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Were You Born Organized?

In my early days of blogging, back when I was still a professional organizer, a reader asked me, “I just wanted to find out from you if you were organized from the beginning? Do you believe that some people are just born organized?”

I responded to the first question with an excerpt from a speech my sister Kathy made at a party in my honour.

After working as a secretary and a career counselor, she became what our dad would say she was destined to become. A professional organizer. Why would he say this was her destiny?

Well, how many children do you know who carefully arrange their green beans in tidy rows – on their high-chair trays – before eating them, and who, years after they’ve grown to maturity, still line up french fries on their plates, in order from shortest to longest? Perhaps I exaggerate. But our dad did ask Janet recently, “Have you ever enjoyed a hot meal?”

I wasn’t aware of this tendency until I was in my 20’s, but this was still long before I considered organizing as a career. I do remember visiting a friend in her university dorm room, and she had all her shelves labelled as to what belonged on each shelf, and I thought that was pretty neat (no pun intended). In the 1980’s, I bought Bonnie McCullough’s book, Totally Organized and found it very helpful for getting my house in order, and when I went to re-read it some time later, I was pleasantly surprised to realize I had already incorporated most of the ideas into my life. I continued to read and enjoy organizing books for several years after that.

While working as a career counselor, I learned about personality type and discovered that I am a “Judging” type. In True Colors or Personality Dimensions, I’m considered a “Gold.” What this basically means is that I was born organized, and I prefer things to be orderly and scheduled. For a more detailed explanation, read my series on Organizing for Personality Types.

My short answer would therefore be “yes” some people are born organized, and I am one of those people.

However, this does not mean that if you’re not born organized that you can’t acquire the skills. In fact, I remember a very enjoyable discussion at a POC Conference about “born organizers” and “born again organizers.” A “born again organizer” is someone who has learned to become organized and now helps others to do the same.

You don't have to be 'born organized' to become a professional organizer!Click To Tweet

I had the pleasure of working with an organizer who lived with chronic disorganization as a result of multiple sclerosis, and she used her experience to assist others in similar situations. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to continue with her business as her MS symptoms worsened, but she was a shining example of how someone who wasn’t born organized can become a professional organizer. Since that time, I’ve come to know many other organizing consultants who are successful because, having walked in their clients’ shoes, they have a thorough understanding of what it’s like to struggle with organizational challenges, and have developed specialized strategies for overcoming those challenges.

Keep in mind that fitting into one category or the other doesn’t necessarily mean you can help others effectively. If you’re a naturally organized left-brained thinker, systems that seem straightforward to you may not make sense to a right-brained creative person. The key is always to develop a solution that works for your client. Fortunately, there are now plenty of educational opportunities available for anyone wanting to learn how to help others get and stay organized.

What about you? Are you a born organizer, or a born again organizer?

This post was originally published in 2007 and has been updated.

Photo by  dalivl@yandex.ru / DepositPhotos

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Gravatar mystery man

A former professional organizer, I'm now a Website Design and Care Specialist. I love helping others succeed by sharing the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through marketing my own business for over 15 years! When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

Gravatar mystery man

A former professional organizer, I'm now a Website Design and Care Specialist. I love helping others succeed by sharing the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through marketing my own business for over 15 years! When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

24 Comments

  1. Avatar Cathy on March 8, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Janet!

    Thank you for writing that post! I am so glad to have met you! You are very inspiring. I was born organized, but I too want to help others so that they can become organized.

  2. Avatar Alex Fayle on March 9, 2007 at 2:40 am

    I would say I’m naturally organized and disorderly.

    As a child, I toddler, my Fisher Price people always sat in the right coloured seat on the bus, and a friend and I would organize each other’s closets when we were 11, but in between the organizing binges, you wouldn’t be able to see my floor.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 10, 2007 at 4:46 pm

      Somehow that doesn’t surprise me, Alex!

  3. Avatar Caroline on March 12, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Hi Janet,
    I am what you call a “born again organizer”. Being a visual and creative person, the traditional ways of organizing did not suit me (how many arguments did I have with my parents because my room was always so messy). But when I discovered new ways of doing things (unfortunately it wasn’t until my early 30’s), well then… I fell in love with organizing and decided that I would become a PO and share this with people. Most disorganized people I meet, assume that if they were not born organized that they can never change. That’s where I prove them wrong.

  4. Avatar Liz Jenkins on July 23, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I have to say that I am a ‘born-again’ organizer. I was never particularly organized as a child or teen but it started to turn when I was in college. I’ve been organizing professionally for 4-5 years and must say that my teaching & psychology degrees combined with this organizing gene that suddenly sparked into existence has made it work. I think anyone can learn to be organized – it’s just harder for some people – but a lot of it is simply a state of mind. It’s being mindful of yourself and your surroundings and what works for you.
    Good post!
    .-= Liz Jenkins´s last blog ..tiny bathroom :: storage needed =-.

  5. Avatar Jacki Hollywood Brown on July 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Sometimes people who are born organized have trouble relating to those people who have never been organized and those who are “born-again” do a better job because they have been on both sides and know how to get out of the chaos.
    You can’t judge who is better because they both come from different places.
    .-= Jacki Hollywood Brown´s last blog ..End of the School Year =-.

  6. Avatar Debbie Jordan Kravitz on July 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I was definitely born organized (my Barbie doll’s closet was organized better than most people’s real-life closets!). However, I never could have helped other people get better organized and launched a successful career as a Professional Organizer until I overcame my own struggles with perfectionism.

    I’ve learned that different people have different levels of what they consider “organized enough,” and at no point does it have anything to do with perfection. Organization is something that everyone can learn, regardless of what tendencies they were born with. I truly enjoy helping others reach their own state of personal organization.

