Swiss Cheese Organizing - Organize 365® Research Findings

by Lisa Woodruff

Apr 22, 2022 | Episode 481 | 40:18

What does it mean to be organized?

How do you know when you’re done organizing?

No one has ever officially defined "organized." I decided I would define it. We started by conducting academic-level research using our surveys. You can read more about Organize 365® Research and the finding on our Research page.

For most Americans, organization happens as Swiss cheese organizing. Many thanks to Barbara Hunter from Springer School in Cincinnati for her concept of Swiss cheese learning that helped shape this understanding of organizing. 

The basic idea is that you have eight executive functions, which are based in your prefrontal cortex, and these create the organization in your brain. It’s like you have little file folders in your brain to store and retrieve information. This ability to remember and access information can be measured on some subsets of the IQ test as well as through observation and interviews by psychologists. When this system is not optimized for our traditional work and school structure, a person will receive a diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD affects your working memory. You can read more about executive functions in relationship to organizing in my book How ADHD Affects Home Organization.

Barbara explains Swiss cheese learning this way: Kids with ADHD have a problem with retrieving the information that they know. One day they have access to that information and the next day they don’t.

Similarly, we have Swiss cheese organization. You’re a little organized here and a little organized there. You can’t confidently say, “I AM organized,” because you think that being organized means perfection while not being organized is hoarding. You don’t have language for what happens in the middle of these two!

We need to consider the idea of done rather than perfect. What does being organized look like when you’re done? Your silverware drawer needs to be cleaned out and reorganized, but you'll have to come back to it every few months. That’s ok. It is organized. It’s done, but it’s not perfect.

How do you feel when your house is organized? In our research, both men and women said they first felt accomplished. Women said their second emotion was relief while men said they felt relaxed and in control. 

In this episode, I share many additional statistics and findings from our research, which is all leading us to change the way we present and teach the material in The Productive Home Solution™. I have told you for years that if you just hang on for 12-18 months in the 100 Day Home Organization Program (now a part of The Productive Home Solution™), YOU WILL get organized. But, that’s a long time to wait and what you end up with is Swiss cheese organizing. You do a little here and a little there, but nothing is truly done. 

If you just get through the first 42 days of the 100 Day Home Organization Program, you will have 80% of the spaces you use on a daily basis organized. You CAN call yourself organized. But many of you don’t FEEL organized. It doesn’t fully check off any single category of organizing as complete for you. It just marks a couple more spaces in your Swiss cheese organizing. I want to see you get to the point where you can say that you are personally organized or storage organized or paper organized, etc. You get to pick and choose which areas you want to tackle and master and declare organized in your life.

Coming in the fall in The Productive Home Solution™, you will be able to pick an area, focus on it for 5 or 6 weeks, and then declare that area of your life organized. You’ll work in baby steps to mark a full area as done so you can move on to the next area you want to organize. 

But what does it mean to be organized? Both men and women declare their home organized when… You’ll have to listen in to find out the answer!

Learn more about and join The Productive Home Solution™ here.