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Published May 16 2010

Swift: A right-brainer’s guide to getting life organized

I need to get organized.

But it has to be on my terms.

After 44 years of trying to be an uber-orderly, color-coded efficiency expert, I have realized something: I will never make my sixth-grade teacher, Miss Schuler, happy. I will never have a spotless desk with every item filed away in a labeled, alphabetized folder. I am not a linear, logical, left-brained thinker. I am like my cat – a circuitous thinker, prone to naps and easily distracted by anything chirpy or sparkly.

And so I was intrigued upon hearing of a book for the relentlessly right-brained, “Organizing From the Right Side of the Brain” by Lee Silber.

In true, right-brain style, I was too impatient to read the whole book. Instead, I flipped through it in a haphazard manner, looking for items that seemed especially chirpy or sparkly.

A right-brainer himself, Silber claims we have likely been badgered for years for our lack of organizational skills.

“Society is made up mostly of left-brainers, who, being the majority, feel their way of doing almost everything is the best, or only, way – especially when it comes to organizing.”

I half-heartedly agree. The tools that work so well for others don’t seem to work for me. As a visual thinker, I forget about items stowed away in a file cabinet.

My organizing safaris usually have a fierce, manic, all-or-nothing quality: “I am going to organize every closet and cupboard in the house before 5 p.m. today!” I will declare.

I will attack the first drawer as if it is filled with agitated cobras. I will go completely overboard, hanging individual paperclips on tiny hangers, polishing the staplers with a dust cloth and sorting pens according to ink viscosity.

Two hours in, I will still be cleaning that drawer. “I deserve a break,” I’ll tell myself. “Maybe I should reward myself with a nice 2-pound bag of Chips Ahoy cookies.”

Forty-five minutes later you’ll find me covered with crumbs and sobbing softly into my stapler-polishing cloth.

This has happened more than once.

Even so, I did find some useful tidbits in Silber’s little book for the logic-impaired.

Among them:

Also recognize the many down sides to disorganization, which include losing important papers or disappointing loved ones by forgetting their birthdays. Disorganization also can drain us of time and energy, as we spend hours searching for stuff and feeling weighed down by our chaotic surroundings. Imagine how much we can accomplish if we free up our creative power and time for good instead of evil.

But don’t take my advice. Check out Silber’s book (Thomas Dunne Books, $16). Even if you don’t agree with everything in it, it might help launch you on a more-creative, less-frustrating life.

And if all else fails, Chips Ahoy are on sale at Walmart.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com