I know there are some organized creatives out there, but I'm NOT one of them. Despite that, I've always felt the pull of being "more together." Part of that is reality. The world runs on schedules and due dates, and if I don’t keep track of things, I could miss important deadlines. Plus, digging through drawers and struggling to find stuff is such a pain.

As a personality type addict, I also blame having extroverted thinking as an inferior function for my attraction to the dream of being organized. Recently I read Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk, and I found it interesting how for each MBTI type, the inferior function holds a certain attractiveness.

For INFPs, although completely giving into extroverted thinking can lead to the dark side, we are attracted to having structure in our lives and getting things done. Although we are not good at those things, we kind of desire it.

I love my introverted feeling and extroverted intuition, but it is challenging having introverted sensing and extroverted thinking as my lower two functions.

Sensing and extroverted thinking includes the concepts of:
  • Sticking to a routine 
  • Getting as many tasks done as possible each day 
  • Keeping to a schedule 
  • Keeping an orderly environment  
That’s most of the organization and time management advice out there.

However, in the face of all of that,  I believe that now I'm the most organized I have ever been. It doesn't look like the traditional "being organized." Things around me can get messy, but I've found ways to manage the disorder and not let it work against me as often.

While on the journey to bringing more order to my life, I've read plenty of books on organization. Below are the ones that I've found the most helpful and maybe this list can help other disorganized creatives:

31 Words to Create an Organized Life by Marcia Zina Mager 

I read this book after trying a wide variety of advice from other organizing books, and I wish so badly that I would have encountered this book first. It gives a simple starting point for those who don't know where to start, and I like how it encourages readers to reflect on what they hope to get out of becoming organized before going for it. Knowing the goals of why you want to be organized and thinking about what you want to accomplish can have a huge impact on the next steps you decide to take.

I also like how this book collects advice from a variety of other organizing books, reducing the need to read everything.

My favorite piece of advice from this book: Aim to have one calendar. With the temptation to have a calendar on the phone, and then a calendar in a planner, and then one on the wall--I think this is very timely. Multiple calendars do lead to confusion.

Real Life Organizing by Cassandra Aarssen

In my quest to tame my environment, I've read plenty of organizing books for those with ADD. I don't have ADD, but those books have good advice for the visually oriented.This book is like the best advice from all of those books, plus more.

I like how at the start of the book, Aarssen presents her four organization personalities. I can identify a little bit with all of the personalities she presents, but mixing up advice from the types that sounded "so like me"  helped me to strike a happy medium between keeping it visual, but keeping it uncluttered.

My favorite tips from this book are:
  • Use containers without lids to organize items
  • Use whiteboards for to-do lists, calendars, and random thoughts
  • Use banker boxes for projects
  • If something can be cleaned or put away in one minute, do it.
  • Make paper piles more visible by filing vertically.
  • Organize with clear or colorful containers on shelves and use labels. 
Her tips are also a good fit for creatives who have a lot of supplies.

The hardest thing I've found to implement from this book is the cleaning schedule. The way she has it doesn't work for me, but doing three different 5 minute or less chores everyday of the week seems to be more promising. Stay tuned.

One thing I'm not a fan of is her nit-picking of another, very popular, organizational method. I feel like there's really no wrong or right way to organize--it's all about what works for the individual. Although she may have found that The  Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up wasn't so magical for her, I think criticizing the book in her own book was unnecessary. If you have a method that's great and works well (which she does) there is no reason to throw shade on someone else.  I wish she had the confidence to just let her book stand alone without comparison. Let the readers decide if your book/method is more practical than another one.

Plus, I wish she would have mentioned that one of the easiest ways to stay decluttered is to buy fewer things, shop with awareness, and let don't let junk make it past the front door. She thoroughly covers having a habit of regularly removing unused items from the home, but being more conscious of what's coming in makes decluttering every month unnecessary. By reducing what I bring into my home and avoiding thoughtless impulse buys, I've found that I only need to declutter once a year.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

INFPs are known for seeing life in inanimate objects. Our imaginations transforms the world into a Toy Story like place. There's the happy little tea cup and the melancholy pair of worn out shoes. I think because of that, I found this book unexpectedly entertaining. When Kondo mentioned appreciating items for their hard work and service, I totally understood.

I don't think any organization book perfectly "solves it all," but I did find some useful information in her book that made a difference.

I like to see results, and it's hard to see that when you're only letting go a few items at a time. Kondo's decluttering method is nuclear. All of the other books on this list have incremental decluttering methods, which is fine. But if you want to quickly see the difference in your environment, Kondo is the weapon of choice.

It is intense and takes time, but I like intense, and I like that as long as I am selective about what I add for now on, I will never have to declutter like that again in my life. And after going through something as dramatic as a Kondo declutter, you'll think twice about buying something just because it's on sale.

Even if you decide that going nuclear isn't for you, I still think that as you declutter, it's a good idea to think of what each item you own means to you. If it has no place, let it go.

When it comes to the concept of only holding on to what "Sparks Joy," INFPs have an advantage. Since we are introverted feeling users, we judge things by if they fit into what's meaningful to us. Things that are meaningful spark joy, and since we work this way all the time, holding items and thinking "Does this make me happy? Does this say what I want it to about who I am? Does it bring back ugly memories?" comes quite naturally. In fact, I found that I didn't have to think hard about it at all. What brought me joy was almost obvious.

Even letting go of books that I no longer found inspiring didn't hurt, because I couldn't help smiling when I thought of how after I donated them, they'll find a nice home with someone who will get the same enjoyment out of them that I used to. They'll be happier books if they're used instead of collecting dust on my shelf, crying out "Please read me!" Plus letting go of old books made room for new books that are a more accurate reflection of who I am now, not of who I used to be.

Still, Kondo's book has limited help for visual organizers. Real-life Organizing is a better choice for that.

Simple Matters by Erin Boyle

I've read many minimalist books, and this one is among my favorites. Ideas that I've integrated into my life from this book:

  • Focus on keeping the items that I use every day and reduce the rest. 
  • Let go of things that used to be useful or were never useful. (Makes me think of my past collections of hair products) 
  • Create limits for collections.
  • Buying something new won't always solve my problems. See if my problems can be solved with something I already own first.
  • Decorate with ephemera, fresh flowers, candles, and other items that I already own.
  • Try using containers that I already have to organize before buying new stuff. 
  • Keep basic foods that we eat regularly (like grains, beans, salad) in stock. 

I like how this book covers everything from keeping a simple wardrobe to simple DIY cleaning recipes.

The thing is, when you're a disorganized creative person, keeping things simple and straight forward is key, and that includes everyday necessities like chores and meals. By living a lifestyle that's not too hung up on material needs, I can focus more on my ideas.

Although these books are great, I realized that INFPs tend to have a tumultuous relationship with organizing their environments, projects, and time. So lately, along side my novellas, I've also been working on a short book about organizing and accomplishing things tailored more for INFPs. It's been fun working on it, and I'll be sharing more about it in the future. 💖