, who is based in New York City, is an author, performer, and fitness professional.