You may have wondered why some people function well in a “messier” environment and others function at their best in a cleared out space.

From my observations, we all have our sweet spots of performing well before the balance between neat and messy tips the scale off balance – sending a person into anxiety because it’s too clean OR anxiety because it’s too messy.

A space description for each type of person may help you better understand the other type of person. I will not describe extreme versions of both types – because so many personalities and ways of processing information can be placed on a spectrum. So I’ll focus on describing both points of views from just outside both sides of the center of the spectrum.

Imagine a space where there is either a lot of clothing OR a lot of paper.  For one person, clothing spread around the room may be more comfortable because the person may habitually toss dirty laundry in one area, or perhaps leisure wear in one area, or perhaps Mondays clothes are on the bottom of a pile. The person can replay “I wore the dark jeans on Monday.” …and go directly to the jeans in seconds.  A person who is overwhelmed by stuff in a space can quickly shut down, overlook an item right in front of them, or feel self-conscious (embarrassment, shame, incompetence).

The person who feels high anxiety over the stuff in the space had their “clean vs messy” scale of balance tipped. Things became too messy for their brain to process or function smoothly.  In my personal and professional experience, this person’s ability to cope and perform with ease becomes harder if they are also experiencing any other type of invisible stress – which can include the speed at which something needs to completed (deadline; high urgency; priority), overwhelm or comittment stress (the tasks/accomplishments they need to complete begin to feel impossible, they can’t see how they’ll get it done; there is a lot of pressure; they feel torn in different directions, and often have moments of indecisiveness- either not knowing what to do first or unconsciously switching between thoughts/actions causing a start & stop motion. They can often gather their wits and get balanced again if they tidy their environments and write down all they need to accomplish.

For the person who works better with things “messier”, which are people who need more items in their sight vs put away, as long as their items are out, yet they still have some clear space, like the top of the bed, they can move and think quickly.

Now, if you imagined the same scenarios, but instead of clothing, it’s paperwork, then as long as the papers are piled in categories (the types of thinking will determine the type of category – one person may think in terms of what happened last month, another in term of financial paperwork, or another in terms of work vs personal vs school, or by a person’s name…the different ways a person refers to individual pieces of paperwork is endless. Listen to your own thoughts and then listen to the way someone close to you refers to certain paperwork to better understand how we all think differently!  Regardless of the categories of paper (or clothing!), for some people if you put it away out of their sight it can cause a panic attack or anxiety.

When we are able to look at both sides of the scale, it can be easier to understand that one person may function better with a “messier” lifestyle, while another person functions better with a “less in sight” lifestyle.  Many, many people can function well when things are primarily cleaned out, but during the course of a week it may get “messy” in the eyes of another person. The “messier” person is often able to regroup once their priorities for the week have been accomplished.  They clean the slate (put away laundry, tidy/put away completed paperwork, prep to do it all again).  If they don’t maintain their sweet spot, and if the scale gets tipped to “too messy to function” then anxiety or pressure increases…which leads to lower ability to function at their best. If this person walked into a space and someone cleaned their slate for them (without permission) they could lose their sense of balance, it could throw off their flow, and/or interfere with the brain’s thought process. And that totally sucks when you don’t want to have to spend time or energy recalibrating the brain. It’s like someone slamming the brakes on their productivity.

Are you relating to either one, or both, of these scenarios yet? Or is this sounding familiar for someone you know?

Let’s switch back to the person who functions their best with less things in their view (and in their life!) and hopefully the items are neatly put away in some type of order that makes items quick & easy to locate and put it back away… if the space began to get overwhelming scattered with stuff (the neatness of stuff that is out begins to disappear) then they will begin to feel like a scattered brain person.  It will literally slow them down, make them feel frustrated, and ultimately they’ll feel miserable (for different reasons!) They can go into visual sensory overwhelm. The nervous system starts stemming… and to function at their best the nervous system will need to be soothed – “hello! It’s time to tidy!”

For both of these personality types there is a sweet spot – you simply need to recognize when the visual-spatial environment scale has been tipped and get your balance back!

Throw a few things on the floor!

Or perhaps if you’re like most of my clients, we need to clean out some stuff so you can see the floor again.

oh, trust me, I know the stuff isn’t in the view of house guests… it’s stacked, mixed up, or hidden out of sight!  You wouldn’t dare let some people see the mess.

Thankfully these “messy” situations that are driving you bonkers are way more common than you may think!!! It happens and there’s always things that led up to how the messy situation happened – besides life!  Major things happens.

I also know it’s super easy to get things cleaned out and reorganized – regardless of how long you’ve been meaning to OR how long you’ve been tackling little bits at a time.

The last lady I worked with…let’s just say she said it would have taken her a year to accomplish what I was able to help her with in just a few weeks! I tipped her scale back to balanced. She can’t stop finding things to get rid of or organize neatly. Now we’re working on the detailed stuff…honing in on setting her up to function in her true sweet spot.

I’d love to hear from you! Can you relate to either personality? Do you know if you’ve ever found your sweetest spot?

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