  7. Avatar Janet Barclay on July 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Liz, I appreciate your comments, especially as a “born again” organizer. You’ve hit the nail on the head by emphasizing “what works for you” because of course everyone is different.

    Jacki, I agree that one is not better than the other. We need organizers with different backgrounds and approaches in order to meet the unique needs of various clients!

    Debbie, congratulations on overcoming your struggles with perfectionism! I think that’s a common challenge for those of us who are “born organized” because it comes so naturally to us that it takes time to recognize that people who are less organized aren’t sloppy or lazy, they just see the world through a different lens than we do.
    .-= Janet Barclay´s last blog ..Were You Born Organized? =-.

  8. Avatar Bonnie Lord on July 24, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I was absolutely born organized. It’s alive and well on my father’s side of the family. We organize our kitchen cabinets, our closets, our garages, our coin collections. I would say it’s a real benefit to have that organization gene when becoming a professional organizer. Of course, skills can be learned, however, having that intuitive nature that just oozes when I see a space needing my rescue is a rush that is not learned. There is research that should be done on why people are chronically disorganized and how to deal with those clients. Along with empathy and knowing how to truly be customer oriented..Very important.

  9. Avatar Janet Barclay on July 25, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Bonnie, I didn’t think too much about my parents’ influence on my organizing until my dad sold the house after mom passed away and I went to see his new place – he sure didn’t need any help from me!

    There are some excellent free fact sheets on chronic disorganization (CD) available from NSGCD, as well as teleclasses and certification for professional organizers and others working with individuals affected by CD. There’s even a yearly conference being held in LA this October!
    .-= Janet Barclay´s last blog ..Were You Born Organized? =-.

  10. Avatar Moreen Torpy on August 6, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I’m coming to this conversation a bit late, because I just found it. So, I’m one of those “born organized” ones, and sometimes too organized to the point of not being able to be spontaneous.

    As a Professional Organizer, I’ve learned a great deal from my clients, especially the right-brained ones. It’s a wonderful profession that allows me to help others while satisfying me need to organize.

    And on the NSGCD topic, I’ve taken numerous courses from them, and they’re extremely good. I’d recommend them to anyone who is in the organizing field.

  11. Avatar Janet Barclay on August 7, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Moreen, one of the best things about a blog is that it’s never too late to join the discussion!

    Until I learned about personality type, I didn’t understand why organization and time management was so challenging for some people, and having my eyes opened to that fact was one of the things that drew me to this profession.
    .-= Janet Barclay´s last blog ..2009 Harold Taylor Nominees =-.

  12. Avatar Ellen Delap on March 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Very interesting info! I have heard that only 10% of us are “born organized”. I am and I appreciate it so much! When I tell others that I am a professional organizer they say of course! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  13. Avatar Janet Barclay on March 10, 2011 at 6:31 am

    When I was studying personality type, I read that 54% of the population are “Judging” types, who prefer structure and order, but preferring it and bringing it about may not always go hand in hand!

  14. Avatar Linda Samuels on July 13, 2011 at 8:44 am

    No doubt that I was “born organized,” but I also think there were environmental influences from my parents and grandmothers. They modeled organizational skills in many different ways and styles. And without really thinking much about it while growing up, I know what I observed absolutely influenced some of my own penchant for organization. I always loved organizing things, spaces, schedules and projects, but never really thought much about my abilities. Others noticed my skills and often commented about them, sometimes in a teasing way. As in, who color codes their leotards, lines up their nail polish collection in color order or sorts their Halloween candy spoils by type into small bags? So when I was thinking about starting my own business and wanted to tap into skills that I had, I began seeing my organizational skills in a new light. And while I realized that I had those skills, I also knew that they were teachable skills. In 1993 I launched Oh, So Organized! and with the goal of helping and teaching skills to those that were organizationally challenged.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

      It never would have occurred to me that some kids might NOT sort their Halloween candy by type! 😉

  15. Avatar Jill Annis on August 7, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I feel like I was born organized and also had organized parents who modeled organized habits. My brain just so happens to gravitate towards organization. I’ve never lined up my food but I do remember lining up items on my dresser top.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 8, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      That doesn’t surprise me, Jill. We’ve discovered so many other similarities between us!

  16. Avatar Janet Schiesl on August 7, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I was born Organized. My mom tells a story about when I was young that I would clean up after my four siblings when play time was over. And I put a lot of effort into making sure everything was put away nice and tidy. Actually I Think I’m most comfortable and things are organized so that’s why I do it. When my clients asked me if my house is very organized I say yes but my family is very happy that I go do this at someone else’s house every day. I think it’s somewhat stressful for my family that I’m always trying to put things straight.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 8, 2019 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks for sharing, and for putting a smile on my face! You made me think of an episode of Friends…

  17. Avatar Seana Turner on August 7, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Yes, I was totally born organized. I got it from my Dad, who is the same way. I have a memory of designing a wooden system for my bedroom closet that my dad built to my specs when I was in middle school. Bringing order has always calmed me down and brought me pleasure. I have fond memories of moving into college and setting up my closet, same for all my various apartments. Going to work honestly just makes me happy. I do agree that anyone can learn skills if they are wiling to work on it a bit, including how to organize!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 8, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      That’s so great, Seana. I probably got a lot of mine from my Dad too, though I didn’t notice until he moved one time and I realized he didn’t need my help at all. 🙂

  18. Avatar Daria on August 10, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I am also a “judging” type on the Meyers Briggs assessment. I was born organized. I’m not sure if I organized my food but I definitely organized my stuffed animals and dolls. Now Im fascinated to find out if I am a “Gold” too!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 11, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Gold essentially corresponds to SJ, so it depends what the rest of your MBTI type is. You could be any of the four colors!

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