Are You a Visual or Hidden Organizer? Here’s How to Tell (and Why It Matters)

published Apr 6, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

If you walk into my house, you might ask me where all my stuff is — and lately, I’ve been thinking about whether keeping toys, magazines, and kitchen utensils out of sight is actually benefiting my home environment. Like lots of other people, I like to keep my space looking uncluttered. The problem is, I often put things away in hidden benches or closets only to forget about them altogether. So what’s more important, embracing minimalism in my space or actually using my space?

A chat with Allie Shaw, a professional organizer based near Toronto, helped me realize I’m not living in alignment with my organizational style, which is causing me (and everyone in my home, sometimes) unnecessary frustration. If you’ve been feeling like your organization habits aren’t matching up with how your mind works, then her insight might help you, too. 

Here’s the gist: Because everybody’s brain works differently, it’s important to adopt an organization system that suits your individual preferences, needs, and routines. Shaw, who initially introduced me to the idea of macro vs. micro organizers — basically the idea that some people prefer to organize in more specific categories, while others like general categories — also shared with me the important difference between visual and hidden organizing. 

Visual organizers — like me — need to see items in their home in order to use them. For that reason alone, visually-oriented folks should keep things they want to use out in the open, rather than hidden in containers or behind closed doors. For example, my kids love arts and crafts. I’ve been hiding their supplies in a storage bench, which means my kids don’t actually do a lot of projects. Instead of keeping these things out of sight (and out of mind), I’d benefit from a system that keeps items neat and organized, but still visual and accessible — like a rolling cart with labeled jars or bins for markers, crayons, colored pencils, and so on.

Credit: Chloe Berk

Hidden organizers, on the other hand, don’t need to see things to use them — and that’s a good thing, because they usually have a much lower tolerance for clutter, too. For instance: A hidden organizer might like to put their kids’ art supplies in closed bins on a shelf, or tuck them away in boxes in a closet. No matter what solution they choose, a visual organizer’s brain is soothed by the visual calmness of an uncluttered environment. 

Like any other preference, there’s no right or wrong way to organize, and I think it’s definitely possible to be a mix of a both types (and I very well might be). For example, maybe you’re a hidden organizer in the kitchen, but a visual organizer in your office or kid’s play room. The key is to identify your style and your needs before you implement a system for your own things. That way, you’ll be more likely to keep up with it over time — and less likely to get frustrated with the state of clutter in your home.