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Are you an Innie or an Outie?

Before we dive into paper clutter again, it would be helpful to understand how you work best. It’s important to “know thyself” when organizing any area. I’m not suggesting you take a personality test, just think about what type of environment you prefer to work in. There are two very basic categories - Innies or Outies. Which one are you?

I’m an “innie”, meaning I like to have items put away, out of sight. Having all my “to do” papers out and about in my home makes me tense. I can’t relax with all of the things I need to attend to staring at me. My desk is clear at the end of the day. My work might not be done, but it is filed away with a written task list on the top so I can pick up in the morning right where I left off. I am greeted every morning with a clear space to work. Seeing that “clean slate” gives me energy to move forward with the tasks at hand. A motto in my business is "clear your environment so you can clear your mind and move forward."

I am married to an “Outie”. Out of sight, out of mind is his motto, meaning if he can’t see it, he doesn’t remember that it still needs to be attended to. He has to be able to see his work in order to accomplish it. He has piles of papers all over his office (which, thanks to COVID, is now largely in our basement!) By golly, though, he can find everything he needs. I don’t always understand it, but it works for him. He IS organized. It’s an “Outie” organized, though.


He’s a piler. I’m a filer. Amazingly, we are happily married! It has been an education for both of us, and it didn’t happen over night. If you share your space with someone (spouse, child, parent, co-worker) who organizes differently than you, I have a few tips born out of brain research and decades of marriage.

  1. Don’t try to change the other's organizational style. It will only frustrate both of you. Work with it not against it.

  2. Outies like open storage - open shelves, vs. those with doors. Clear bins vs. baskets. Bins without lids vs. those with lids. For instance Outies may not appreciate a filling cabinet, but files in an open crate can be helpful. Outies may only file away reference material or what they no longer need on a daily basis. Innies obviously like all papers “in” a file and/or “in” a cabinet. For them it’s not “out of site, out of mind” but rather “out of site, peace of mind”.

  3. Hanging wall files are good compromise. For the Innie, the papers are contained. For the Outie they are still in sight.

  4. Innies prefer all the clothes in a closet, whether or not they are going to put that hoodie on in the next hour. Outies may need hooks to hang clothes that are in somewhat constant use. (Slightly off topic for paperwork, but I wanted you to think of the other areas where this applies.)

  5. Labels are key. Both Innies and Outies can easily put away/find papers or other items.

As an example, in the picture above, my husband and I revamped the shelves that used to hold our grandchildren's toys, in order to accommodate the books and papers he needed to teach from home. We added two more shelves so he could "pile organize" the papers he is working with. The open storage is just what he needs in this temporary situation and it is contained enough to keep my Innie heart at peace.

I know I promised more paper organizing information, but I really didn’t think I could dive in to the rest of that topic without stopping for a moment to reflect on how you work best. It would be unprofessional of me to force my Innie system on you if you are an Outie. I’ve hinted at the thought “know thyself” in previous post, the same applies as we move forward in paper organizing. There is some fascinating brain research that can pertain to organizing. Dr. Katherine Benzinger’s Thinking Styles has been helpful and something I want to continue to research. I think it is helpful to ruminate not only on how you work best, but why.


We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator. God does not make mistakes. There is no right or wrong way to think organizationally. In fact, different ways of thinking through our work can complement each other nicely. The “big picture” thinker is just as necessary as the “detailed-oriented” thinker in creating and following through on a project. My husband and I always say that no matter what we are doing, it always works better when we do it together.

So, what are you? Innie or Outie? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend

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