Linda Maye Adams

9 Organizing Tricks to Keep Creatives From Going Insane


Some people say having a messy desk means you’re disorganized.  I was certainly penalized enough by my Army squad leaders for that reason.  So I was shocked when a coworker commented on how organized I was.  I kept looking at my desk and thinking, “But you’ve seen my desk, right?”  It was an eye opening experience that maybe I hadn’t been disorganized all these years — just different.

But the perception remains that messiness = disorganized.A man seated at a desk with scattered papers on it and papers organized on the floor.

While I like the floor filing system in the picture, it looks like faked messiness and had a search word of “slacker.”  Messy does not mean slacking — no matter what left-brainers think.  If I get really messy, it’s because I’m in work mode.  Yet, most organizing tips I’ve found focus on cleaning up the messiness instead of letting creatives work with it.  So here is some fun ideas to try out:

  1. Play with the toys.  Maybe it’s Post Its, or magnetic pads, or stickers, but we find the toys fun.  My favorite is pens.  My niece was wide-eyed with wonder when she saw my drawer filled pens.  All different colors to play with.
  2. Taming the toys.  The reverse of playing with the toys is to not let them distract you from writing, or create chaos.  They should only add to “clutter” — not be a major source of the clutter.
  3. Keep it simple.  The more complex the system is, the more likely you won’t use it.  We shouldn’t have to think too hard about it.  After all, we’re creating!
  4. Put materials in the same location.  Creatives like patterns, and the same location is a pattern that will make it easy to find it again.
  5. Discipline yourself to do things.  Frankly, there are organizational challenges where there won’t be good answers.  Some things you’re will have to just do — but pick your battles.  It’s planners for me.
  6. Color code.  If you’re visually inclined, color coding will make it easy to grab a notebook or file folder for a current project or chapter.  Who needs pesky file labels anyway?
  7. Repurpose for functionality.  Take items and use them for something different.  Poster board could be turned into a Post-It corral.  The possibilities are endless, though it will probably give the left-brainers the heebie jeebies.
  8. Ignore the naysayers.  Our messiness gets a lot of flack.  Sometimes that’s hard and discouraging, and even humiliating.  One time, a sergeant promptly rearranged a cabinet drawer after I’d finished with it, implying I’d done it wrong.
  9. Make it fun!  Honestly, if organization can be such a chore to do, then making it fun will make it easier to do.  You can also make it do double duty and be inspiring, too.

I didn’t explain how to use these, because that’s part of the fun of being creative — discovering what works for us.

For you:  I’m sure I missed some ideas.  What did I leave off?  Any horror stories about dealing with left-brained people and organizing?  Post your comments below.

Vote for my flash fiction story The Librarian at the Writer Unboxed’s 7 Sizzling Sundays of Flash Fiction!  My story Sand Dollar Wishes took honorable mention.

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