Organized Pantry

Confessions of an Everything Out, Right Angler!

Tracey Columns

Somewhere between Christmas and New Years, I woke up with the urge to clean out my kitchen pantry. Crazy, huh? Well, maybe not-so-crazy for those of you who live tidy lives but for me, it was a bit of a moment.

Let me clarify. If you walked into my home, you’d think I was an extremely tidy soul. (And actually I am … sort of.) You’d find a clean, virtually clutter free abode. Why? Primarily because I love my husband. Many, many years ago I decided I would make every effort to keep the spaces we shared to his liking. Does that sound like something Donna Reed would say? Well, it’s not, for a couple of reasons: 1) he manages to tolerate the fact that I function quite well with things in disarray; 2) he has always been more than willing to do his share of housekeeping chores; and 3) I believe compromise is one of the secrets to a successful marriage.

But if I invited you to look in my closet or my home office … or my kitchen pantry, you’d witness the dark side of Tracey Barnes Priestley. It just seems like I have so many different things rambling around in my brain all at once that it is quite easy for me to throw my sweater on the chair at the end of the day or lay out books I’m referencing for a project all across my office floor. Notes pile up on my desk and books are crammed onto the shelves.

Here’s the irony – I am actually a bit of an organizational junkie. All of my  books are carefully arranged by topic and each of those notes has a proper place in the pile. My work files are color coded. (A huge help!) Every shelf in my art room has containers for different supplies. Individual pantry shelves are consciously separated by function. I am actually very organized, in a seemingly disorganized kind of way.

With that last sentence, I had to stop and ponder. What exactly was my organizational style? A quick ‘google’ and I had some valuable information.

I read a blog post about How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself: Time and Space Management that Works with Your Personal Style by Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesch. ( It is their belief that “no one organizational system will work for every individual, because we each have certain built-in preferences or styles … no one style is inherently better than any other, as each has its benefits and drawbacks.” They urge their readers to understand that “those pros and cons can help you select organizational tools and strategies that will actually work for your particular style and circumstances.”

I was intrigued by their identification of five styles of organizing physical space:
1) “The Everything Out” likes to have reminders, mementoes, and project materials in plain sight and within easy reach.
2) “The Nothing Out” prefers to have surfaces cleared off and materials stored away.
3) “The Right Angler” enjoys having things look a certain way, with the appearance of precision.
4) “The Pack Rat” keeps almost everything.
5) “The Total Slob” believes that organizing things is a waste of time that could be spent on creative pursuits.

They also noted that “each of these styles has particular strengths and weaknesses.” Agreed. While I didn’t take any of their quizzes to determine exactly which style drove me, from their brief descriptions, I appear to be a confused combo of “Everything Out” and the “Right Angler” … who also values her husband and believes marriage is a two-way street. (My observation, not the author’s.)

I suppose the New Year lead me to my “Right Angler” perspective that morning. Those pantry shelves screamed “make us appear precise!” And I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to open the pantry doors and be able to put my hand on exactly what item I want.

Will my pursuit of tidy spaces be a permanent fix? Hardly. But it reminds me to know what makes me tick and to honor it … but not at the expense of others. And this seems like a very practical way to begin 2013!

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